THE FACTS ABOUT OPIOIDS
In 2017, more than 244 million prescriptions were written and filled for opioids.
WHAT ARE OPIOIDS?
“Opiates are not new to the world. They can be traced back to Mesopotamia when poppies were cultivated as a “natural” source of opiates for pain. The Sumerians called them the “Joy Plant” and Hippocrates, the “father of medicine,” acknowledged opium's usefulness as a narcotic.
Today they are opiates should only be prescribed when the benefit out weight the risk associated with dependence. There are many regulations today on how doctors prescribe opiates because they are so addictive.
Opiates are mainly prescribed for severe pain and should never be prescribed for greater than 3 months unless there are very serious extenuating circumstance like terminal illness.
Why is this? Opioid dependence can happen after just five days because the drugs are some of the strongest on the planet. 1 After 3 months the risk of addiction is 15 times greater than the first 5 days. 2 According to the CDC 11.5 million people reported misuse of their prescription pain medication in 2016. 2
WHY ARE THEY USED?
While used for legitimate medical needs (including short- and sometimes long-term pain control, cough suppression, or to control severe diarrhea) prescription opioids are also sometimes also used inappropriately for non-medical use.
Although many patients find themselves relying on opioid medications for pain relief, some grow dependent on them even after their underlying pain has gone away.
ARE THEY LEGAL?
In addition to prescribed opioids, there are also illegal formulations of opioids. Although ALL formulations pose the risk for dependence and/or abuse, the degrees vary. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) schedules opioids according to their acceptable medical use and potential for abuse or dependency.
It is important to note that the use of opioids without a prescription is considered “illicit use,” and may include “street drugs” like heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil - All of which are significantly more potent than prescription-grade agents. Help is available for people who believe that they are dependent on opioids.
Please call us at (480) 646-7660 to get help.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
Prescription opioids can be useful to manage chronic pain, but they come with risks even when used appropriately. In addition, when used too frequently, inappropriately, or without a prescription, they can also cause serious life-threatening effects. Here just a few of the risk:
Short-term effects of opioids and morphine derivatives include:
physical dependence and addiction.
unintentional overdose and death
Long-Term Effects of opioids and morphine derivatives include:
Physical dependence and addiction
Unintentional overdose and death - Respiratory Depression and Failure
Constipation, sleep-disordered breathing, fractures, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysregulation
Tolerance can also occur, meaning that long-term users must increase their doses to achieve the same high.
Actual changes to the brain chemistry - brain’s perception of everything from reward to pain management becomes fundamentally distorted
Increased risk of depression
Risks of stopping abruptly
muscle and bone pain
goose bumps – (this is where the term “cold turkey” came from)
Within 1 month of daily use, opioids can start to change the ability of the brain to function normally.
Recognizing which medicines are opioids is an important step to prevent opioid overuse emergencies!
Frequently prescribed and common opioids include (but are not limited to):
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HOW DO OPIOIDS WORK?
Opioids attach to receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and gut. This produces a range of effects that include the release of chemical messengers to the brain, resulting in pain relief.
In addition to relieving pain, opioids can also cause life-threatening side effects, which include:
1) Slowed or shallow breathing
2) Weak pulse
3) Low blood pressure
These effects can start as quickly as 5 to 10 minutes after taking an opioid and, depending on whether opioids are taken by mouth, via a skin patch, or by injection, can peak within 30 minutes to an hour.