Opioid Crisis – Why It Happened and the Signs of an Opioid Overdose


The opioid crisis

The United States is living through an epidemic of opioid abuse. More than 115 people in the United States die from drug opioid overdose every day. The opioids misuse – including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and a synthetic opioid such as fentanyl – is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare.

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioids misuse in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the cost of addiction treatments, healthcare and criminal justice involvement.

How did the opioid crisis happen?


In 2010, there were nearly 2.4 million opioid abusers in this country. During the 1992-2000 period, the number of new abusers had increased by 225%. Nearly sixty percent of the opioids is obtained either directly or indirectly through a physician’s prescription. Often, doctors are aware that their patients are abusing or selling these medications, but they prescribe them anyway.

For instance, in August of this year, MedPage Today published a California state medical board’s investigation of physicians, nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants who prescribed opioids for individuals who later overdosed.

Why do doctors overprescribe painkillers while knowing that it can lead to drug addiction? This problem was caused by recent changes in medicine’s philosophy of pain treatment, cultural trends in America’s attitudes toward suffering, and financial disincentives for treating addiction.

Back in the 19th century, doctors spoke against the use of painkillers. Pain, they argued, was a good thing, a sign of physical vitality. Over the past century, the availability of morphine derivatives such as oxycodone (Oxycotin) increased and a paradigm shift has occurred with regard to pain treatment. In contemporary medical culture, nearly all doctors think that treating pain is their mandated responsibility.

Opioid Crisis Statistics


What do we know about the opioid crisis?

  • About 21 to 29 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them
  • Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder
  • An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition t heroin
  • About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids
  • From July 2016 to September 2017, opioid overdoses increased 30 percent in 45 states
  • The Midwestern region saw opioid overdose increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017
  • Opioid overdose in large cities increased by 54 percent in 16 states

Signs of an opioid overdose

It often can be difficult to tell if a person is high, or experiencing an overdose. The list below presents some information on how to tell the difference. However, it is best to treat the situation like an overdose – it could save someone’s life.

If someone is high and using downers like heroin or pills:

  • Pupils will contract and appear small
  • Muscles are slack and droopy
  • They might “nod out”
  • Scratch a lot due to itchy skin
  • Speech may be slurred
  • They might be out of it, but they will respond to outside stimulus like loud noises or light shake from a concerned friend

If you are worried that someone is getting too high, it is important that you don’t leave them alone. If the person is still conscious, walk them around, keep them away, and monitor their breathing.

The following are signs of an overdose:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsive to outside stimulus
  • Awake, but unable to talk
  • Breathing is very slow and shallow, erratic, or has stopped
  • For lighter skinned people, the skin tone turns bluish purple, for darker skinned people, it tursn grayish or ashen
  • Choking sounds, or a snore-like gurgling noise (sometimes called the “death rattle”) vomiting
  • Body is very limp
  • Face is very pale or clammy
  • Fingernails and lips turn blue or purplish black
  • Pulse (heartbeat is slow, erratic, or not there at all

The information about sings of overdose was taken from Harm Reduction Coalition website.

Treating opioid addiction


Over 2.5 million Americans suffer from opioid use disorder. If you are addicted to painkillers or other drugs, it is crucial that your first step is to seek recovery. Do not try to recover from opioids alone. Opioid withdrawal symptoms are too harsh to handle on your own. Managing opioid addiction is no simply a matter of “getting clean” or stopping all drug use. Typically, the changes that cause opioid dependence will not be corrected right away. In fact, those changes can trigger cravings months or even years after you’ve stopped misusing opioids. That’s why ongoing treatment that includes counseling and behavioral therapy is so important. Consider Bright Future Recovery and their medical drug and alcohol detox services.

Bright Future Recovery sits on a gorgeous acre in Hollister, CA, surrounded by green hills. Having a home-like environment while the individual is undergoing a drug and alcohol detoxing is healing for their minds and body, and will provide them the support they need while they get through the withdrawal symptoms.

Bright Future Recovery also offers church, NA and AA meetings, for those who are religious or want to start sharing their story or simply listening to others. Attending groups is a powerful way of supporting others going through recovery processor.

It’s natural to be nervous before being admitted into a medical detox program. After all, who really prepares for such a thing?

The process of being admitted into Bright Future Recovery typically progresses as follows:

  1. Review the website – especially our Servicesand Facility pages – to make sure Bright Future sounds like the right fit for you or your loved one.
  2. Contact the center either by phone or by emailto inquire about a spot in our facility and to have them check your insurance to see if you’re covered for detox treatment.
    • This is the time where you can also ask about scheduling an intervention if it’s your loved one who needs treatment and you’re having trouble convincing them to accept help.
  3. If everything lines up, as far as payment and an available spot, then you’re clear to head over to the facility. The center can help with travel tips and arrangements if you’re coming from out of town.
  4. Once you get to the center, your first day will include a thorough intake assessment in order to customize your detox program – including whether medication will be needed – and to start building out your extended treatment plan.

For more information, visit Bright Future Recovery website.


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