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.