To Opiate Addicts: I Sympathize With You

The world is in the midst of a huge crisis. Whether we acknowledge it or not, addiction is a massive issue. In particular, the U.S. has experienced a gigantic wave of drug abuse, overprescription and questionable recovery methods.

At the forefront of this problem lies opiate addiction, presenting itself to people in both legal and illegal contexts.

Desensitization through the decades: tolerance built over time

Opiate addiction affects my life personally, because my dad is addicted. My father suffers from chronic pain. Decades ago, he was bucked off a horse and landed directly on his shoulder, barely avoiding a broken neck.

As a result of this, he has been taking hydrocodone, a legally prescribed opiate, for as long as I can remember. Over the years heís tried all types of unique pain management efforts — everything from surgeries, to Botox injections. But my dadís pain specialists still always suggested hydrocodone and kept writing the prescriptions.

His tolerance to the opiate grew, and so did the dose prescribed to him. Side effects started to unearth themselves, and my dad started taking anti-anxiety medication as well. The anxiety that arose was likely a byproduct of opiate overconsumption.

As I graduated high school, my dad still took hydrocodone. The dosage of legal opiates grew further, and no longer contained other, milder painkillers.

Around this time, he tried to seek help and get off the drug, but after nearly twenty years of addiction, the bind was overwhelming.

He couldnít. He still hasnít.

My dad isnít getting better. Heís still addicted, and I can only sit and watch. I hope he gets rehabilitated soon, and Iím ready to jump on any opportunity to offer my insight and let him know how much I care and support him.

Unfortunately my dadís case is not a unique one in the U.S. Legal opiate addiction is a far too common phenomenon.

The problem with overprescribing–the addiction epidemic

In many cases like my fatherís, the evolution of Western medicine is masking symptoms instead of addressing long term issues. This is a direct example of a dangerous crossover: the big business of pharmaceuticals and the health and well-being of the general public have become convoluted.

A graphic from Beaches Recovery points out many†important facts about opiate prescriptions and the corollary pills given after an overdose:

  • 9 out of 10 people whoíve overdosed on prescription painkillers have been prescribed more pills following an overdose.
  • Those who continue taking these painkillers after an overdose will be twice as likely to overdose again within the following two years.
  • Overdoses on opiates have skyrocketed in the past six years, accounting for half a million deaths.
  • In many cases where opiate painkillers are prescribed, over-the-counter drugs such as naproxen and ibuprofen can be just as effective when combined with less invasive pain management.

In addition to all of this, an†infographic by UNE Online Social Work points out several troubling statistics related to overconsumption:

  • While the U.S. accounts for less than 5% of the world population, we consume 80% of all opioids and 99% of the worldís supply of hydrocodone.
  • 78 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses.
  • Heroin use among young adults (18-25) has more than doubled in the last ten years.

Still on the fence about whether the wave of opiate addiction weíre facing is really that substantial? Let these†statistics from the CDC spell it out blatantly:

  • Last year, 47,055 people died from drug overdoses.
  • This is the leading cause of death from injury; itís responsible for 150 percent more deaths than auto accidents.
  • Opioids are involved in over 60 percent of the total death toll associated with overdoses.

Illegal opiate addiction still rampant

The terrifying truth behind heroin use in the U.S. is that it has not declined, but rather accelerated. And those addicted to prescription opiates are far more at risk: they are more likely than ever to relapse and cave in to illegal opiate use.

A†powerful story by Case Western Reserve University graduate student, Chelsea Laliberte, reveals how opiate addiction can take over the lives of people, regardless of age.

Heroine addiction took the life of her young brother Tyler before anyone understood that he was severely controlled by the drug. Tyler overdosed in December of 2008 and his life was drastically cut short.

A Case Western†Reserve University paper†profiled Chelsea’s story: “‘I watched my brother slowly lose himself,’ she shared, ‘and while itís too late to help him, I can still help others like him.’”

According to the University, she explained that,†”substance use disorder (commonly known as addiction)óespecially opiate useóis not a criminal issue. Itís a health issue. It is a treatable disease with wide-ranging effects on both the individual user, as well as his or her loved ones. Prolonged substance use can lead to a variety of problemsófrom heart disease and homelessness to dependency and death.”

Chelsea runs a nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness and educating communities about substance use and overdose prevention. The organization, called†Live4Lali, provides resources and self-education tools, and saves lives through offering support programs and events.

Both dadís and Tylerís stories reflect something bigger: the plethora of people struggling with addiction. We must confront this issue. We can all do our part by educating ourselves and our peers.

We must always challenge unjustified stigmas, especially those associated with opiates and drug addicts. These people simply want to be happy and healthy, and they need our support and understanding.

Written by Robert Parmer

Photo Credit: frankieleon/Flickr

126 comments

Jeff C
Jeff Creech1 years ago

I have seen these opiate drugs destroy the lives of so many people I can't even count. Quite a few of them are no longer on this Earth anymore. When I was around 10 years old my brother got Steppenwolf album and it had a song called God Damn the Pusher Man. As a little kid I was fascinated with this song, I listened to it over and over. I think and instilled a lesson to me that I didn't realize, because although when my parents split up they left me in the custody of my older brother he was 19 I was 11, Andy was a drug addict and turned me on Two drugs and alcohol at a very young age. I was 12 when he started me on pot, beer and wine. Before too long he was bringing pills into the scene, uppers and downers, which I was gladly willing to give a try. And then it was THC when I was 13. Boy that stuff would really f**k me up, and when I was 14 he turned me on to acid. Needless to say I was a drug addict for my entire adolescence and through my younger adult life. But even though he would shoot heroin from time to time I would never touch it because I knew it was addictive and would destroy my life. I quit doing drugs in my ladder twenties but from time to time I would still indulge myself from time to time and struggled with the addiction into my early forties, when I finally gave it all to God and surrendered myself to him. I don't do any drugs anymore except for my blood pressure and my cholesterol and I have COPD so I take inhalers. After my third heart attack

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Jerome S
Jerome S1 years ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for sharing.

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Justyna L
Justyna L2 years ago

Tyfs

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Rhonda lawford
Rhonda lawford2 years ago

My thoughts are with you. I lost my husband almost 3 years ago. He was on painkillers and other prescribed medication. He was only 37 years old. It is so sad and now we here more and more about opiod addiction. I wish I had more information back 10 years ago. Thank you for this very very serious problem.

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Past Member
Past Member 2 years ago

Ron B. And if this was a family member of yours?

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Pablo B
.2 years ago

tyfs

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Katie K
Katie K2 years ago

This is one big scary mess....I know many and have buried several

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Elena P
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you

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Elena P
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you

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