This Groups Is The Most Likely To Become Addicted To Opioids

People who are in the ER or recovering from surgery are the most likely to be prescribed opioids.

Opioids like oxycodone are highly addictive
Opioids like Oxycodone are over prescribed at an alarming rate which leads to unintentional drug addiction

This is where someone is the most likely to be prescribed pain killers, which are all too often highly addictive opioids. This means they will likely be coming back for more pain killers and a cycle and addiction is born.

The face of an opioid addict is not what you probably think

When most people think of a drug addict, someone who has become addicted to prescription drugs, they typically think about some sketchy guy buying drugs in an alley or from street drug dealers.  When in fact the most likely group of people to become addicted to prescription drugs are middle aged women.  According to a recent study sponsored by Pacira Pharaceuticals Inc.

Women ages 40-59 are prescribed more opioids than any other age group and receive twice as many opioid prescriptions as their male counterparts. This population is also particularly vulnerable when prescribed opioids after surgery, with about 13% of middle age women becoming newly persistent opioid users who continue to use opioids three to six months after surgery, which puts them at high risk for dependence and addiction. Among women, this age group has been shown to have the highest death rates from opioids.

This is a disturbing statistic.  The report also indicates that nearly 3 million patients undergoing surgeries in 2016 became persistent
opioid users. They showed that the most common surgeries that resulted in persistent opioid use were colectomies and knee replacement.  They estimate 16-17% of those undergoing these surgeries use prescription drug abusers.

There is a reason women are more likely to be prescribed opioids and may become addicted to them

Women are prescribed painkillers after surgery were 40 percent more likely than men to become persistent opioid users.  There is some science behind this.  Men and women experience pain differently.  Women are more sensitive to pain because they have more nerve receptors, which means their body registers more sensations.  This doesn’t justify the over prescribing of opioids, or the poor medical supervision, but it explains why women may become more easily addicted to them.

The solution is better medical treatment, monitoring and an informed consumer

No one wants to be in pain, regardless of their sex.  It’s all too easy for a doctor to simply write a prescription and feel done with it.  However, someone who is going into surgery or otherwise being treated for something that will result in some sort of pain management afterwards would be wise to talk at length with their doctor about anything they are being prescribed.  Learn what the signs of addiction are, the cycle, the symptoms.

You cannot ask your doctor too many questions about prescribed pain medications.  Be a wise consumer of medical care and do what you can to avoid any kind of drug abuse or dependency or addiction.  Remember, the most common drug addiction is not the person seeking to get high, its the person who is prescribed highly addictive medication.

Want to learn more?  Read our special report: Addiction Hotline Facts About Opioids and Opiates

Fentanyl and Synthetic Opioid Overdose Deaths Doubled In 2016

fentanyl and heroin vials
Lethal dose of heroin compared to a lethal dose of fentanyl

Death by Fentanyl Overdose is on the Rise

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid used for pain management, has surpassed heroin as a leading cause of drug overdose deaths.  According to a CDC Report, the number of drug overdose deaths in the US increased by 21% last year.  Synthetic-opioid fatalities more than doubled during this period.

The National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) estimates that 64,070 people in the US  died of drug overdose last year.  An increase of 21% over the 52,898 drug overdose deaths recorded in 2015.  This is double the rate of death for firearm and motor vehicle related deaths.  In the US Fentanyl caused 20,100 deaths in 2016, a rise of 540% over the past 3 years.   The drug gained national notoriety when medical examiners concluded that musician Prince died from an accidental fentanyl overdose.

The researchers for the CDC wrote “The first wave of deaths began in 1999 and included deaths involving prescription opioids. It was followed by a second wave, beginning in 2010, and characterized by deaths involving heroin. A third wave started in 2013, with deaths involving synthetic opioids, particularly illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF). IMF is now being used in combination with heroin, counterfeit pills, and cocaine.” 

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.  It’s typically prescribed to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery.  In its prescription form, its known by such names as Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze.

How is Fentanyl Used?

When prescribed by a doctor, fentanyl is often administered via injection, a patch, or in lozenge form. However, much of the  fentanyl that’s being associated with illicit use and overdose deaths is being produced in clandestine laboratories. This illegal, non-pharmaceutical drug is being found as a powder,  spiked on blotter paper; mixed with or substituted for heroin; or as tablets that look like other, less potent opioids. Most often the drug is snorted, swallowed or injected.

