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What Is the Opioid Crisis?

The news is full of stories about how more and more people are becoming addicted to opioids each year, but just what is the opioid crisis? Why is it such a big deal? And how did the opioid epidemic start at all? Knowing the who, what, when and why of this crisis is the first step to finding solutions for it. If your loved one is living with an Opioid Addiction, here are some things you should understand:

  • What is the opioid crisis?
  • What are opioids?
  • Does Florida have an opioid crisis?
  • What are the treatments for Opioid Addiction?
  • What should families ask before choosing a facility?

Though things may seem hopeless, the best way to tackle any problem is to fully understand it. It’s only by understanding the problem that we can provide adequate solutions for it. There are already many misconceptions about the reality of the situation, so we could all do with a starter course on the opioid epidemic.

What Is the Opioid Epidemic Exactly?

The opioid crisis began in the 1990s when pharmaceutical companies came up with a non-addictive painkiller — or so they claimed. These companies convinced everyone that their new painkillers did the work of morphine — the most common painkiller, which is also very addictive — without the risk of addiction.

Since doctors had no reason to doubt them, they began prescribing opioids to patients, seeing it as a no-risk alternative to the highly addictive morphine. They began overprescribing it to the point that it became widely spread. Its availability and euphoric effects made it a highly sought-after drug, which led to its inevitable misuse and the creation of many more opioids — all in an attempt to take advantage of its unique effects on brain chemistry.

What Is an Opioid Crisis?

That over-prescription of opioids is what kickstarted an opioid epidemic that the world is struggling with almost 30 years later.

The crisis has seen three waves so far:

  • The 1990s: Over-prescription of the drug made it widespread and, thus, easier to misuse.
  • 2010: The crisis reached its second peak with the increase in heroin use and subsequent overdoses.
  • 2013: The current wave of the crisis started around 2013, which was exacerbated by the creation of fentanyl.

What Makes It an Epidemic?

To date, there have been more deaths from opioid overdose than from an overdose of all other drugs combined. There were 52,404 deaths from drug overdoses in the United States — of those, more than 33,000 were from opioid overdoses. Plus, the majority of the opioid-related deaths were from prescription opioids, not illegal opioids, like heroin.

The number of opioid-related deaths increased by 10,000 in 2016. In fact, the number of opioid-related deaths in 2017 was six times higher than it was in 1999 — and the number continues to rise as the epidemic rages on.

What Are Opioids?

Often synonymous with pain management, opioids are painkillers that are made from opium. They’re either directly taken from opium, like morphine, or are synthetically created to mimic the effects of morphine, like fentanyl. Thanks to modern medicine, we were able to create opioids that were as potent as we needed them to be.

Drugs like methadone were created as a replacement for morphine when the latter was in short supply. Heroin, on the other hand, was created to bring about the effects of morphine without the risk of addiction. As science and our knowledge about opioids progress, we now know that heroin is not any less addictive than any other opioid — in fact, about 23 percent of people who use heroin end up with an Opioid Addiction.

What Is Opioid Abuse?

Thanks to its function as a painkiller, coupled with its addictive nature, people don’t realize they have become dependent on the drug until they stop taking it. Opioids are still prescribed to manage pain, but once the prescription runs out, some people seek other ways to get the comfort they got from the opioid.

That’s often how people turn to illegal or “street” drugs — or they’re forced to become sober all of a sudden without any help.

What Are Some Common Opioids?

Morphine, fentanyl and methadone are some of the most well-known opioid drugs, but there are many opioids out there, including:

  • Codeine: This prescription drug provides the effects of morphine but in a milder dose. Since it’s less potent than other drugs, it’s not as heavily regulated, so it’s one of the easiest to misuse. It is found in pill form as well as in cough medicine, and people can develop a tolerance and dependence for it. Because it’s a milder opioid than others on this list, users tend to let their guards down when taking it, assuming that they’re less likely to develop an addiction.
  • Demerol: Generically called meperidine, Demerol is a short-lasted painkiller that is one-tenth as potent as morphine. It’s usually prescribed in hospital settings as an injection but sometimes can be prescribed as a pill or syrup. The fact that it provides such temporary relief makes it easy to abuse.
  • Dilaudid: Dilaudid is one of the brand names for hydromorphone and is considered one of the most powerful synthetic opioids. It is prescribed for severe pain, like burns, and a person can develop a tolerance for it within a few weeks. This drug gets the brain to release dopamine, which improved the user’s mood, but the more the body relies on Dilaudid for dopamine, the less the brain will make naturally.
  • Hydrocodone: Better known as Vicodin, hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid that’s prescribed for short-term treatment of mild to severe pain, such as after dental surgery. As with many of the other opioids on this list, despite being milder than other opioids, it’s still prone to misuse.
  • Oxycodone: Possibly better known by its brand names OxyContin or Percocet, this is the most misused drug. Since it’s prescribed for around-the-clock relief from pain, it’s very easy to fall into an addiction, even if you follow doctor’s orders. It’s a slippery slope since it’s a very effective painkiller, but it’s also one that is extremely easy to abuse.
  • Tramadol: An addiction to tramadol takes time and occurs after prolonged use of the drug. As the body develops a tolerance for it, people may increase the dose in order to maintain the feelings of euphoria provided by the drug. Despite being less addictive than other opioids, it can still cause the user to overdose.

