It is easy to see why the opioid epidemic is often found in the news headlines. More than a thousand people suffered from opioid-related deaths in Canada in just the first 3 months of 2018. In 2017, 11 lives were lost on average per day (per 100,000 people) due to opioid use. These numbers are growing, and many healthcare providers are looking for solutions to stop the alarming trends.
Educating the public about the risk of opioid use is crucial. When parents, spouses, and family members know the risks and can identify the signs of opioid use, then they can seek help for loved ones and reduce the overdoses that are occurring in our nation.
Facts About Opioids
How much do you know about opioid use, the risks, and overdose? Here are some facts to share with everyone you know:
- Between 2009 and 2015, opioid-related deaths nearly doubled according to a study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society. During this same time, hospital admissions due to opioid overdose increase by 34%.
- Not only are adults at risk, but overdoses have also doubled among children during this same time period. It is estimated that 1 in 100 teens between the ages of 12 and 17 misused prescription opioids. 57% of these teens got the medication from a relative or friend.
- Prescription drug use is often the catalyst that starts opioid addiction. A person might start taking the medication as prescribed by a doctor for pain relief. Then, the addiction begins and the person is unable to discontinue use. Also, many people get opioid pills from family and friends. For example, leftover prescriptions could fall into the hands of other people in the household.
- The most common opioid prescriptions are morphine, codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), fentanyl (Duragesic), and oxycodone (OxyContin).
- Even though opioid addiction often starts as prescription drug use, it eventually leads to the use of illicit drugs. It is estimated that 80% of heroin addicts started by abusing prescription medications.
- Environmental factors and genetics both play a role in the risk of addiction. The speed of the addiction goes up based on the potency of the drug that is used, as well as the length of time the medication is used. Some people become addicted within a few days of use. There is a 6% chance that one day of opioid use will result in addiction.
- Naloxone is a drug that can be used in a time of emergency to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. This medication could save a person’s life and is carried by first responders such as police officers, emergency response teams, and more. This medication can be purchased at the drug store. It should be used at the first sign of an opioid overdose.
Symptoms of Opioid Addiction (And What You Should Do)
In the beginning, it is hard to detect that someone is suffering from opioid addiction. Initial symptoms of opioid use include:
- Physical agitation
- Slurred speech
- Vomiting or nausea
- Slow breathing rate
- Poor coordination
- Anxiety attacks
- Abnormal sleeping habits
- Decreased motivation
These symptoms are signs that a person is abusing opioids. Here are some of the symptoms of opioid overdose:
- Erratic, slow pulse
- Erratic breathing
- Loss of consciousness
- Small pupils
If you suspect that someone is suffering from an opioid overdose, call emergency services right away. Then the person should be turned on his/her side. Use naloxone immediately if it is available. This medication is usually administered through a nasal spray or injection.
You don’t have to wait for an opioid overdose to happen before helping the person find treatment. Treatment in the early stages of addiction offers the best long-term results so that the person can overcome bad habits and turn their life around. A drug addiction treatment center is a great resource where you can learn about the many treatment options that are available for your loved one.