One of the most commonly misused classes of prescription drugs in the United States is opioids. The opioid epidemic has taken many lives and left a brutal toll on American communities from east to west.
In order to halt the scourge that opioids have left on many communities, understanding what they are and what the potential consequences for misuse are is paramount. As per to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an opioid is a medication that affects opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord to lessen how intense pain sensations are.
How do opioids work?
Once an opioid attaches to an opioid receptor protein, this causes the body to not be able to transmit pain signals as effectively. This is why they are good at reducing sensations of pain in thousands of patients. They can also make an individual drowsy, confused and produce nausea and constipation.
Because opioids also take effect on brain regions involved in reward, many people experience feelings of euphoria at very high doses. However, it is easy for people to develop a resistance to opioids, which is why many addicts resort to snorting or injecting opioids after prolonged use.
What are the consequences?
Individuals who take opioids as prescribed do not develop dependencies. However, misusing opioids may result in severe respiratory depression which can be fatal. If the user is combining opioids with alcohol or other sedatives, the risk of death goes up exponentially. Additionally, misuse of opioids often turns into heroin abuse.
Additionally, addiction of all kinds harms families and communities across the US, and opioids are no exception. We must halt the cycle of dependence and addiction to opioids, and proper education is the first step.