How Does Fentanyl Affect The Brain?

Fentanyl acts much like heroin or morphine by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions.  When opioid drugs bind to these receptors, they can drive up dopamine levels in the brain’s reward areas, producing a state of euphoria and relaxation.  The drug’s effects resemble those of heroin and include euphoria, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, tolerance, addiction, respiratory depression and arrest, unconsciousness, coma, and death.

What Makes Fentanyl So Dangerous?

Opioid receptors are also found in the areas of the brain that control breathing.  Significant doses of opioids, especially potent opioids such as fentanyl, can cause breathing to stop completely.  Because the drug is so powerful and in street form the dose is often unknown, or the user thinks they are using a lower potency drug they are at a great risk of overdose or death.  Fentanyl sold on the street can be mixed with heroin or cocaine, which markedly amplifies its potency and potential dangers.

The medication naloxone is an opioid receptor antagonist that reverses opioid overdose and restores normal respiration.  Overdoses of fentanyl should be treated immediately with naloxone.

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Treatment for and recovery from Fentanyl is similar to treating a heroin or other opioid or opiate addition.   The best course is to see a medical professional who specializes in addiction.  A medical detox is a possibility as well as in-patient treatment.  At the very least the treatment and recovery should be monitored and supervised by a medical specialist.  It should be noted that coming off of an opioid addiction poses serious health risks, going “cold turkey” like in the movies can be dangerous.

Formal treatment with support group participation is the ideal plan of action.  There are numerous free and confidential support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous, and Opiates Anonymous to name a few.

If you are struggling with an opioid addiction reach out to a treatment center in your community.  Get help today.  And our National Addiction Hotline is here 24/7 to provide guidance and treatment options.  1-888-352-6072

Learn The Facts About Opioids and Opiates

and better understand opioid and opiate addicts in our “Heroin And Opioid Addiction In Their Own Words“.

Teen Drug Use Is Down But Opioid Overdoses Are Up

While Teen Drug Use is Down Deadly Opioid Overdoses Are On The Rise

teen drug use
Teen drug use is down, but overdose deaths are up

According to a new report put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose deaths among older American teenagers increased in 2015.  This was after a steady decline and in spite of the fact that overall drug use among this group has declined.  The research showed that between 1999 and 2015, drug overdose death rates for 15- to 19-year-olds more than doubled.  In total, there were 772 drug overdose deaths among older teens in 2015, with two-thirds more deaths among males than females. Between 2014 and 2015, the overdose death rate for males in this age group rose 15 percent. For women the rate increased 35 percent between 2013 and 2015.

Noteworthy is that over 80 percent of overdose deaths were unintentional, the rest were due to suicides or homicides involving drug overdose.

Opioids Are The Leading Cause of Teen Overdose

A 2015 study in the journal Pediatrics also found that teens who are prescribed opioids in high school are 33 percent more likely to abuse any opioid or opiate between ages 19 and 23.  Such prescriptions are often the result of a sports injury.

Heroin Use Among Teenagers Is Also More Prevalent

Opioids and prescription pain killers appear to be gateway drugs for heroin.  Heroin is typically less expensive and widely available.  Several states have passed laws limiting how many opioid pills doctors can prescribe at a time.  While many teens begin with prescription opioids, others reach heroin after years of experimenting with other drugs.

Helping Teenagers

There are some bright spots in this reports.  According to this survey in 2016 drug use, other than marijuana, among teens is at its lowest point in decades.   Over the last five years abuse of prescription opioids among 12th graders. Heroin use among 10th- and 12th-grade students remains very low.

For teenagers who develop drub abuse problems and drug addiction, some sort of intervention is critical.  Whether an out patient counseling program, or in patient treatment center, it’s important to help a teenager end their drug use and get their life pointed back in a positive direction.  These are there formative years and some bad habits can be lethal.
If you or your teenagers is struggling with drug abuse, call a professional in your community and get answers and guidance.  And our National Addiction Hotline is here for you 24/7. 1-888-352-6072

Learn the Facts About Opioids and Opiates and read Heroin and Opioid Addiction: In Their Own Words

Alcoholism On The Rise According to JAMA

Alcoholism Statistics
Alcoholism Statistics

Research on Alcoholism Shows an Alarming Trend

Alcoholism, also called alcohol use disorder, has been on the rise in adults in the USA.  A recent study published in the JAMA Psychiatry indicates that the rate of alcohol use disorder rose by 49 percent in the first decade of the 2000s. To put this in perspective one in eight American adults, or 12.7 percent of the U.S. population, now meets diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder, according to their findings.  These are staggering statistics.