Is There an Opioid Crisis in Florida?

In 2017, Florida doctors wrote about 61 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people, which is just a little bit higher than the number of prescriptions written nationwide. In the same year, Florida saw 70,200 deaths from a drug overdose, and about 47,600 were opioid-related.

The number of opioid-related deaths increased by nine percent between 2016 and 2017, and deaths caused by fentanyl increased by 25 percent.

Specifically in Tampa, a lot of the opioid-related deaths are seemingly accidental, as many street drugs tend to have some sort of opioid mixed in — usually fentanyl. People who aren’t seeking opioids end up with them anyway, which only worsens the epidemic since the drug is so addictive. In 2018, the number of deaths caused by fentanyl or heroin overdose was 98. Only a year later, that number skyrocketed to 153.

The opioid crisis doesn’t seem to be slowing down, causing thousands to die every year. Luckily, knowledge about the epidemic and the drug means that many rehabilitation facilities have staff trained to help with Opioid Addiction.

What Are the Treatments for Opioid Addictions?

Rehabilitation for an Opioid Addiction isn’t much different than that for any other addiction. There are various options, and 7 Summit Pathways will ensure that you get the treatment that works best for you. Some of our patient-centered treatments include:

  • Detoxification: It can be extremely dangerous to try to quit an addiction on your own, especially if you’re not weaning yourself off. Detoxification is a safer way to deal with potential withdrawal symptoms that are inevitable when going off opioids. There are various types of detoxification, and we work with each patient to provide the personalized care that will work best for their Recovery.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): A whole-patient method to aid Recovery, MAT uses FDA-approved medications along with counseling and behavioral therapies. This popular treatment allows patients to take advantage of multiple support systems as they go through Recovery.
  • Holistic therapy: Evidence-based treatments that work to heal patients both physically and spiritually. This therapy is aimed at the body, the mind and the spirit to treat all aspects of addiction. Holistic therapies are a specialty at 7 Summit Pathways, using evidence-based treatments that promote overall health and wellness.
  • Dual diagnosis: Oftentimes, addiction isn’t just a random occurrence or a fluke. It may be a symptom of mental illness, in which case both issues need to be dealt with simultaneously to see successful Recovery. The human brain is an extremely complex organ, so the relationship between addiction and mental illness may not be as clear cut. One could enable the other, or one could be the trigger for the other. Diagnosing both and using personalized care, both addiction and additional illnesses are treated at the same time.

Treatments are offered as residential or outpatient programs, allowing patients to receive the exact amount of care they require to best help them in their Recovery. Our addiction aftercare program ensures that patients leave treatment and return to their lives with the tools needed to manage their addiction.

What Should Families Ask Before Choosing a Facility?

There are some questions all families should ask when considering the right treatment facility for your loved one. It’s important to be aware of everything the facility offers and does not offer and decide which would be best for your loved one’s Recovery. Rehabilitation centers are not built the same way, so make sure to do your research.

You can start by asking the following questions:

1. What Professionals Are on Staff?

Just as different addictions have varying symptoms, different doctors have varying training for treating them. Make sure the staff is well-versed in treating your addiction.

At 7 Summit Pathways, there is a team of experienced medical professionals to guide patients through their Recovery. Our medical director, Dr. Wilson, is on-site every day, and his medical team is Board Certified in addiction medicine. Our patient-centered treatments put you in the hands of the medical staff best suited to successfully help you.

2. What Aftercare Is Provided?

Once treatment is finished, it doesn’t mean Recovery is complete. Recovery is an ongoing process, and the shift from being in rehabilitation to returning to your everyday life can be a jolt. It’s important to ensure a smooth transition out of treatment, which is why 7 Summit Pathways works with patients to help them return to their lives while still being able to continue with their Recovery.

Using a health and wellness model for Recovery — based on the 7 Dimensions of Wellness — we provide patients with the tools and support they need for long-term Recovery. Consultations with therapists and the patient will determine the best route for individuals to maintain long-term sobriety.

3. Is Support Offered for the Patient’s Family?

It’s no secret that family involvement is extremely beneficial for long-term Recovery. Since addiction is a disease that affects everyone, support for the patient’s family is essential.

Family support has proven to be a great motivator for patients and a way to help them see the impact their addiction has on their loved ones. It also allows the family to reveal their thoughts and feelings and learn how to best cope with someone with an addiction.

We encourage family involvement during and after treatment by inviting family to voice their concerns, feelings and fears. We also help families find the best ways to encourage and support the patient’s aftercare in order to maintain long-term success.

How 7 Summit Pathways Can Help

There’s no denying that there is an opioid crisis in the country, but things are not hopeless. Our trained medical staff aims to provide the most personalized care for every patient in order to ensure a positive path to Recovery. Using state-of-the-art treatments catered to each individual, we understand that addiction isn’t limited to the body.

Using a range of holistic therapies, we help each patient heal their body, mind and spirit — allowing for a well-rounded Recovery that will help their sobriety in the long run. We provide three levels of care as well as sober living options because we understand that Recovery doesn’t end with us.

If you’re ready to take the first step for yourself or your loved one with opioid addiction, call us at 813-670-9430 to book an appointment today.