Interesting and Alarming Facts About Opioids

Interesting and Alarming Facts About Opioids
In 2017, the United States government declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency and made moves to curtail drug use among citizens. Since then, however, the misuse of opioids has become even more prevalent among Americans. The word “misuse” is important because many people begin taking opioids when a doctor prescribes them for pain management after an injury or surgery.

Understanding statistics and facts about opioids can help you make a plan about what to do with opioids in your home and prevent their misuse. That’s why the team at Maryland Recovery has gathered facts about opioids and answered some of your most common questions: with this knowledge, you can arm yourself with the tools you need to help yourself or someone you love.

Alarming Facts About Opioids

Since that public health emergency declaration, it seems many people have become somewhat numb to news about the opioid crisis. These facts about opioids will demonstrate just how dangerous misuse of this class of drugs can truly be.

Opioid Deaths Have Steadily Climbed Since 2000

The turn of the millennium saw overdose deaths begin to climb in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 106,699 deaths attributed to overdose in 2021, the latest year with published statistics. By contrast, in 2000, that number was less than 20,000 people. These statistics demonstrate that the US has experienced a 500% increase in deaths from overdose in just over two decades.

Opioid Deaths Have Steadily Climbed Since 2000

Opioids make up a staggering amount of these overdose deaths. The same statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse reveal that 80,411 people died of an opioid overdose in 2021, or about 80% of all drug overdose deaths. In addition, opioid deaths have experienced an even sharper increase than general overdose since just 21,089 people died of opioid overdose in 2010. In just over ten years, opioid deaths have increased by nearly 400%.

While illicit or “street” opioids certainly present an issue, it’s worth noting that prescription opioids make up about one-fourth of the deaths from overdose. Since 2016, prescription opioid deaths have fluctuated but sit around 17,000 and 14,000 every year.

Of all opioid-related overdoses, synthetic opioids other than Methadone cause most of the deaths in the United States. Statistics state that most of these deaths come from fentanyl. Of all opioids, synthetic opioids are the only ones that account for more than 60,000 deaths per year.

By contrast, the most significant number of non-opioid overdoses comes from psychostimulants with abuse potential, such as methamphetamine. These drugs account for slightly under 40,000 overdose deaths yearly.

You Risk Addiction By Taking Leftover Pills

With such issues regarding prescription opioids, it’s important to note that if you have leftover pills that you don’t need after you’ve recovered, you should not take them. Instead, dispose of them as soon as possible. As you take medications, you can build up a tolerance to their pain-relieving effects. Opioid medications can also cause a psychoactive sensation, but once you’ve built up a tolerance, it will take more and more of these medications to cause the same effect. This can present the risk of an overdose or developing an SUD (substance use disorder).

Once you no longer need your pills, you should dispose of them properly. You can talk with a pharmacist about safely disposing of leftover opioids or participate in one of the national days of recognition committed to disposing of unneeded drugs.

Proper Usage of Prescription Opioids Can Lead to Addiction

Even Proper Usage of Prescription Opioids Can Lead to Addiction

Even if you follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter, you may still find yourself struggling with SUD. Opioids are highly addictive drugs, and the tolerance you naturally build up over time may mean you feel you need to take more than you normally do to address your pain. You can develop a physical dependence on the drugs and go through withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop using them.

The CDC provides a list of things to keep in mind to reduce your risk when taking opioids, including:

  • Always take the designated amount at the designated intervals.
  • Do not use opioids in conjunction with alcohol or drugs that cause drowsiness, like benzodiazepines, sleep aids, or muscle relaxants.
  • Do not share opioids with anyone else, and don’t take someone else’s pills.
  • Speak with your doctor if you have concerns about your medication.
  • Secure any prescription drugs in a place where nobody but the person taking them can find them.

