Addictions to prescription painkillers and other opiates dramatically affect modern American life, leading to thousands of yearly overdose deaths and harm to families and communities. The dramatic increase in overdoses and addictions since the 1990s demands attention. More people want solutions, bringing changes to laws and increased access to treatment.
Opiate Addictions Impact Day-to-Day Life
Addiction is a serious disease. It affects a person’s health, putting him at risk for contracting diseases or getting in a serious accident. It also affects his behavior. Someone with an addiction compulsively searches out drugs and takes them even when it harms his social life, his family, his work or school performance and his personal safety.
Certain areas of the country experience higher use than others. One result of higher use is corresponding increases in overdose deaths. From 2013 to 2014, there were 28,647 deaths from opiates, including prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl (a manmade opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine). Deaths from fentanyl grew 500% in the one-year period. The dramatic increase in all opiate overdose deaths shot up red flags in 14 states as deaths rose at statistically significant levels from 2013 to 2014. Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia all experienced increases.
Opiates, in particular, bring dangerous physical risks. Users who inject heroin (or other drugs, such as crushed prescription pills) and share needles can contract HIV, hepatitis B and C or other skin, bone and bacterial infections. Injections that miss the vein and go under the skin or in the muscle can lead to serious bacterial infections that damage the heart, liver or other organs. People who inject or snort opiates are at higher risk of overdosing (taking too much of the drug leading to dramatically slowed breathing). Overdoses lead to coma or death. Opiate addictions also put people at risk for being violently assaulted, especially if they take drugs around people they don’t know well.
Beyond endangering personal health, an addiction damages personal relationships. One in five adults report drug abuse is a source of family problems, and the actual number of families affected by drug use is likely even higher. Opiate users also pass on the example of drug use to children. Children who grow up in substance abusing families are more likely to experience addiction. They are likely to be more aggressive, have emotional difficulties, be delinquent and have problems in school. They also enter the foster care system at a high rate.
Addictions affect society as a whole in several ways. A person who suffers with addiction may be willing to take drastic action to fund and acquire more opiates. The dramatic cravings for drugs lead to higher rates of violence and crime. Of the people arrested for major crimes, including theft, assault and homicide, at least half tested positive for drugs at the time of arrest. In addition, more than 75% of female domestic violence victims report their attacker used drugs or drank alcohol at the time of the assault.4
Addictions impact workplaces by causing high absenteeism rates and affecting job performance. More than one in ten workers (12%) admit to illicit drug use. Full time workers who are heavy drug users are more likely to skip work, go long periods without work and work for three or more employers in a one-year period.4
Evidence-based treatments for opiate addictions are crucial for helping the millions of people struggling with the disease. The most effective treatment options include psychological counseling to give people tools to manage their cravings and avoid stressful situations. Some people use medication-assisted treatments, plans that include methadone, buprenorphine or other drugs that prevent an opiate high, as part of a treatment protocol; while others prefer avoiding drugs in favor of talk therapy and a strong support system.
We Can Help You Find Treatment
If you suffer from opiate addiction, we can help you find a treatment program to put you on the road to recovery. Call our toll-free number, staffed 24 hours a day, and let our admissions coordinators answer your questions. If you wish, we can also check your insurance coverage. Recovery is possible, call today.
 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Prescription Drug Abuse: How do opioids affect the brain and body. Retrieved May 10, 2016 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs/opioids/how-do-opioids-affect-brain-body.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Injury Prevention & Control: Opioid Overdose. State Data. Retrieved May 10, 2016 from http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html.
 Rutgers, State University of New Jersey. (2016). Medical Implications of Injection Drug Use. Retrieved May 10, 2016 from http://ccoe.rbhs.rutgers.edu/online/ARCHIVE/09hc09/article1.htm.
 Horgan, Constance, et. al. (2001). Substance Abuse: The Nation’s Number One Health Problem. Prepared by the Schneider Institute for Health Policy, Brandeis University for The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved May 10, 2016 from http://www.rwjf.org/content/dam/farm/reports/reports/2001/rwjf13550