An Epidemic Abuse Makes Opioids a Risky Choice for Pain Management
“Trump declares opioid epidemic a national public health emergency” read CNN’s headline last month. When the president of the United States discusses a specific health problem, how bad is it?
How Bad is the Opioid Epidemic?
Let’s look at these facts from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)’s Opioid Addiction 2016 Facts & Figures:
- Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the licit prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others.
- Opioids are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and nervous system to produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain.
- Addiction is a primary, chronic and relapsing brain disease characterized by an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
- Of the 20.5 million Americans 12 or older that had a substance use disorder in 2015, 2 million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers and 591,000 had a substance use disorder involving heroin.
- It is estimated that 23% of individuals who use heroin develop opioid addiction.