What is Opioid Epidemics & Opioid Crisis?

Opioids are pain medications used for pain relief. The morphine is natural substance extracted from poppy plants. Heroin is made from morphine. Heroin is considered an illegal drug, while morphine is used as a pain medication. Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are produced in pharmacologic laboratory. Fentanyl is the most potent drug and can cause severe respiratory depression resulting in stoppage of breathing in first time abuser. There are several opioids available as a synthetic opioid but most common synthetic opioids used as pain medication are oxycodone (OxyContin and Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin, Loratab and Norco) and codeine.

What is Opioid Epidemics & Opioid Crisis?

What is Opioid Epidemics?

The opioid epidemic is a widespread occurrence of an addiction disease to prescription opioids. Use of prescription opioid is spread across the entire united states and Canada during last decade. The drug overdose death has increased from 20,000 to 65,000 between 2003 and 2016. The opioids are prescribed for chronic pain that is caused by trauma, nerve injury and cancer. In some cases, prescription opioid is also used as a recreational drug. The Opioids are classified as pain medications. Opioids help to relieve intractable acute or chronic pain that is often intolerable. Opioids should not be used as a recreational drug because of life threatening side effects that is often observed in individual who is consuming opioid first time or addicted to opioids. Opioid epidemics is an indication that more individuals are consuming opioids as a recreational drug than for pain. The reported data of 2014 suggests two million Americans were abusing prescription opioids. The number of death cause by opioid side effects has increased exponentially over the last 10 years. The opioid epidemics resulting in large number of death caused by prescription opioid abuse has become opioid crisis.

The published data of 2012 by National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests 2.1 million individuals abuse opioids. The opioid prescription data suggests the prescription of opioids is double from 105 million to 200 million from 1998 to 2010. The data also suggests most of these prescriptions are used by opioid addicts and less by chronic pain patients. The debate is not yet resolved because of limited data whether increased availability of prescription opioids has caused opioid epidemics.

What is Opioid Crisis?

Opioid crisis is caused by increased number of death resulting from side effects of opioid consumption. Opioid crisis goes hand in hand with opioid epidemics. The number of death of opioid drug user has been increasing every year as number of individual consuming opioid has also increased. Opioid is being used as a recreational drug. The street value of opioids has increased as the number of users have increased. Initial use of opioid for recreational use starts with street drug like heroin and cocaine. Injection, inhalation or ingestion (oral intake) of opioid causes euphoric effects and light headedness. The ecstatic experience during the optimum level of opioid in the blood is often desirable. Loss of inhibition and enhancement of confidence while among friends is often enviable and creates a hyper confidence. The relaxing effect of opioids results in disremembering of all issues, problems and concerns as long as individual is under the influence of opioids. Once the opioid effect is diminished individual become intolerant to the troublesome social and family concerns that follows craving for the opioid to ignore the hindrances. The opioid crisis develops when large number of normal individuals decide to use opioids to forget their problems and join the group of addicts for recreational use. Opioid is used by patient suffering with chronic pain and also by drug abuser. The recreational use of opioids is a crisis, which eventually ends up in addiction. Opioid crisis resulting in death is also observed in individuals who are taking opioids for chronic intractable pain. The periodic increasein dosage of opioid to achieve optimum pain relief exposes patient to side effects of opioid. The most life threatening side effect is respiratory failure and death. The overdose death numbers have quadrupled since 1999. Over 100 individuals die every day because of opioid overdose.

Why Prescription of Opioids?

Individual taking opioids for pain or recreational purpose often gets addicted to prescription opioids when opioid is consumed for over 3 to 4 weeks. Some of the individual addicted to opioids often suffer with chronic pain and are also exposed to side effects of opioids. Most may be dependent on opioid for pain relief and consume more than prescribed dosage. Higher consumption of opioids does cause higher risk of opioid side effects and possible failure to breathe resulting in death. A gram of opioid such as heroin is sold on street for significant amount. The another street drug like cocaine which is not opioid but gives similar effect is also sold at substantial amount that most addict cannot afford for daily use. Most opioid addict who are either young adults or elderly try to get the opioids from physician as a pain medication. The insurance provider such as medicaid, medicare and private insurance provider pay for prescription opioids. The psychological, emotional and spiritual effects of prescription opioids often result in addiction behavior that follows misrepresentation of pain symptoms to get opioid pain medications. Most opioid dependence and addicts prefer to consume prescription opioids since insurance pays for the drug. In most cases addicts has to convince a prescribing physician that the pain is real.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 10, 2017

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