Opioids are a drug class that includes heroin, as well as powerful pain relievers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and many others. Today prescription opioids fill American’s medicine cabinets; and sadly, opioid overdoses now kill more Americans every year than car accidents. In 2016, more than 64,000 people died from drug overdoses including illicit drugs and prescription opioids. In the United States alone, more than 1,000 people are treated daily in emergency departments for not using prescription opioids as directed.
Why do so many people suffer from opioid addiction? They quiet nerves, which in turn relieves any pain signals that would have been sent to the brain. Opioids turn off neurons and turn on addiction. The dopamine causes anxiety and stress relief when you experience euphoria feelings from the high. Any pain in the body has quickly gone away. You can be a functioning addict when addicted to opioids, and it may be hard to spot common symptoms from a loved one.
Opioid addicts feel constantly anxious, and their stress levels are in a heightened state during the withdrawal phase. Some describe this process as the sickest feeling they have ever had, and that they need more of the drug to relieve this pain. The potency of opioids diminish with extended use, and this ultimately turns into a vicious cycle of addiction. Addicts keep chasing that high and get immune to these feelings, and without it they become sick.
To get an understanding on how quickly someone can develop an addiction to opioids, watch this informative and eye-opening video from PBS documentary published by PBS News Hour: