A consequence of our over-reliance on opioid medications is the recent rise in opioid related deaths.

EXCESSIVE PRESCRIBING

Excessive prescribing of opioids is a practice that does not only affect the individuals who the prescription was intended for, but also nonmedical opioid users, adolescents, and children. In 2016, approximately 66.5 opioid prescriptions were written for every 100 Americans

A study of 7,374 high school seniors found that 12.9% had used opioids recreationally and that 80% of these nonmedical users originated from previous prescriptions that were not their own, such as a grandparent’s or a friend’s pain medication.

Data from 1997 to 2012 showed the opioid crisis also affects children. The largest increase in opioid overdose hospitalization amongst children and adolescence occurred in children aged 1-4, a 205% increase.

Continuous use

Continuous use of opioids for pain management increases the risk of side effects for individuals including falls, fractures, endocrine disorders, chronic constipation, reduced immune system function, birth defects, overdose, and death.

drug diversion

An additional aspect of the opioid crisis were unused opioids from a previous prescriptions that led to drug diversion. Drug diversion is defined as the exchange (ie. selling, trading, loaning, giving away) of controlled prescription medications that leads to their use by individuals other than those for whom they were prescribed.

At least two studies have shown that between 33-40% of adolescent and young adult users of prescription opioids obtained these medications from leftover prescriptions or from their own previous prescriptions.

Opioid Addiction & Withdrawal

Higher doses and prolonged use of opioids can increase the risk of developing tolerance, side effects, and addiction with marginal increases in effectiveness in the short term.

While sometimes mistaken as addiction, opioid withdrawal describes a different phenomenon known as physical dependence - the unpleasant feelings when someone suddenly stops taking an opioid. Unfortunately, withdrawal may also have the potential to decrease our pain threshold and result in greater amounts of pain in patients who chronically use opioids; in other words, those in withdrawal from opioids may actually become more sensitive to pain. For this reason, short-term therapy of opioids at low doses should be used in order to avoid this potential problem in one’s pain management routine. The intensity of opioid addictions and their withdrawal symptoms are another leading factor contributing to the opioid crisis.

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