In 2017, the term ‘Opioid Epidemic’ was first used in the United States in reaction to the number of lives that these drugs had taken. The situation became so grave in the United States that more people were dying from prescription drug overdose than anything else.
Just to give you a brief idea, opioid overdose and abuse resulted in more deaths as compared to HIV-related ones at the height of the AIDS epidemic! Just like any other epidemic in human history, opioids have their own distinct story.
In this resource article on understanding opioids and how they have become the single biggest factor fueling drug abuse, we are going to cover the following-
- Understanding what are opioids and how do they work
- The three phases or waves of the opioid epidemic that rocked America
- Treatment for opioid addiction and the role of recovery centers
- The Final Takeaway
Given how more and more Americans have started abusing prescription and non-prescription drugs, this article can inform you about how to help a loved one struggling with this problem.
What are Opioids, and How do they work?
Opioids are medication drugs that are prescribed by licensed medical practitioners like doctors to treat pain and provide relief. Patients that went to physicians with splitting headaches and chronic back pain were given pain-relieving medication or opioids.
Patients that had gone through surgery and could not bear the pain of recovery were also prescribed opioids to numb their pain sensation. The same was true for cancer patients that found it impossible to live with the pain that their bodies were experiencing during illness as well as during chemotherapy and radiation.
What do opioids exactly do? There are several nerve cells in our bodies. For example, you will find nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, and various organs of the body. What opioids do is get themselves attached to proteins in the nerve cells. Whenever the part of the body sends pain messages to the brain, the opioid receptors are present there to block these messages.
This means that opioids as a barrier between the body part and the brain and do not allow the pain messages to be transmitted. This numbing is what makes patients feel less pain. However, consistently using opioids makes the body dependent on them, and this gives rise to addiction. Going to recovery centers and detox centers with an intensive outpatient program can help.
The Three Phases of the Opioid Epidemic in the United States
In 2020 alone, the opioid crisis resulted in the death of more than 72,000 Americans. This means that every single day, 1300 people die from an overdose of prescription drugs in the United States. One of the major contributors to the death rate is Fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. According to law enforcement agencies, most of the Fentanyl that is available in the US comes from Mexico.
In this section, we are going to explore and discuss the three phases of the Opioid Epidemic in the United States-
- The First Wave (1990)
The first wave of the Opioid Epidemic unleashed itself at the start of the 1990s. It was only in the 1980s that opioid use was legalized by the state as a credible way to treat pain. In the first wave, overdose deaths were mostly related to the consumption of Methadone.
- The Second Wave (2010)
The Opioid problem lay low for some time before it reared its ugly head again in 2010. This was on the back of the 2007-08 recession in the United States. In the second wave, overdose deaths skyrocketed, and Heroin was the major culprit during this phase.
- The Third Wave (2013)
Soon after the Heroin crisis of 2010, the country once again suffered a serious setback in 2013. The third wave started and soon resulted in thousands of deaths all over the country. In the third wave, Fentanyl was the major contributor, along with other synthetic drugs.
The COVID-19 Pandemic was instrumental in increasing opioid abuse in the United States once again. This resulted in several cases of drug overdose and people dying because of the same, even when the country was struggling to control the pandemic.
There are many different types and forms of opioids that are readily available in the market as prescription and non-prescription drugs. Some of the major ones are-
These are prescribed by doctors to patients according to the nature of the problem, the strength of the pain, and existing medical conditions.
Treatment for Opioid Addiction and Role of Recovery Centers
There is no denying the fact that the opioid crisis needs to be dealt with. There are thousands, if not millions, of Americans that are currently addicted to opioids. If they are not helped and guided on the path of recovery, they can quickly become a statistic in the country’s death count.
Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is a chronic illness that is treatable with help from the right experts. In recent years, some very credible rehab centers and detox facilities have been successful in helping thousands of Americans walk away clean from opioid addiction.
One of the most important things you will have to deal with during the recovery process is withdrawal symptoms. When you stop consuming opioids, your body will start acting up. The following are some of the adverse reactions you are likely to experience-
- Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting
- Severe body aches and cramps
- Hot and cold flashes periodically
- Pain in the stomach
- Irritability and mood swings
The first thing that the detox center is going to do is flush out the toxins from your body. They might also use specific medications that can help you control adverse body reactions. This will be followed by counseling sessions that will help in improving mental health and provide strength to overcome the addiction.
The sooner you get into rehab, the better your chances of a successful recovery. If you are abusing multiple opioids at the same time, the withdrawal process is going to be far more severe in nature. Make sure that you are checking into the best rehab centers and detox facilities that will be able to help you with successful recovery.
The Final Takeaway
While the government is using the resources at its disposal to check the spread and distribution of the drugs, it is not being too successful. Many experts feel that the epidemic can only be checked through the intervention of civil society. Greater awareness, more public discourse, and setting up checkpoints that prevent easy access to opioids are some ways that will bring an end to the epidemic.