Opioids are some of the most dangerous drugs. They are highly addictive, have a high abuse potential and are also easy to overdose on.
Opioids are prescribed by doctors for pain relief. Unfortunately, many Americans misuse these drugs and get addicted. There’s a growing epidemic all across the nation, as more and more Americans are getting hooked on various forms of opioids.
In recent years, the amount of opioids overdoses (O.D.s) has increased significantly. To prevent this situation from worsening, it’s important to draw attention to it. Here’s what you should know about this epidemic.
Drug Overdose Statistics 2016
The reports are in, and the numbers are shocking. It’s hard to believe that the drug overdose statistics in 2016 are real. In 2016:
- More than 63,000 Americans lost their lives to a drug overdose. Of which, 42,249 O.D.s involved opioids.
- Opioid overdoses surpassed deaths caused by breast cancer
- The rate of heroin overdose jumped 19% each year since 2014
- 23% of deadly overdoses involved prescription opioids
- Drug overdose deaths rose by 21% since 2015
These numbers show are a sign of a growing opioid epidemic. Street drugs like, heroin or fentanyl, and prescription opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone cause most drug overdoses. All of these drugs are quite similar to one another. They have the same molecular composition, and affect the brain and body in the same way.
30% of addicts do not seek professional help nor addiction treatment because they either are not insured or they cannot afford the treatment. More and more Americans are helplessly falling into the downward spiral of addiction. Once they become addicted, they have no other recourse. Treatment is not an option. This propagates the opioid epidemic even further.
Popular Types of Opioids
Opioids are essentially any drugs that act on the brain to relieve pain. They can be prescribed and can be illicit. The most popular illicit opioids include heroin and opium. These drugs can be snorted, inhaled and injected.
Prescription opioids come in liquids, tablets or capsules. They can either be fast acting and have an immediate effect or slow acting and have a delayed effect. Popular prescription opioids include:
Many people get confused between the differences in opioids and opiates. Both of these drugs are derived from opium. While the nomenclature is often interchangeable, there are actually some minor differences.
Opioids are synthetically made drugs that mimic the effects of opium. Opiates are natural and derived from the opium poppy. Heroin is an opiate, and so is morphine and codeine. Although these drugs may be different in their nomenclature, they have a similar molecular composition. In fact, these drugs will often work in the same way as one another.
Symptoms of an Opioid Overdose
Symptoms of a prescription opioid overdose and a heroin overdose are quite similar. All opioids work in similar ways. They affect the respiratory system and cardiac system, and cause them to shut down. This can lead to coma and death.
It’s not difficult to recognize an opioid overdose. This is especially true if you are being observant. Common symptoms of an opioid O.D. include:
- Bluish skin around the lips
- Breathing problems
- Cold, clammy skin
- Loss of consciousness
- Pinpoint pupils
- Respiratory arrest and depression
Opioids cause respiratory depression. An overdose looks like the user is going to sleep. The only problem is that the body will forget how to breathe on its own. The person won’t be able to wake up even with a lot of coaxing.
Lack of oxygen from respiratory arrest and depression will cause permanent neurological damage to the body. It may also cause other vital organs to malfunction as well.
Reasons Behind the Growing Prevalence of Opioid Overdoses
Prescription opioids are frequently used to treat an array of ailments and conditions. These drugs can be easily misused. They are also gateway drugs to illicit, street drugs like heroin.
Once addicts no longer have access to prescription opioids or can no longer afford them, they will turn towards illicit drugs. In fact, 75% of heroin addicts started off abusing prescription opioids.
Another reason why opioid overdoses are becoming more prevalent is due to the fact that the body develops a tolerance to opioids. Your brain will slowly adapt to the increased dopamine and serotonin levels. When this happens, it will consider these levels to be normal.
To get high, users will need a larger dose. This quickly becomes dangerous. For seasoned addicts, there’s a fine line between getting high and overdosing. This is also why many addicts that abuse opioids will overdose sometime in their life.
How Much Opioid Is Needed for an Overdose?
One of the most common questions that people want the answer to is: what amount of opioids would cause an overdose?
There actually isn’t a set amount. The amount of opioids that would cause an overdose is dependent on many factors. It is dependent on a person’s tolerance level and their build, which includes their height and weight. It is also dependent on their overall health. Long-term users will generally be able to consume a higher dose than new users.
Different people can take a different amount of drugs before overdosing. It varies from individual to individual.
