One of the more disturbing trends in recent years is that of the opiate epidemic. The explosion in prescription drug abuse has been so pervasive that it has revitalized the heroin trade, because so many people get tired of chasing after new prescriptions for opiate pills and therefore turn to the streets to find opiates.
Another disturbing part of this trend is that the population that is abusing opiates is getting younger and younger.
WHNT says that We're not only seeing older people who've had a shoulder injury, got prescribed Oxycodone, and later on turned to heroin, but we're seeing a lot younger audience as well. We're seeing kids as young as 18, 19, 20, 21-years-old.
How is this happening? And why?
Part of it is about information. Kids and teens are so much better equipped to get their hands on information because of the Internet and, to some extent, social media. Not only can kids access more information than ever before, but now they can also share that information with each other much better, thanks to social media. This becomes especially dangerous when a young person is searching through the family medicine cabinet at home and identifying drug names on the bottles. Thanks to the Internet, it is now very easy to see which pills could potentially get a person high. And if a teen or kid lacks the knowledge to know how to do this sort of basic research, their friends will surely know how to do it, and they can connect to them quite easily as well.
In other words, because young people are better able to use technology, they are also better equipped to get the information that they need to know how to abuse prescription drugs that they find in the home.
There are probably other reasons as well. One of them might be that the rate at which doctors are prescribing painkillers has skyrocketed in the last decade or so compared to the past. This might be due in part to the competitive nature of hospitals, in which they are always striving for total customer satisfaction. So what they don't want is for a patient to fill out a survey about their visit and say something like I was in pain and it was not adequately addressed by my doctor. So the hospital staff and medical professionals are getting pressured more and more to make sure that their patients are 100 percent satisfied with the care that they received. As a result, doctors are indirectly being pressured to prescribe more pain medications. These medications then end up at home, in family bathrooms and medicine cabinets, and that is where teens and children are finding the pills.
So what is the solution for this? How can we prevent younger and younger people from abusing opiates?
One of the biggest factors is going to have to be educating society in general, and parents especially, when it comes to the importance of locking up narcotics. For that matter, we may even need to take a step back and help people to identify what is a narcotic and which substances have abuse potential.
Most pills are obvious when they have abuse potential, such as vicodin, oxycontin, and morphine. But some prescription drugs are more likely to sneak under the radar, such as Tramadol (Ultram). Many people who take that do not realize that it has the potential to be addictive, and there are even some doctors who believe that it has no abuse potential. So in some ways we might all need more education when it comes to prescription drug abuse.
You have to realize that what is happening when a person is abusing opiates. Our bodies are designed to deliver a certain amount of dopamine to our brain, and this is actually happening all the time as we go about our lives. We all have a tiny trickle of dopamine being administered to our body at any given moment.
Because if you happen to get into a flight or fight situation, and you need to fight or exert great energy in order to survive, then your body needs a way to give itself an extra boost of dopamine. And in order for that extra boost of dopamine to be effective, we need to have a baseline in our systems. So our body always has a tiny trickle of dopamine in it, and that is how it regulates itself when it comes to emergency situations.
When a kid or a teenager starts to abuse opiateswhether it is pills like Vicodin or street drugs like herointhey are teaching their body that there is plenty of dopamine available right now, and therefore the tiny trickle that the body produces for itself is no longer necessary.
In other words, when you abuse opiates every day, your body shuts down its own natural production of dopamine.
This makes it very, very difficult for a person to stop taking opiates. Their body will instantly go into a nasty withdrawal state if they suddenly stop putting opiates into their system, because they trained their body to stop making its own dopamine. This is what produces the withdrawal symptoms that opiate addicts want to desperately avoid.
If you or someone that you love is caught in this trap, and every time they try to stop taking opiates they go into withdrawal, then they need professional help. Get on the phone and call a drug treatment center. There they will have a detox center where they will help you get through withdrawal. They will likely use medications that trick the body into believing that it is not really starving for opiate molecules. They have special medications that can alleviate withdrawal symptoms fairly effectively now.
Of course in order to do this the opiate addict must make a decision that they want to get off of the opiates for good. If the person is not at a point of surrender then they are not likely to be willing to attend treatment. The key is that the family and friends of the struggling addict need to make an offer to send them to rehab, and then let the person come to this realization for themselves. Forcing them into rehab is not generally effective, because they haven't surrendered yet and they are not willing to follow through with treatment.
It can be very difficult to convince someone to go to rehab and change their life if all they want to do is to get high. At some point, getting high will become something that is only done for maintenance, and it just won't be much fun any more. At that time you can bet that the person will be much more willing to ask for help and take direction from their family and friends.
The key to getting off of opiates is to surrender to the fact that you have a disease, that you cannot control your use, and that you want to live a better and happier life in recovery. Once you reach that point of surrender, that is when recovery becomes possible.
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