The overdose crisis is growing—and opioid misuse, dependence, and addictions are primary factors. Opioid overdose deaths are expected to account for 68% of the total number of overdose deaths in 2017. In fact, take a look at these numbers:
- There were more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2016, and approximately 72,287 in 2017.
- In 2016, 5,376 teens and young adults aged 15-24 died from a drug overdose. In 2015, that number was 4,235. The number of 2017 drug overdose deaths is expected to be even higher.
- The 2016 National Study on Drug Use and Health reported that an estimated 28.6 million Americans aged 12 and older used illicit drugs during the month before the study. That number indicates approximately 1 in 10 people aged 12 and older struggle with substance abuse, including addiction to prescription drugs.
The Council on Substance Abuse-NCADD (COSA-NCADD) provides opioid abuse recovery support to Alabama residents. We work with providers and organizations that can help those who want freedom from opioid misuse, dependence, and addiction. We want to help prevent opioid misuse and abuse among teens by sharing facts about opioids.
WHAT IS PRESCIPTION OPIOID MISUSE?
Prescription opioids usually come in pill form and are prescribed by doctors for severe pain—for ailments such as pain from dental surgery, serious sports injuries, or cancer. Opioids are also commonly prescribed to treat other kinds of pain that last a long time (chronic pain).
When opioids are taken as prescribed by a medical professional for a short time, they are usually relatively safe and can reduce pain effectively. But opioid dependence and addiction are potential risks when taking prescription opioids. Opioid misuse is when you take opioids in a manner not prescribed by your doctor. Opioid misuse can lead to dependence and addiction. Dependence means you feel withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. Continued use can lead to an addiction, where you continue to use opioids even though you’re experiencing negative consequences. Prescription medications are some of the most commonly misused drugs by teens, after tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana.
WHAT ARE SOME DIFFERENT TYPES OF PRESCRIPTION OPIOIDS?
- oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet)
- hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet)
- diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
- morphine (Kadian, Avinza, MS Contin)
- fentanyl (Duragesic)
- propoxyphene (Darvon)
- hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- meperidine (Demerol)
HOW DO TEENS MISUSE OPIOIDS?
Teens misuse opioids in the same way adults misuse opioids. They may have been prescribed opioids by a physician and misuse them by taking a higher dose than prescribed or taking a dose more often than prescribed. Teens can also procure unprescribed opioids from others for the purpose of misusing the drug. Teens also misuse opioids by mixing them with other drugs and/or alcohol.
CAN PRESCRIPTION OPIOID MISUSE LEAD TO HEROIN USE AND ADDICTION? YES.
Prescription opioids are chemically related to heroin, and their effects, especially when misused, are very similar. Because heroin is sometimes easier to get, people who have become addicted to prescription pain medications sometimes switch to using heroin. Almost 80 percent of people addicted to heroin began with prescription opioids. Only about 4 percent of people who misuse prescription opioids use heroin. That number may sound low, but it adds up to hundreds of thousands of heroin users because millions of people are using prescription opioids.
Death rates for drug overdoses among those aged 15-19 in 2015 (the most recent data available) were highest for opioids, specifically heroin.
CAN A PRESCRIPTION OPIOID OVERDOSE KILL YOU? YES.
You can overdose and die from prescription opioid misuse. While most overdose deaths are unintentional, those who misuse and abuse opioids need to know that just one large dose of prescription opioids can cause the body to stop breathing.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT DRUG OVERDOSE:
Unintentional drug poisoning deaths can happen when a drug or drugs are taken on purpose (or mixed together). They can also happen when a drug or drugs are accidentally taken or given to a person in the course of a medical procedure. Total overdose death numbers also include cases where drugs are given to a person in a criminal act (a homicide, if a death occurs.) With most drugs, there are more accidental deaths than suicides or homicides.
Some overdoses happen when people leave drug treatment. During treatment, a person goes through a detoxification (“detox”) process—getting the drug out of the body. If a person has gone through detox and then takes the same amounts of drugs they took before, they can overdose because the body is no longer used to the same dose.
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I KNOW SOMEONE MISUSING OR ABUSING OPIOIDS?
When someone is misusing or abusing opioids, treatment is necessary. COSA-NCADD can help you get the support you need to recover fully and lead a healthy life free from opioid dependence and addiction. Call us at 1-877-HELP-4AL. Our helpline provides confidential assistance for those who need help themselves, and guidance for those seeking help for loved ones.
When you call, you’ll be greeted by a friendly, compassionate peer-support specialist who has personal experience in recovery from a mental health or substance abuse issue. They are here to help you and will never judge you or your circumstances.
CAN I STOP ABUSING OPIOIDS ON MY OWN?
The decision to take legally prescribed medication or to misuse medications or drugs is a decision a person makes on his or her own. But when someone becomes dependent on that substance, self-control plummets. Studies have shown that individuals dependent on drugs experience changes in their brains that are necessary for decision making and behavior control. So, people may know they should stop using opioids, but they can’t bear the weight of that responsibility on their own. Their brains and bodies will do whatever necessary to obtain the substances they are dependent on. COSA-NCADD is here to help.
WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS TO PREVENT OPIOID MISUSE AND ABUSE?
Studies have shown as many as 52% of prescription opioid users get their painkillers from a friend or relative.
- Take medications as prescribed by your physician and notify your doctor about any other medications you are taking.
- Do not share prescription medications with friends or family.
- Do not take more medication than prescribed and do not take it more often than prescribed.
- Call your doctor if pain worsens.
- Never mix medications with alcohol, sleeping pills, or other substances.
- Dispose of unused medication properly.
Again, COSA-NCADD is here to help. If you or someone you know is stuck in the cycle of misusing or abusing opioids, contact us at 1-877-HELP-4AL (1-877-435-7425).
Let’s do what we can to keep all teens free from the dangers of opioid misuse and abuse. All calls to COSA-NCADD are confidential and occur within a no-judgment zone.