If you are prescribed opiates prior to graduating high school, you have a 33% higher chance of misusing opioids during your lifetime (Miech R, et al. Pediatrics. 2015;136(5):e1169-e1177).
My story started like most opiate addicts, it just began a little earlier in life. Luckily, I’m clean now, so I analyze my past actions and decisions a lot. As a child, I was given high doses of pain-killers during and after emergency surgery. My father was always worried that I would have a problem with addiction, so he would try to make me hold off on taking the painkillers until I REALLY was in pain. Unfortunately, my brain saw this as a reward. “You’ve been suffering? It’s okay. Take this pain medicine as a reward for being brave until now. Do not suffer anymore.” I felt the euphoric instantaneous relief and realized quickly that not only did it make my physical pain go away, but it made my depression and emotional pain diminish as well.
Addiction is more likely to happen when you decide to not take your medication as recommended. Taking it too much can cause it, but taking it too little can as well. If
But if you take it on schedule before the pain gets severe for the first few days, you won’t have this issue. They in you don’t need it, stop taking them and recycle them at your local pharmacy.
The United States holds 5% of the world’s population, yet 80% of the world’s opiate prescriptions are for our citizens (Manchkanti L. et al. Pain Physician. 2010;13:401-435).
Based on these statistics, it is obvious that our country over-prescribes pain medication. Most people see this and think “Well, we should just get doctors to stop prescribing pain killers! If they stop, people won’t be able to get addicted!” To an extent, this would help opioid addiction decrease; however, individuals currently on high doses of pain killers that have had to taper down will experience withdrawal symptoms and increased pain, increasing the likelihood of trying to obtain these medications elsewhere. There are also illegal drugs that have become cheaper and stronger than pain medication; however, they are way more likely to kill you. This is exactly what has been happening over the past 19 years.
Fatal Heroin overdoses in 2013 were FOUR TIMES more than in 2000 (Heroin-related Overdose Death Statistics)
As you can see, heroin overdoses have increased in recent years exponentially. Frequent users of any pain medication (illegal or otherwise) build up a tolerance quickly and require a higher dose over time until, eventually, thy can never reach the high again. That’s why it’s called chasing the dragon. You can never catch it again. Some people have switched to Fentanyl because it is extremely potent. Most heroin users will avoid fentanyl because it is easy to misjudge the dose and kill yourself; however, drug dealers have realized they can make more money by having less pure Heroin and mixing in some Fentanyl. This has caused a significant increase in opiate/Heroin related deaths. Since the color can be similar and there is no way to test the purity, Heroin addicts that unknowingly do Fentanyl will be significantly more likely to overdose.
Back in my days of Heroin use, I did not realize I had gotten a “contaminated” batch at one point and became very ill. I prepared my normal dose and immediately upon administering it, began vomiting uncontrollably. For two days after, I couldn’t keep anything down, had immediate constipation and dehydration, and became very weak. I threw it out and detoxed myself.
Below are pictures of lethal doses of Heroin and Fentanyl (depicted with salt)
(Taken from the presentation “Opioid Use Disorder: A Growing Problem” by Stephen M. Taylor, MD, MPH, FASAM)
Imagine that you believe you bought Heroin; however, it is actually Heroin cut with Fentanyl. You have no idea, so you prepare your usual dosage. You OD instantly, like the famous artist pictured above.
It is easier and more common than you think to jump from prescription pain killers to herion once withdrawals set in. The medical community and the people they care for need to be aware of the risks to protect themselves and their families.
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