The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid according to the CDC. That same year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, and 652,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder (not mutually exclusive).
Opioid Use Disorder (OUD): The DSM-5 defines opioid use disorder as a problematic pattern of opioid use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two out of 11 criteria within a 12-month period:
Using larger amounts of opioids or over a longer period than was intended
Persistent desire to cut down or unsuccessful efforts to control use
Great deal of time spent obtaining, using, or recovering from use
Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use substance
Failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home due to recurrent opioid use
Continued use despite recurrent or persistent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by opioid use
Giving up or reducing social, occupational, or recreational activities due to opioid use
Recurrent opioid use in physically hazardous situations
Continued opioid use despite physical or psychological problems caused or exacerbated by its use
Tolerance (marked increase in amount; marked decrease in effect)
Withdrawal syndrome as manifested by cessation of opioids or use of opioids (or a closely related substance) to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Severity of opioid use disorder is categorized as mild (presence of 2-3 symptoms), moderate (4-5 symptoms), or severe (6 or more symptoms).
Opioid misuse is a leading cause of drug overdoses in the United States. Anyone who takes opioids is at risk of developing an opioid use disorder. Opioids are designed to trigger the release of endorphins, the brain’s positive feeling neurotransmitters. Endorphins muffle your perception of pain and boost feelings of pleasure. When an opioid dose wears off, you may find yourself wanting those good feelings back, as soon as possible. This is the beginning of the path toward potential addiction. It’s impossible to determine whether someone will or will not develop an opioid addiction but factors such as family history and how long someone uses opioids can play a role.
Know The Facts About Opiate Abuse
Opiates, also known as “painkillers,” include prescription drugs such as hydrocodone, fentanyl and morphine. These substances are effective pain relievers when taken as directed by a physician. However, the calming effects that opioid painkillers produce are habit-forming and can lead to future patterns of abuse.
The most common physical and behavioral signs of opiate abuse and addiction are: