Opiate abuse has become a significant problem in America that stems largely from the rising number of people using prescription drugs. Although opiate-based drugs like Vicodin or OxyContin may be initially prescribed to treat chronic pain conditions, a strong dependence on the drug can quickly develop and spiral out of control.
However, because of the origins of prescription drug dependence and the fact that the drugs are supplied by physicians, many are unaware of the danger they are in.
There are now more residential and outpatient drug treatment centers across the country which is a significant indication of the extent of the crisis. As the number of people being prescribed opiates and those already with dependence on them continues to increase, the opiate crisis in America is now at epidemic levels.
Who Is At Risk of Opiate Overdose?
The shocking answer to this question is anyone. Just as opiate addiction is non-discriminatory, neither is fatal overdose which claims the lives of 63,000 American adults each year. Whether someone has taken the drug – or more likely its street equivalent heroin – for a prolonged period of time or has never used it before; the risk of fatal overdose is the same.
The reason many people “graduate” from prescription drugs to an illegal alternative like heroin is often because they have become tolerant to their painkilling effects. This is quite natural when someone takes a powerful painkiller for a sustained period of time. However, it is also when someone is at their most vulnerable to seeking other ways of obtaining a higher dose of opiates without visiting their physician’s office.
This leads to dangerous behaviors as a person seeks to feed their addictive compulsion with more opiate-based drugs and in attempts to quell cravings; it is easy for them to take too much.
What Are Opiate Overdose Symptoms?
Opiate overdose symptoms can be extreme and frightening for someone to witness. However, it is important to distinguish between when someone is just under the influence of the drug or “high” and when they are fighting for their lives.
Symptoms of an opiate overdose include the following:
- Frequent vomiting and soaring temperature
- Contracted pupils and extreme sleepiness
- Unconsciousness and the inability to be roused
- Drifting in and out of consciousness
- Breathing problems, choking and gagging
- The absence of breathing or respiratory arrest
- Racing heartbeat and palpitations
- Cold, clammy skin with pale or bluish complexion
The most dangerous side effect of a fatal overdose of opiates is respiratory arrest as when the brain is starved of oxygen it can result in permanent neurological damage. Opiate overdose may also be accompanied by the failure of other organ systems including the heart and kidneys. If someone is left alone when they are showing the signs of overdose, they are very likely to die. It is essential that medical professionals are called to the scene immediately.
It is always worth remembering that the people who are lucky to survive opiate overdose, usually do so because someone was with them.
Is There Effective Treatment for Opiate Addiction?
The answer is a resounding yes. Our understanding of addiction illness has never been greater and neither has the range of inpatient and outpatient drug treatment options. The holistic approach to addiction treatment has been shown to be particularly effective in the treatment of prescription drug use disorder. This is because it addresses all the areas negatively affected by addiction to treat the whole person’s mind, body and spirit.
For many people, the causes of their addiction are extremely deep-rooted and it is only through intensive therapy that they are able to identify them. Although addiction to opiates is a complex form of the illness, it is eminently possible for patients to leave outpatient drug rehab and go on to achieve successful and happy lives that are drug-free.
One of the most effective components of outpatient drug treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. This is an evidence-based practice that gets to the heart of an individual patient’s addiction issues to reveal the negative behaviors that drive it. By identifying the thought processes that compel someone to abuse substances, it is possible for CBT therapists to help them make significant and often profound changes, for a sustainable recovery.
Solving the Opiate Crisis in America
The best way of addressing the opiate epidemic in the US is by preventing the problem from arising. At Elevate, we have a strong focus on holistic treatments and therapies that are designed to support life after drugs and alcohol. We believe that the need for prescription drugs to treat chronic pain conditions could be eliminated completely if holistic therapies were embraced by more sufferers.