Opioid medications have been used for hundreds of years to treat both pain and mental problems. In the last 20 years, however, there has been a 600% increase in opioid prescribing in the United States. Though America accounts for only 4.6% of the world population, we consume 80% of the world’s opioids. This has led to to a huge increase in opioid addiction and deaths from overdosing.
Some believe that this increase in prescribing is due to the belief that medical professionals hold that opioids are safer than other pain medication alternatives. This is simply not the case. Opioids are extremely dangerous and are taking entirely too many innocent lives. Doctors must use better judgement when prescribing them.
Opioid side effects
Though opioids are very helpful in treatment of pain, they have many negative side effects that are often not considered upon prescribing them. Side effects can include:
- Gastrointestinal – Constipation, nausea and vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding
- Impaired recovery from injury or surgery – Opioids following injury actually delay recovery and increase the risk of permanent damage.
- Psychological and Physical Side-effects – Opioids taken before and after surgery can affect recovery time and outcome, and can lead to depression.
- Cognitive impairment – Larger doses of opioids lead to drowsiness, lethargy, reduced spatial memory capacity, impaired performance in working memory, and even death.
- Respiratory depression – Opioids adversely affect the respiratory system. High doses of opioids induce sleep and slow down breathing. This often leads to suffocation and death, and is the reason that so many overdoses occur.
Abuse that Leads to Death
Opioids account for more deaths than any other medication. More than 16,000 people die each year from an opioid overdose.
Many who lose their lives are taking opioids that were not prescribed to them. Opioids may even be responsible for many more deaths than we think because the deaths are frequently attributed to other causes. Opioid abuse often progresses to intravenous use, which may result in HIV or hepatitis C infections. Abuse of these drugs leads to impairment that can be responsible for car accidents, falls and more.
If you, a friend or a loved one is abusing opioids, do all that you can to find them help. Awareness of the dangerous side effects just may lead to fewer serious injuries and deaths.