The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, is calling opioid use a national epidemic because millions of people suffer from substance abuse. It is hard to imagine that something a doctor prescribes can be harmful to your health, but when the substance is not used in its intended way, even death can occur. For instance, opioids are prescribed for something as trivial as headaches, but when the brain associates the drug with pain relief, it wants more and more. In fact, nearly one hundred people in the United States are dying everyday from opioid abuse, and it seems as though that number is on the rise. The best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones is to understand the opioid epidemic, what opioids are, how they affect the brain, and what you can do to bring the number of opioid abusers down.

What are Opioids

Opioids are substances that act on opioid receptors in the brain to produce effects that mimic morphine. Opiates are prescribed for everything from pain to cough, constipation, and shortness of breath. Opioids include morphine, heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and fentanyl. Some opioids are illegal, such as heroin, and some you can get a prescription for from your doctor for pain relief, like Tramadol. Since opioids act as painkillers, they are incredibly addictive to the brain.

How Opioids Affect The Brain

There are natural opioid receptors in the brain. When someone takes a painkiller, the opiate binds with the opioid receptor in the brain, blocking pain and sending signals of intense pleasure. Of course, the brain says it wants more. When opioids are taken over and over again, the way the brain’s nerve cells function changes and the user cannot experience pleasure without the drug and without the drug the user experiences negative withdrawal symptoms.

Call To Action

The first thing we can do to limit opioid addiction is to put laws in place that do not allow such lax prescription of the drug. In other words to stop it before it starts. A lot of states are Good Samaritan states, meaning you will not be prosecuted to seeking help. There are millions of hotlines to call as well as recovery centers and support groups. Treatment centers use buprenorphine therapy with medications like Suboxone, such as the Suboxone Clinic in Daytona Beach. You may be asking yourself how to identify if someone you love is addicted to opiates. The first clue is that they are simply just not acting like themselves. They may seem distant, distracted, or constantly in a cloud. If you approach the problem and they are unable to stop, then you know they are addicted. There needs to be continued education around this issue because it can happen to anyone. Ask your doctor about the drugs they are prescribing you and about the dangers of painkillers. Even something as trivial as back pain can lead to addiction, so make sure you are prescribed only what you need.

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