Concern over the abuse of opioids has been a public health concern in Georgia for years. From 2010 to 2017, there was a 245% increase of deaths from opioid overdose in Georgia. In fact, two thirds of all drug overdose deaths in Georgia in this time period were attributed to opioid abuse. This problem has been significant enough for President Trump to declare the opioid crisis a public state of emergency.
Much of the legislature surrounding opioid abuse seeks to treat opioid overdoses and make alternatives more available in order to prevent prescription drug abuse. However, a study at the University of Georgia proposes an alternative approach to how we handle the opioid epidemic throughout Georgia and across the United State. Instead of diverting resources towards curbing the use of opioids, the study argues, we should look at a culprit behind opioid addiction – chronic disease.
The term “opioid” specifically refers to a broad class of drugs, including multiple prescription drugs such as morphine, oxycodone, and codeine, and the illegal drug heroin. All of these drugs interact with the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. This dulls the body’s pain signals and emotional responses to pain, diminishing the body’s response to painful stimuli. Opioids also activate pleasure and reward centers in the brain, leading to a feeling of relaxation and euphoria.
Unfortunately, the feeling of pleasure that opioids induce make them easy to abuse unintentionally. Even people who take their opioid medication as directed can become hooked on the effects of said medication and become addicted to the drugs they were prescribed. This addiction can be deadly. One of the side effects of opioid use is slowed breathing, meaning that an overdose can lead to fatal oxygen deprivation. Even if an opioid overdose does not kill someone, oxygen deprivation can cause short-term psychological damage or even permanent brain injuries.
America’s chronically ill population is especially vulnerable to opioid addiction. People living with conditions like arthritis, chronic pain syndrome, and spinal disease are left in constant pain that can interfere with their daily functioning. This means being dependent on pain medicine to function normally, and for some people, opioids are the only thing that help. Multiple studies have shown a direct link between chronic disease and prescription opioid abuse – in fact, patients with two or more chronic diseases account for 90 percent of all opioid-related hospitalizations.
What can we learn from the University of Georgia’s study? Namely, we need to understand that although chronic diseases and opioid abuse have long been regarded as separate issues, they need to be looked at together. Opioid addiction is just the symptom, and we need to treat the cause, chronic disease. By working to prevent chronic disease and prioritizing finding safer, non-addictive ways for the chronically ill to manage their pain, maybe we can strike directly at the heart of America’s opioid crisis.
In the meantime, be aware that you can land yourself in severe legal trouble by possessing opioids that were not prescribed to you. Most opioids are considered Schedule II controlled substances. This means that while it is lawful to possess them with a prescription, possessing them without one is a felony. Depending on the number of unprescribed opioids you possess, you could be looking at 2 to 30 years in prison. These are serious charges, and you don’t want to face them alone. Contact the Don Turner Legal Team today, and see how we can help you with your case.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an opioid addiction, that is also a problem you don’t want to face alone. SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) is available 24/7 to help people suffering with substance abuse disorders and is 100 percent confidential. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them if you need support.