The War on Opioids: Some Important Facts You Should Know

On Thursday, October 26, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared opioid addiction in the United States as a “public health emergency.” This scourge of drug addiction and abuse has had significant impacts on people’s lives, their finances, and the public healthcare system. It is reported that about 60,000 people lost their lives in 2016 due to opioid addiction. Highlighted in this article are some important facts everyone should know about this epidemic.

What are opioids?

When prescribed appropriately by doctors, opioids are medications used to lessen the moderate to severe effects of pain. They work by binding to opioid receptors in the spinal cord, brain, and other parts of the body. They reduce the feeling of pain by lowering the quantity of “pain messages” sent to the brain. Some common examples of opioid drugs include but are not limited to codeine, fentanyl, methadone, hydrocodone, morphine, meperidine, and oxycodone. Normally, these are prescription pain-relievers, with certain dosage requirements. However, when people abused its usage by not sticking to their doctors’ recommendations, it may lead to some uncomfortable outcomes, including deaths.

Some side-effects of opioid addiction

Unmanaged opioid treatment may produce the following undesirable side-effects:

  • Death (in extreme circumstances)
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pain, irritability, and anxiety

Opioid tolerance versus addiction

Do not confuse opioid tolerance with addiction. After taking certain opioid drugs for some time, your body may require more dosage to achieve the same initial palliative effect. In that case, you are experiencing opioid tolerance. Addiction occurs when you obtain and use the opioid drugs inappropriately; that is, without your doctor’s supervision.

Staying healthy and safe

Proper opioid prescription management is the only surest way you can stay healthy and safe. This requires that you should work closely with your doctor while undergoing opioid drug treatment. Your doctor will be able to know:

  • If your body is responding quite well to the prescribed opioid drug
  • If there are any side effects and promptly remedy the situation
  • If you are using the opioid drug properly
  • If there are other medical conditions in your body that may increase the chances of a disastrous side-effect
  • If you need an opioid drug or not, because not all pains require opioid prescription