Understanding the opioid crisis In America
The opioid crisis in America is so widespread that you likely have a loved one or know someone who is addicted. Over 2 million Americans are currently suffering from opiate addiction. Opioids are some of the most highly addictive, powerful drugs out there. When they are not being used, they have incredible medical uses. Opiate receptors naturally exist throughout the body and are found in the brain, gastrointestinal tract, spinal cord, and on nerve cells. When opiates attach to those receptors, they produce feelings of euphoria and pleasure. They can also dangerously slow the heart rate and cause respiratory failure.
Opiates come in either tablet, liquid, or capsule form. The most well-known are hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, Buprenorphine, Heroin, codeine, fentanyl, and methadone. If abused, any of these opiates can lead to fatal overdoses. When an individual abuses opioids it can lead to physical dependence and terrible withdrawal symptoms including:
- Increased heart rate
About the Opioid Epidemic
The opioid crisis is now considered a public health emergency. President Donald Trump has expressed the severity of the epidemic since 2016. Public health agencies are now expected to use resources to treat patients that are suffering from opiate addiction. No one knows for sure how the crisis started, but many speculate it was caused by reckless doctor’s handing out prescriptions like candy. Prescription opiates are widely misused, and when combined with alcohol or other drugs, it can be fatal. Death rates due to drug overdoses for those ages 25-25 have doubled.
There Is an Overdose Antidote
Every day over 90 Americans die from opiate overdoses. Many states have begun to allow law enforcement and first responders to carry an overdose antidote. The antidote is called Narcan and can be administered via nasal spray or intravenous injection. When an individual has overdosed on opioids, Narcan can restore their breathing and oxygen flow to the brain. It only takes a few minutes to work and has the potential to save thousands of lives. Some states are opening health centers that will hand out Narcan to the public.
How Opioids Affect Families
The opioid crisis not only affects the addict but it affects their loved ones as well. Children are being taken by social services left and right thanks to drug-addicted parents. In 2016 alone, over 90,000 children were put into the system as a result of drug abuse. Thousands of babies are born addicted to opiates and have to go through painful withdrawals requiring intensive care.
The opioid epidemic so far is costing the United States over $500 billion. Included in the cost is the impact of opiate-related deaths and the cost of medical treatment. Life expectancy amongst Americans has declined and is now at an average of 78 years. The problem is so severe that experts believe it could take 20 years to reverse these effects.
Can Opioid Addiction Be Prevented?
Currently, researchers are in the works to develop a vaccine that could prevent the brain from feeling pleasure from opiates, which would do a lot to prevent opiate addiction. Scientists have already been able to prove that it can produce antibodies against oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine. Once released to the public, the vaccine could be a vital tool in helping to combat the opioid epidemic.
Seek Professional Help
There is help out there for those who need and want it. Rehabilitation centers throughout the country will treat addicts in a safe, and controlled environment. For those who can’t afford to lose their job, outpatient programs are also available. Patients will be able to get the help they need and still go to work and have the support of their family and friends.