Dr. Aaron's Blog

Understanding Opiate Addiction

April 24, 2017 Addiction, Addiction Recovery, All, Mental Health, Naturopathic Medicine, Nutrition by Aaron Van Gaver

Did you know that an approximate 2.1-million people in the United States are suffering currently with substance use issues related to opiates?  The numbers are startling and are creating a global epidemic that has few, if any, options for minimizing.  Opiates are defined within three main categories of medications:

  1. Opiates
  1. Stimulants
  1. CNS (central nervous system) depressants

Put together millions of people are struggling with the issue.  You may be wondering why?  As with most large-scale issues, there is not one clear cut answer, but a combination of changes in the marketplace that make it acceptable.  First, there is a growing social acceptance of using medication like opiates for managing pain and mental issues.  This in itself is a good thing, but it also has a flip-side to the coin.  People who may have looked to other options for managing their ailments, before looking to prescription medications.

Another reason why opiate addiction is on the rise so sharply is because of the drastic increase in medical professionals using them.  Numbers show that physicians and psychiatrists both have shown a much greater reliance on medication in recent decades.  Without exploring other options for treatment, these medications have become the go-to solution that they use to treat patients.

Finally, another reason why opiates are so prevalent is the growing aggression of pharmaceutical companies to market their solutions.  The bottom line is that opiates are big business and offer billions of dollars to big-name companies.  They have budgets to strategically market their products to medical professionals and consumers.  By reaching out to both groups with the efficacy of their medications, they are ensuring that their products will be continuously pushed onto the unknowing market.

So where does this leave the consumer?  There is some value to opiates.  They do cut down on pain and allow patients to properly manage pain post surgery or trauma.  The problem is that opiates act similarly to the brain systems as morphine and heroin.  They pose an addiction liability because of their affect.  Of course they are most dangerous when taken in ways to increase their effects, such as injection or snorting, or taking with other drugs and alcohol.  There are also people who can become addicted to opiates even when taking them exactly as directed by their doctor.

It was in the early 21st century that opiate deaths began their initial rise.  In 2002 it was the first year that there were more deaths as caused by opiates than by cocaine or heroin.  With numbers like this, it is important to understand the power of the drugs you are prescribed and inform your physician of any changes you feel.  If you think you have an addiction, or could become dependent on your medications, discuss this with a trained professional.