While there isn’t a set number, there are some basic guidelines. For example, a new user should never exceed a dose of 80mg. Most addicts can tolerate a single dose of 30mg to 50mg. It’s important to note that the dosage required for an overdose will also depend on the potency of the drug, and whether it is mixed with other chemicals and drugs.
The Antidote for an Opioid Overdose
There’s only one antidote for an opioid overdose. Naloxone is one of the most popular overdose-reversing drugs available on the market.
This antidote works by reversing the effects that an opioid overdose has on the body and brain. It blocks the receptors that the opioids would otherwise attach to. This prevents the opioids from causing symptoms that result in death. It gives the addicts a second chance at life.
How Effective Is Naloxone?
The effectiveness of naloxone is dependent on when it is administered. An opioid overdose usually happens within 1 to 3 hours after the last dose. Naloxone can only prevent a drug overdose if it is administered before the symptoms result in death.
Once the drug is administered, it will start to work within several minutes. Most people will see the naloxone work its magic within 5 minutes. The overdose symptoms should start to subside.
How Is Naloxone Administered?
There are two different forms of naloxone. This drug can either be injected or administered as a nasal spray. Both options are equally as effective. When choosing the best type for yourself, consider what you are most comfortable with. Not all people are comfortable with working with needles.
Injectable naloxone comes in two different types of vials. You’ll either get a vial containing 10 mL or 1 mL. The 10 mL vial is for multiple doses, while the 1 mL vial is for a single dose only. When injecting naloxone, use a long needle that is between 1 to 1.5 inches. Remove the orange cover on the vial, and draw 1cc of naloxone into the syringe. Inject the antidote into a muscle. You can inject it directly into the thigh, the butt or the shoulder.
When injected, the effects of naloxone should kick in anywhere from 2 to 3 minutes after. If you don’t see any change, inject another dose. The injected naloxone can block the effects of opioids for anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. This is enough time to reverse respiratory depression.
An easier form of administration is the nasal spray. Spray half of the dose in the spray up each nostril. If you don’t see any changes in 2 to 5 minutes, repeat with another nasal spray. Make sure to check for breathing while you’re at it. You might even need to perform CPR.
How Safe Is Naloxone?
Every opioid user should have some form of naloxone on their person at all times. This drug is completely safe. Not only is naloxone not associated with any major side effects, but the drug can save you or someone else from a drug overdose. This drug can give you another chance at life.
It is impossible to become addicted or dependent on naloxone. This is because you can’t develop a tolerance to the drug. Due to this reason, naloxone never loses its effectiveness.
What Are Some Expected Side Effects?
While there are no major side effects associated with naloxone use, users may experience some mild side effects. These side effects are temporary and include symptoms like:
- Runny noses
The type of side effects that each person may experience will depend on the type of opioids that they took. It will also depend on the dose they took, and their own biochemical reaction to the various drugs.
Where Can a Person Get Naloxone?
The brand name for naloxone is Narcan. First responders carry this drug, which is why it is always a good idea to call 9-1-1 if you suspect an overdose.
Narcan is also available over-the-counter. 10 states require a prescription from a doctor, and the rest do not. Due to the growing epidemic in America, both Walgreens and CVS announced a desire to increase access to Narcan kits. These kits can save lives if they are used at the right time and moment.
To determine whether your state needs a prescription or not, speak with a doctor. You can even call the pharmacist and ask. Some organizations give out free Narcan kits.
Seek Help with Your Addiction
If you’re addicted to any type of opioids, seek professional help immediately. You don’t want to be part of the growing statistics related to opioid overdoses.
There are plenty of different treatment options available out there. The most effective treatment is Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT). Essentially, a weaker opioid is used as a substitute until the addict weans off of their drug of choice.
This therapy can reduce opioid use by up to 95%. Professional supervision at all times will also help deal with withdrawal symptoms and cravings. These treatments encourage you to get sober successfully. They also help prevent relapses and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms from emerging.
If you or someone that you know is addicted to opioids, contact us as soon as possible to get the help you deserve. We can assess your situation to determine which treatment plan may be most effective for your situation. Our recovery centers provide a peaceful and calm environment to quit opioid use.
You’ll find that getting sober will be a lot easier with our help. You’ll have a lot more success, and you’ll also be able to get sober with fewer hurdles in the way. The entire process will be a lot more tolerable.