The Most Common Cause of Death from Opiates
June 4, 2013 | 8:45 PM
Drugs and alcohol kill people everyday. Addiction is the most preventable deadly disease.
What do you think is the most dangerous drug around? Does one drug immediately come to mind? Heroin? Methamphetamine?
What about a certain class of drugs? What do you think of as being most dangerous?
Heroin is an opiate, along with hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, codeine, and a bunch of pharmaceutically-created versions of those products. The highly-addictive nature of opiates makes them a very tough group of drugs to stop using once dependence has occurred, meaning your brain and body have become used to the substance being in your system, and your mood, ability to experience pleasure, and the lack of pain are now dependent upon that opiate’s chemical compound being present. The effects of the drug now dictate your functioning.
You, like many people, may think that heroin is the most dangerous drug in the opiate family. We hear all the horror stories of the lives of heroin addicts. Needles, HIV and AIDS, selling your body for drugs, scary situations when money is owed or drugs are not available, and an all around sketchy environment, but heroin is not the most common cause of death from opiates.
The most common cause of death from opiates comes in prescription form, not from heroin.
Pharmaceutical companies produce drugs that mimic the effects of naturally-occurring plants. In the case of opiates, fake opium-like chemical combinations are put into pill (or liquid) form and are supposed to be used to help alleviate chronic pain, or the pain after surgery.
When prescription opiate painkillers are taken without an appropriate prescription, or they are taken more than the doctor recommended, use progresses quickly to abuse, and then to addiction. The number of people addicted to medically-prescribed opiates is alarming: 12 million Americans, as estimated in 2010 by the CDC, the Center for Disease Control.
The CDC also reports that about 15,000 people overdose on prescription opiates every year, which is more than the deaths attributed to heroin and cocaine, combined.
If the most common cause of death from opiates is prescription painkillers, then why are these drugs still so readily available? How are people of all ages getting their hands on pills that they do not need medically?
How can doctors be sure someone saying there is persistent physical pain is truly in need of a pill like Vicodin or OxyContin?
If I get into a car accident tomorrow, and my back is permanently messed up, and an opiate helps reduce my pain for a while, when is a good time to stop taking prescription pills and to start trying other methods of pain reduction?
Sadly, millions of people do not know, and doctors continue to do the best they can to prescribe such addictive pills appropriately.
Treatment is necessary when addiction to any opiate has developed. The prescription painkiller may be handling more than just the physical pain. Rehab is effective at identifying and addressing what other forms of pain may be masked by the opiate of choice.
photo credit: pennstatenews