Hand holding Vicodin pills

Opioid Abuse: The Epidemic, Dangers & Treatment Options

The U.S. is experiencing an opioid epidemic — more Americans than ever are addicted to illicit and prescription opioids. These powerful painkillers — which range from street drugs like heroin to prescription painkillers like OxyContin — possess tremendous addiction potential.

Addiction disease does not discriminate based on gender, income level, location, or age — it can happen to anyone. No matter how profound your opioid addiction, you can recover — you can find life again.


What Are Opioids?

Opioids being crushed and injectedOpioids are also called opiates. Derived from opium, a milky liquid found in the poppy plant, these drugs act as a painkiller. Opiates are commonly injected in liquid form (such as morphine) and ingested as pills (such as Vicodin).

In 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report showing that 3,900 Americans begin abusing opioids each day. Though not all of them become addicted, about 2.5 million Americans currently suffer from opioid-related addiction disease.

Each day in this country, 78 people die due to opioid-related overdoses.

Are Opioids Addictive?

Yes, opioids are extremely addictive. They are among the most addictive substances in the world.

There are multiple reasons for America’s opioid addiction epidemic, including unprecedented access to the drugs due to lax prescribing practices. Doctors have limited guidance on proper opiate prescribing protocol and may give too much of the drugs. Also, many doctors learn in medical school that opioids are not addictive when used to treat pain. This is false.

It is normal to develop physical drug dependency after being prescribed opioid painkillers. For many people, though — from rural factory workers to urban Fortune 500 executives — dependency burgeons into addiction.

Major drug cartels took note of this increase in prescription opioid addiction. From 2005 to 2009, heroin production increased more than sixfold — the market was flooded with a cheaper, more accessible opiate. Consequently, many prescription opioids addictions shifted to heroin addiction.


Popular Opioids

Commonly abused opioids include:

  • Vicodin
  • OxyContin
  • Morphone
  • Codeine
  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl

Dangers of Opioids

The addiction potential of opioids is very high, but the dangers surrounding these drugs do not end there. Even when used within a medical setting, opiates can slow down respiration and cause unconsciousness. However, opiate abuse carries more grave consequences.

Serious side effects of opioid abuse include:

  • Permanent brain damage
  • Lung and heart problems
  • Coma
  • Death by overdose

When you use opiates alongside other drugs or alcohol, side effects become even more pronounced.

“[Opioids] are most dangerous and addictive when taken via methods that increase their euphoric effects (the “high”), such as crushing pills and then snorting or injecting the powder, or combining the pills with alcohol or other drugs.”Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Do You Need Opioid Addiction Treatment?

Opioids as pillsIf you are suffering from an addiction to opioids, it is time to seek healing through substance abuse treatment. At The Recovery Village Ridgefield, we recognize that addiction is a brain disease that is manageable with proper treatment. Our team of experienced, caring professionals will create an individualized rehab plan just for you — this is how we treat both your addiction disease behaviors and the factors that caused your disease to develop, including any co-occurring disorders.

If you have used opioids regularly for several weeks or longer, you will probably experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using. Because so many people enter rehab with opiates still in their system, we have developed methods to reduce the discomfort of withdrawal.

Our campus is in Ridgefield, WA, just outside the city of Vancouver. Here you can experience the soothing serenity of Washington State’s Cascade Mountains as you undergo treatment. Enjoy chef-prepared meals, regular yoga classes and fellowship with other adults who are seeking recovery.

It’s important to remember this is not your fault — you did not choose to develop an opioid addiction. And most of all, you deserve to receive help to overcome addiction disease. Start your path to recovery by calling us.

  1. “Heroin Use is Driven by Its Low Cost and High Availability.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dec. 2015, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-abuse-heroin-use/heroin-use-driven-by-its-low-cost-high-availability. Accessed 22 Nov. 2016.
  2. “Increased Drug Availability is Associated with Increased Use and Overdose.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dec. 2015, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-abuse-heroin-use/increased-drug-availability-associated-increased-use-overdose. Accessed 22 Nov. 2016.
  3. “The Opioid Epidemic: By the Numbers.” HHS.gov, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 2016, www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/Factsheet-opioids-061516.pdf. Accessed 22 Nov. 2016.
  4. “Opioids.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), May 2016, www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids. Accessed 22 Nov. 2016.
  5. “Report Highlights the Dangers of Opioid Painkillers – Harvard Health Publications.” Harvard Health Blog, 15 Jan. 2015, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/report-highlights-dangers-opioid-painkillers-201501157615.
  6. “Side Effects and Risks of Opioid Use for Chronic Pain.” University of Utah Health Care | Salt Lake City, Utah, Huntsman Cancer Institute, Apr. 2016, healthcare.utah.edu/huntsmancancerinstitute/cancer-information/resources/factsheetpdfs/chronic-opioid-risks.pdf.
  7. Venosa, Ali. “The Most Addictive Drug: Substance Abuse Ranked By Chemical And Societal Effects.” Medical Daily, 8 Mar. 2016, www.medicaldaily.com/most-addictive-drug-substance-abuse-377072.
  8. “What Are the Possible Consequences of Opioid Use and Abuse?” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Aug. 2016, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs/opioids/what-are-possible-consequences-opioid-use-abuse. Accessed 22 Nov. 2016.
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