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Opioid Addiction- An epidemic or crisis

In this article, we will get info on opioid addiction. Opioids are a type of medicines which are often used to get relief from pain. Most often doctors prescribe these drugs to get relief from pain from toothaches, injuries, surgeries, chronic diseases like cancer etc. They act by reducing the number of pain signals. Opioids modify the response of the brain towards the pain. Some of the cough medicines prescribed by the doctor also contain opioid.

Usually, they are safe if used in a correct manner. But some people get addicted to this drug because of not following doctor’s instruction and unhealthy use. These are often called narcotics. Overdose and opioid addiction is a serious problem for health in the United States and pregnant women who can lead to babies get addicted and have withdrawal symptoms known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

What is Opioid Addiction?

It is like a disease which affects your brain and behaviour. Sometimes the overdose or misuse of this drug gives you pleasurable effect which makes you take more.

Opioid drugs include the following

  • Opium
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Oxycodone
  • Paregoric
  • Sufentanil
  • Tramadol
  • Morphine
  • Oxymorphone

There are many side effects of opioid addiction which may cause drowsiness, constipation, nausea, mental fog, slow breathing and even lead to death.

The opioid crisis

This epidemic has begun in the 1990’s with over-prescription of opioid pain relievers in the United States. The overdose of a drug prescribed is leading the most accidental deaths in the United States of America. The drug fentanyl was involved in those causalities. The fact is that more than 20% of patients, who are prescribed opioid, misuse them.


This drug is so strong that can lead to accidental overdose. Two milligrams of fentanyl which is a lethal dose is equivalent to six to seven grains of salt. Now fentanyl is available in pressed form. One of the chilling statistics about fentanyl is that after taking an overdose of it individual dies within seconds and in autopsy no metabolites of a drug were found. In around 2010, fentanyl has become a huge part of the epidemic crisis. People started switching from other drugs to heroin because it is cheaper than any other opioid prescribed by the doctors. 94% of people who were in rehabilitation said in a survey that they took heroin because other opioids are expensive and difficult to find out. According to some reports in 2016 more than 64,000 occurred due to the overdose of a drug. As heroin cannot be created fully in a laboratory, one has to make morphine first. Drug cartels discovered a method to make cheaper fentanyl and market of China got flooded with cheaper fentanyl. Now the version of fentanyl if finding its way in the market i.e. carfentanil which 100 times stronger than the previous version.

If you are withdrawing from only opioids and not a combination of drugs than it may be extremely uncomfortable but not life-threatening. Symptoms of withdrawal of the drug can last from one week to one month. This has two phases. At phase I, It can begin 12 hours from your last use of opioid and get at a high level in 3-5 days and can last up to 1-4 weeks. At phase 2 which is also known as post-acute withdrawal can last up to 2 years. It is totally different from alcohol withdrawal. Now let us study some of the withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms of opioid addiction

  • Low energy
  • Anxiety
  • Irritation
  • Hot and cold sweats
  • Running nose
  • Teary eyes
  • Muscle aches
  • Yawning
  • Goosebumps
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea


Substance abuse has two phases, Phase I which is known as acute stage mostly has physical symptoms and phase 2 i.e. post-acute withdrawal stage has emotional symptoms.

Hope you find this info on opioid addiction useful.

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