About 2 million Americans either are addicted or abuse opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. This makes DOT drug and alcohol education about opioids not only required by law for supervisors in regulated positions, but also an important educational section for any reasonable suspicion training program in order to
help make an impact on this serious drug scourge in America. The following information is sort of content worth exploring, but remember, generally you are only going to have about two hours with supervisors.
Abuse and addiction can lead to fatal overdoses and other serious health problems. In fact, death from drug overdoses are currently the highest ever recorded, the CDC states, and in 2015, six out of every 10 drug overdose deaths involved opioids.
Opioids are prescription pain relievers that include hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), morphine, fentanyl and methadone. Most people obtain this medication legitimately at a doctor’s office when they experience moderate to severe pain. As more people have become addicted to opioids, prescriptions have become harder to come by, leading to skyrocketing street opioid drug use, which includes heroin, methadone and fentanyl.
The CDC reports that three out of four heroin users claim to have been prescription opioid users previously. Heroin on U.S. streets is easier and cheaper to buy than prescription pain relievers and is often purer. Heroin-related deaths in the U.S. tripled between 2010 and 2015, the CDC states. The largest increases in overdose deaths, however, which occurred in 2014 and 2015, are linked to fentanyl and methadone.
The start of this epidemic didn’t start in dark alleys on the wrong side of town, but in well-meaning doctors’ offices. Originally, post-surgical patients or those undergoing cancer treatment were prescribed opioids to help manage moderate to severe pain, the CDC explains. Over time, physicians began writing prescriptions for these powerful medications long-term to people with problems such as chronic arthritic pain, which started the epidemic. New CDC prescribing guidelines encourage doctors to prescribe pain medication short-term and impose safeguards to prevent patients from abusing the medication.
Many patients don’t understand the long-term effects of using opioids, the CDC reports, and unwittingly get addicted. Symptoms include developing a tolerance to the medication, which requires a stronger dose. Patients may suffer physical withdrawal when they stop taking the medication. Some patients also experience more sensitivity to pain than before they took opioids. The CDC estimates one in four patients currently prescribed opioids is addicted.
Are you or someone you love at risk for becoming addicted to opioids? The CDC lists these risk factors:
Last month, a study from the University of Buffalo found that those with lower incomes tend to suffer more chronic pain than their wealthier counterparts. The impoverished also experience higher levels of pain and related disability. The study sited that it is estimated that pain-related disability and medical care costs more than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. People with a lower level of education also experienced more chronic pain.
It’s important to seek help for opioid addiction. It can be helpful to have the entire family to learn about the disease to prevent enabling the addict. Helping an opioid addict by providing the means to get more or too much medication can lead to overdose.
Here are five do’s and don’ts when it comes to opioids: