The abuse of prescription and non-prescription opioids is a national epidemic, affecting individuals and families of all races, ages, and classes. According to the Center for Disease Control, overdose deaths related to prescription painkillers have quadrupled since 1999. Every single day, approximately 90 Americans die of overdose, making opioid abuse the number one cause of death by injury in the US. Opioids include prescription painkillers, like Vicodin and Hydrocodone, synthetic opioids, like Oxycodone, and the street drug heroin. Some of these drugs may initially be prescribed by a doctor for legitimate pain. But even under the care of a medical professional, opioid use can lead to dependence and addiction, causing the user to seek more drugs by any means necessary, despite negative consequences.
Here are some ways you can protect yourself and your loved ones:
Know your History:
If you have addiction in your family, you are more likely to become psychologically addicted to drugs or alcohol, and it may be wise to stay abstinent. Be honest with your medical provider about any history of abuse. Regardless of your family makeup, know that opioids can be dangerous and use them cautiously, under the close supervision of a medical professional. If you feel your doctor is overprescribing opioids, there is no harm in seeking a second opinion.
Know what abuse looks like:
Prescription medications should be taken according to your doctor's instructions, period. Anything else should be considered prescription drug abuse. Never share your medications with anyone, and be honest with your doctor if you're not taking your meds as prescribed.
Secure all medications:
Unused prescription medications should be securely stored or safely discarded, and not just left in the medicine cabinet. Don't assume they will not be taken, even by family members you trust. Your local law enforcement agency may have a program to accept unused medications for disposal. If not, check the FDA website to find instructions for safely getting rid of medicines.
Protect young adults:
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, young adults ages 18-25 are most likely to abuse prescription drugs, including anti-anxiety medications, painkillers, and ADHD medications. Most young people overdose on prescription, not illegal, drugs. Educate young people about the dangers of opioid use, especially when used recreationally, or with other substances. And never leave prescription meds available for teenagers to access.
Addiction is a chronic brain disease and not a moral failing. If you or somebody you care about is abusing drugs or alcohol, treatment and support programs are available. Talk to your doctor or someone you trust immediately, and know that it takes courage to seek help. Click here for more information about treatment.
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