American Epidemic A Nations Struggle With Opioid Addiction

Opioid Documentary

Opioid, opiate and heroin addictions have gripped the US more than any other time in history.  Opioid addiction has become a menace. Each day addicts are overdosing and even dying at alarming rates. How do people become addicted and what price do they pay?  What does the family of an opioid or opiate addict face?  Watch this documentary on the opioid epidemic to better understand what addicts and their families face each and every day.

And see our special report on Addiction Hotline Facts About Opioids and Opiates.

Heroin Addiction Is Not What Is Portrayed In Popular Media

portrayal of a heroin userAre All Heroin Users Junkies?

All too often heroin is portrayed in popular media as a drug that people start out injecting (shooting up) and they’re instantly addicted.  The “junkie” portrayal is more dramatic but not very realistic.  Heroin is indeed a highly addictive drug, and there are thousands of junkies who need help, but heroin addiction to tends to me more gradual.  Perhaps this is what makes it so insidious:  at first the heroin user believes getting high isn’t as risky or dangerous as they were lead to believe.  They are able to get high at night and function normally the next day.

What could go wrong?

All sorts of things could go wrong…

Typical Heroin Addiction Progression

Users typically start out smoking (sometimes called “chasing the dragon“) or snorting it.  In fact many never use it intravenously.  The pattern consists of using it as a recreational drug without any measurable consequences but over time their tolerance to the drug builds up which results in the need to consume more in order to maintain the same level of “high”.  This is where the addiction begins to kick in.  Daily (routine) use plus increased doses is the catalyst for dependency and addiction.

They are able to get high at night and function normally the next day. What could go wrong?

And note we are not trying to portray heroin as safe or without risks.  Heroin is highly addictive and the effects to the body over time are dreadful. And even though addiction is not instant, one can overdose and die the very first time they use it. Keep in mind street heroin is often mixed with other potent drugs so the user seldom really knows what is going into their system. The risks are very high and the consequences can be fatal.

How Do Heroin Users End Their Addiction?

The good news is addicts can end their addiction and turn their lives around.  Heroin is a powerful drug but people stop using it all the time. It takes an honest desire to stop using and then seeking guidance in the form of treatment and/or support group involvement.  We highly recommend the heroin user talk to a medical specialist who is trained in addiction care.  Often medically supervised detox is necessary and sometimes inpatient treatment is the best course of action.  Withdrawal symptoms can be daunting therefore seek medical assistance.

Watch this video on Heroin Addiction from a heroin user’s perspective to learn more.

Learn the Facts About Opioids and Opiates

Addiction Is a Disease

Disease model of addiction

Addiction is defined as a disease by most medical professionals and organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Like Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease, addiction is caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental and biological factors. Genetic risks factors account for about half of the likelihood that an individual will develop addiction.  Watch this educational video on addiction to learn more.

Indicators of Relapse

alcoholic relapse
Relapse risk

Relapse is always a risk to the newly sober drug addict or alcoholic. An individual who is in recovery for a drug or alcohol addiction must be very careful and vigilant in early recovery and through the remainder of their life in sobriety. Relapse is definitely a chance in the existence of a recovering addict or alcoholic. Whenever a recovering addict or alcoholic indulges in drugs or alcohol again after being abstinent from drugs and alcohol for a long period of time a relapse happens. A good short relapse is quite dangerous because it can trigger the addictive behavior once more. Once that happens, anyone may never have the ability to leave again.

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Addiction Hotline Facts About Opioids and Opiates

What are opiates and opioids?

CDC Opioid statistics
CDC Opioid statistics

Opiates are a drug derivative of opium. Originally “opioids” referred to synthetic opiates (drugs created to mimic opium,). Today the term term Opioid is used to describe the entire family of opiates including natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic.  An opioid is best described as is any chemical or agent that binds to opioid receptors (which are protein molecules located on the membranes of some nerve cells).  These cells are primarily found in the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract.

There are four broad classes of opioids:

  1. Endogenous opioid, naturally produced in the body, endorphins 
  2. Opium alkaloids, such as morphine and codeine
  3. Semi-synthetic opioids such as heroin,oxycodone, and Buprenorphine
  4. Fully synthetic opioids, such as methadone

Examples of opioids are: painkillers such as morphine, methadone, Buprenorphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Heroin is also an opioid and is illegal. Opioid drugs sold under brand names include: OxyContin® , Percocet® , Vicodin® , Percodan® , Tylox® and Demerol® among others.  What they all have in common is each is highly addictive.

How do opioids affect people?

Opioids attach to receptors in the brain. Normally these opioids are the endogenous variety created naturally in the body. Once attached, they send signals to the brain of the “opioid effect” which blocks pain, slows breathing, and has a general calming and anti-depressing effect. The body cannot produce enough natural opioids to stop severe or chronic pain nor can it produce enough to cause an overdose.

Nearly 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids in 2014 – Center for Disease Control

The “High” from an opioid is not intoxication or impairing as it is with alcohol.

At low to moderate doses the “High” from opioids is not intoxication or impairing (as with alcohol). It does not feel like alcohol or marijuana, or hallucinogens. It instead provides feelings of intense joy and comfort, more so than can be obtained naturally.

At higher doses, breathing is impaired, it slows down and can result in death. This respiratory depression is the actual cause of overdose deaths.  With opioids there is a small window between euphoria and death.

How dangerous are opioids?

Opioids are highly addictive and very dangerous.  Not only will they cause an array of health problems they’re prone to overdose and death.  The CDC has published many papers on opioid overdose and death.  Some of their findings include:

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015.  From 1999 to 2008, overdose death rates, sales and substance use disorder treatment admissions related to prescription pain relievers increased in parallel. The overdose death rate in 2008 was nearly four times the 1999 rate”

Is there hope for opioid addicts and users?

Yes of course.  In spite of the highly addictive nature of opioids, opiates, and prescription drugs addicts stop using all the time.  It takes an honest desire and reaching out for assistance.  We highly encourage any opioid addict or user to see a trained health professional to help address any withdrawal symptoms they might experience.

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction call someone today.  Get help, life if short and you deserve better.

 

Signs of Meth Dependence

Crystal meth and tools to smoke or inject it
Crystal meth and tools to smoke or inject it

Methamphetamines are psychostimulant drugs that have incredibly powerful effects on the human body and mind. Crystal Meth is a kind of methamphetamines that is regarded as among the most addicting drugs on the market together with the opiate drug heroin. In reality, Crystal Meth has a nickname of “The Devil’s Drug” as some feel it requires the spirit away because it is really addicting that individuals are willing to actually do something for this. Regrettably, tens of thousands of people in America struggle with addictions to crystal meth in addition to additional methamphetamine drugs.

Learn more about Help For Crystal Meth Addicts from the National Addiction Hotline

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