Understanding Opioid Abuse – Part 1 of 2

Although opioid addiction is beginning to not be such a taboo subject, it still leaves a lot to be desired in the area of education. Let’s explain further: in order for people to participate in ending the opioid epidemic, they must first understand the extent of what is behind the numbers/statistics. Sometimes it takes knowing the “nitty gritty” details to really jumpstart others into helping prevent such a tragic epidemic from progressing any further.



Opioids are a class of drugs that are typically used to help relieve pain; these are pain relievers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others. This class of drugs also includes “the illegal drug heroin [and] synthetic opioids such as fentanyl” (drugabuse.org). Opioids can be legally acquired by prescription, or illegally acquired through drug diversion and/or other illegal means of purchase or acquisition.


Whenever a person uses opioids a) for a purpose it was not intended for; b) for a period of time longer than prescribed or recommended; or c) for minor rather than major symptoms (when the use can be avoided), it is considered misuse.


According to the Mayo Clinic, “When opioid medications travel through your blood and attach to opioid receptors in your brain cells, the cells release signals that muffle your perception of pain and boost your feelings of pleasure”, making the desire to continue using them extremely strong. When opioids are used for too long [or for the wrong reasons] it changes the way nerve cells work in the brain (NIH). Your body grows used to having the opioids, and when they are taken away, that’s when the withdrawals begin. Many who are addicted feel the need for the opioid, complemented by strong urges known as cravings.


Signs of substance abuse and addiction are, first, the ability to not be able to control the urge to take them. Per familydoctor.org, other symptoms may also include poor coordination, drowsiness, nausea, physical agitation, abandoning responsibilities, slurred speech, sleeping more or less than normal, mood swings, feeling high, irritability, depressed, lowered or no motivation, and the list continues on. It’s often more difficult to spot drug abuse in others, even if they are close family members or friends. Knowing the symptoms of drug abuse can help others to point out the behaviors or help those addicted to seek the help they need.


This is only the beginning. In this Part 1 article, we want to make it clear that substance abuse has been studied over and over again, and it is only becoming more of worldwide issue as time goes on. Being knowledgeable about how you can help will only increase awareness and heighten your senses to being able to spot opioid addiction and abuse.

Be sure to follow up with our Understanding Opioid Abuse Part 2 article to learn more about opioid addiction/abuse, what it is doing to individuals and people involved in their lives, as well as how it has affected entire communities, states, and countries. For more information on what you can do to help diminish opioid addiction in your community, visit our website www.narcx.com or call us at (303) 434-1630.


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