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Special Reports on Opioids
91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled, despite no overall change in the amount of pain reported by Americans. Deaths from these drugs – such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone – have quadrupled since 1999.
- What are opioids? Opioids are drugs that reduce the intensity of pain signals. The word “opioid” comes from opium, a drug made from the poppy plant. Opioids – natural or synthetic, illicit or otherwise – act on the body’s opioid receptors and all carry similar risks of dependency, addiction and overdose. Heroin is the most commonly understood opioid.
- What are they used for? Many teens and young adults first use opioids when they are prescribed them by a dentist or oral surgeon, often for removal of molars. Other teens and young adults may be prescribed opioids for a sports injury.
- What are common prescription opioids? Codeine, Fentanyl, Vicodin, Lortab or Lorcet, MSContin, Avinza or Kadian, Percocet, OxyContin or Percodan, Opana, Darvocet or Darvon.
- Why do people abuse opioids? For a variety of reasons – to party and get high, or to cope with academic, social or emotional stress.
- How do they abuse them? Sometimes people get high by crushing pills into powder to snort, swallow or inject (after dissolving in water). Heroin is an illegal opioid that can be injected, snorted or smoked.
- Where do they get the drugs? The majority of teens and young adults abusing prescription drugs get them from medicine cabinets of family members and friends. Some hand out or sell their extra pills, or pills they’ve acquired or stolen from classmates. A small minority of teens and young adults say they get their prescription drugs illicitly from doctors, pharmacists or online.
Source: Centers for Disease Control
In the News
Fentanyl’s Role in Fueling the Crisis
Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin or morphine.
It is a schedule II prescription drug typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids. In its prescription form, fentanyl is known by such names as Actiq®, Duragesic® and Sublimaze®.
It is relatively cheap to produce, increasing its presence in illicit street drugs.
Dealers use it to improve their bottom line. According to a report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, evidence suggests that fentanyl is being pressed into pills that resemble OxyContin, Xanax, hydrocodone and other sought-after drugs, as well as being cut into heroin and other street drugs. A loved one buying illicit drugs may think they know what they’re getting, but there’s a real risk of it containing fentanyl, which can prove deadly.
Naloxone (Narcan) will work in case of overdose, but extra doses may be needed.
Because fentanyl is far more powerful than other opioids, the standard 1-2 doses of naloxone may not be enough. Calling 911 is the first step in responding to any overdose, but in the case of a fentanyl-related overdose the help of emergency responders, who will have more naloxone, is critical.
Even if someone could tell a product had been laced with fentanyl, it may not prevent their use.
Some individuals claim they can tell the difference between product that has been laced with fentanyl and that which hasn’t, but overdose statistics would say otherwise. Some harm reduction programs are offering test strips to determine whether heroin has been cut with fentanyl, but that knowledge may not be much of a deterrent to a loved one who just spent their last dollar to get high.
Treatment Facilities on the Suncoast:
Many local, state, and federal institutions and organizations are dedicated to ending the epidemic:
American Medical Association created a Task Force consisting of 25 national, state, and specialty associations committed to ending the United States’ ongoing war with opiate misuse.
Their website offers insight on prescription drug monitoring programs, treatment facilities, and Rx disposal.
Treatment Facilities in the Suncoast:
- Opiate Drug Treatment Centers for Sarasota County
- Opiate Drug Treatment Centers for Manatee County
- Opiate drug Treatment Centers for Charlotte County
What is Naltrexone?
Naltrexone hydrochloride is a pure opioid antagonist. It markedly attenuates or completely blocks, reversibly, the subjective effects of intravenously administered opioids.
How does it Work?
Naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids by competitive binding (i.e., analogous to competitive inhibition of enzymes) at opioid receptors. This makes the blockade produced potentially surmountable, but overcoming full Naltrexone blockade by administration of very high doses of opiates has resulted in excessive symptoms of histamine release in experimental subjects.
For Treatment Providers:
Policies vary on a state-by-state basis. Currently, 37 states require prescribers and/or
dispensers to access a PDMP database in specific circumstances. These circumstances are on a state by state basis. Missouri is the only state that has not yet passed legislation for a drug monitoring program.