People often associate alcoholism as something that can wreck a person’s life by causing work issues, family issues, and social problems but there is an array of health problems associated with alcoholic drinking such as “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, liver cirrhosis, several types of cancer and infections, pancreatitis, type 2 diabetes, and various injuries.”  And while opioid and opiate overdose and deaths dominate the headlines these days,  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 88,000 people a year die of alcohol-related causes, more than twice the annual death toll of opiate overdose.

Who Is Considered An Alcoholic?

The study’s data comes from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a nationally representative survey administered by the National Institutes of Health. Survey respondents were considered to have alcohol use disorder if they met widely used diagnostic criteria for either alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.

Alcohol Abuse

For a diagnosis of alcohol abuse, an individual must have exhibited at least one of the following characteristics in the past year:

  • Recurrent use of alcohol resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to alcohol use; alcohol-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household).
  • Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by alcohol use).
  • Recurrent alcohol-related legal problems (e.g., arrests for alcohol-related disorderly conduct).
  • Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems. 

Alcohol Dependence

For a diagnosis of alcohol dependence, an individual must experience at least three of the following seven symptoms:

  • Need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect; or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.
  • The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol; or drinking (or using a closely related substance) to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Drinking in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.
  • Persistent desire or one or more unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control drinking.
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced because of drinking.
  • A great deal of time spent in activities necessary to obtain, to use, or to recover from the effects

Theories About The Rising Numbers And Treatment For Alcoholism

“I think the increases are due to stress and despair and the use of alcohol as a coping mechanism,” said the study’s lead author, Bridget Grant, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health. The study notes that the increases in alcohol use disorder were “much greater among minorities than among white individuals,” likely reflecting widening social inequalities after the 2008 recession.

“If we ignore these problems, they will come back to us at much higher costs through emergency department visits, impaired children who are likely to need care for many years for preventable problems, and higher costs for jails and prisons that are the last resort for help for many,” University of California at San Diego psychiatrist Marc Schuckit said.

Man with alcoholism
Alcoholism and related issues are a leading cause in deaths

While the rise in alcoholism is alarming the solution is always the same.  We need better education to avoid it, to recognize the signs and symptoms and also viable treatment.  Sometimes participation in free, confidential support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous is enough to help someone stop drinking and turn their life around.  Others respond well to one on one or group counseling and still others may be in need of detox and in-patient treatment.  The first step, of course, is admitting a problem exists and reaching out for guidance.

If you or a loved one is dealing with a drinking problem  reach out to an organization in your community that specializes in help for alcoholics and addiction, or call your insurance company for a referral.   Our National Addiction Hotline is always here to provide guidance and assistance in determining treatment options as well.

See our report on The Periodic Alcoholic

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

After Overdosing on Heroin Four Times, Mother Commits to Recovery

Heather Wetzel recovering heroin addict
Heather Wetzel

In this video Heather Wetzel explains how she became addicted to heroin, her overdoses, and the guilt she carried being an addicted mother to her four year old daughter.  She explains how she turned to a life of  crime to fund her drug habit, and the time when she overdosed and the  police arrived while her daughter was home.

I told her, Mommy’s got to go away…

She was in prison for eleven month and completed a drug program while there.

I don’t know how I lost sight of being a mother…

After she was released from prison she and her daughter lived in a treatment center for recovering mothers and their children. Heather hopes her recovery will last and that she’ll remain drug free for her daughter.  She says she feels confident about remaining drug free but she has a fear of the cravings.

Thousands of lives are lost each year to prescription drug overdose.  Opioid prescriptions are at an all time high, so are emergency room visits and deaths from overdose.  It has become a national crisis.  Sadly stories like Heather’s are common: a young mother gets caught up into drug addiction and the downward spiral is fast and ugly.  Heather is fortunate in that she’s still alive, and is drug free now.  Heroin overdoses are lethal far too often.

Too often someone addicted to opiates tries and fails to kick their addiction and mistakenly concludes they’re hopeless and they have no chance for recovery.  We see people end the cycle of addiction each day.  It’s not easy and the first thing the addict must do is recognize they have a problem and then seek help.

We hope Heather’s story inspires heroin addicts that they too can turn their lives around, no one is hopeless.