For Americans in most areas of the country, the presence of opioid abuse is not uncommon. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), more than 18,000 people overdosed on opioid-based prescription painkillers in 2014, with over 10,000 more fatally overdosing on heroin in that same year. Since then, numbers have been increasing.
Opioids are a category of drugs that contain a handful of different substances, including prescription painkillers like Fentanyl, Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet, as well as illicit substances such as heroin. These medications are effective in relieving pain and producing feelings of euphoria and a sense of detachment from one’s surroundings as they block the pain receptors in the brain. All opioids possess the potential to cause dependency, tolerance, and addiction when misused. It is reported that 23% of those who use heroin will develop an opioid addiction.
One of the scariest aspects about opioid addiction is that it doesn’t just impact one type of person; instead, it affects people of all ages, races, and social backgrounds. Studies have shown that women are more likely to suffer from chronic pain and receive a prescription for painkillers, making them more susceptible to developing an opioid addiction. It is also reported that it takes men longer to become addicted to opioids than women; however, men still become addicted to these substances. Additionally, opioid addiction is prevalent in adolescents, with nearly 500,000 adolescents nationwide abusing some type of painkiller in 2014. The elderly population is also subject for developing an addiction to opioids, as they receive painkillers for a variety of physical reasons due to aging.
There are numerous risks that come along with the abuse of any type of opioid and, in many cases, the results of that abuse can be fatal. Some of the most common effects of abusing these substances can include the following:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakened immune system
- Slowed breathing and heart rate
- Increased risk for contracting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis
Additionally, those who become addicted to opioids can also struggle with unemployment, financial distress, familial/marital conflict, deteriorated relationships, isolation, and symptoms of depression and/or other mental illnesses.
The Concern for Western Pennsylvania
A new substance, referred to as carfentanil, is circling the borders of Western Pennsylvania, impacting those in eastern Ohio counties.
Back in July of 2016, carfentanil, which is a substance said to be 10,000 more powerful than the opioid heroin, was found within illicit drugs in Hamilton County, Ohio. Additionally, this substance was also found in Columbus and Akron, according to the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition.
At the time of these findings, officials in Akron reported 25 overdoses. Four of those overdoses where, sadly, fatal. Simultaneously, within a nine hour period of time, Columbus suffered 10 overdoses where two of them were fatal – all at the hands of carfentanil.
Carfentanil is a veterinary substance used to treat pain and provide sedation for exceptionally large animals, including bears and elephants. The human consumption of this substance is not recommended by any professional source. In addition, those who choose to abuse this substance independently or in conjunction with other opioids should be aware that if an overdose occurs, it is likely that the use of Narcan (a medication used to help reverse the effects of opioids in the event of an overdose) will likely fail at being successful.
Carfentanil is reportedly more toxic and more potent than Fentanyl, an opioid substance that has been involved in the recent deaths of many individuals, including the musician, Prince. One of the major risks of carfentanil making its way to Western Pennsylvania is that there is no way of telling if this substance has been included in any street drugs, causing opioid users to be at an increased risk each and every time they use. While many would say that the abuse of opioids in general is highly dangerous and potentially fatal, a substance such as carfentanil increases the risks tremendously. In addition, if this medication is making its way from Ohio into Western Pennsylvania, it is obviously a public health crisis in the making, as it can continue to spread if nothing is done to stop it.
How to Treat Opioid Addiction
As with many illicit substances, the presence of carfentanil in different areas within the United States can be overwhelming and scary, especially if you have a loved one who is addicted to opioids. While many states are working hard to put regulations, laws, and additional street surveillance into place, it can sometimes feel like it’s not enough or not occurring quickly enough. Therefore, it is imperative that you know what to do within the walls of your own home in order to protect yourself and your loved ones from suffering an untimely death caused by this potent substance.
If you do not currently have a loved one or family member who is addicted to opioids, it is still imperative that you make the dangers, risks, and consequences of the abuse of these substances a topic of conversation within your home. Speak to your loved ones about how unfortunate it is that our country is in the throes of an opioid crisis, and prepare to explain exactly what that means to the younger individuals in your life. Make your loved ones aware of what opioids are and how dangerous the misuse of them can be. You can include the effects of opioid abuse listed above. As always, if you are prescribed a pain medication of any kind, be sure you are aware of how to properly consume it, and keep it locked away in a safe place if there are other people living in your home. Keep this a conversation that remains open, so that those in your family can feel comfortable coming to you to continually talk about this epidemic if they feel the need.
Education is the most powerful tool we have in the war against opioids. Stay aware, read the news, keep yourself up-to-date with what drugs are coming into popularity. By doing so, you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community.
At Huntington Creek Recovery Center, we are pleased to provide top-of-the-line addiction treatment to those individuals, 18 and older, who are suffering with many mental health and substance abuse concerns, including opioid addiction. We work to help each individual in our care sort through all areas of their addictions, including the emotional, behavioral, and physical aspects of them. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to opioids or other substances, please reach out to us right now. We are here to help.