Opioid Use and Opioid Use Disorder Are More Prevalent Than Many Realize

While the statistics on overdose deaths are already staggering, the US Department of Health and Human Services has even more facts about painkillers and their usage. HHS reports that 1.6 million people had an opioid use disorder in 2019, and 1.6 million people misused prescription pain relievers for the first time in the same year. 10.1 million people misused a prescription opioid in 2019.

In addition, heroin use affected nearly three-quarters of a million people in the United States in a study of 2019 statistics. Of those individuals, 50,000 tried heroin for the first time in 2019. In total, according to statistics cited by HHS, almost 75 percent of drug overdose deaths in the United States involved opioids in 2020.

The Side Effects of Opioid Use

Opioids, like any other drug, come with a host of potential side effects you’ll have to deal with while taking the drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns Americans that avoiding side effects and risks with opioids is impossible, and you’ll have to work to mitigate the negatives.

common side effects patients may experience regarding opioids

Some of the most common side effects patients may experience regarding opioids include:

  • Dry mouth
  • More sensitivity to pain
  • Physical and mental dependence on opioids
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Digestive issues such as constipation, nausea, and vomiting
  • Low sex drives and reduced testosterone levels
  • Unexplained itching and sweating
  • Sleepiness

If you notice side effects developing, it is crucial to speak with your healthcare provider about them and what you can do to mitigate their effects. Waiting can cause things to become worse.

Frequently Asked Questions About Opioids

Now that you know some of the most staggering and interesting facts about opioids, we can look at some of the most common questions we hear about opioid use and misuse in the country.

What Are the Most Shocking Statistics of Opioids?
Perhaps one of the most shocking facts about painkillers is how common they are in the country. Over 10 million people misused opioids in 2019, according to statistics from HHS. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that between 1999, when opioid misuse began to increase steadily, and 2021, nearly 645,000 Americans died from opioid overdose.

The 1990s began the best-known increase in doctors prescribing opioids to patients to treat them during recovery. 2010 saw the first dramatic increase in heroin usage and deaths, and the number continued to climb through the decade. The most recent wrinkle to the problem came in 2013 with the increase in deaths doctors attributed to synthetic opioids.

Men are more likely to die of opioid overdoses than women, according to NIDA statistics.

Will I Get Addicted to Opioids?
There is no exact answer to the question of addiction, and every person will have a different experience using prescription opioids. Some people can take the prescribed amount, experience pain relief, and feel no ill effects. Others may find themselves struggling with developing SUD. One of the most frustrating facts about opioids is that they affect everyone differently.

Some risk factors may put you in a position to be more vulnerable to developing a dependence on opioids.

Some of these factors include:

  • Previous history of struggling with SUD
  • Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
  • Smoking in the past or present
  • Age (young people are more susceptible to opioid dependence)
  • Pain
  • Physical health struggles

You should always inform your doctor about any risk factors you have regarding opioids and developing a substance use disorder. It is also crucial to remember that displaying any risk factors does not mean you are sure to develop a SUD. These risk factors will just increase your risk.

If you do find yourself struggling with dependence on opioids, help is available in many forms. At Maryland Recovery, we offer research-backed medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help you achieve recovery from SUD. We use FDA-approved medicines to help you deal with the withdrawals that often cause relapse and to get you on the road to recovery.

What Are Five Long-Term Effects of Opioids?
A study revealed some of the long-term risks related to opioid use and misuse. The study sought to identify issues opioids can cause patients outside of addiction and overdose.

Some of the issues they observed were:

  • Serious fractures
  • Trouble breathing while sleeping
  • Hyperalgesia (increased pain sensitivity
  • Immunosuppression
  • Bowel obstruction

Of course, these are only some of the long-term effects of opioids. Before taking a prescription opioid, you should speak with your doctor about any possible effects – especially if you could be taking the medication long-term.

How Long Do Acting Opioids Affect the Brain?

Opioids can affect your bodily systems long after you use them, and the length of time will depend on several factors, including weight and tolerance. You may feel long-term effects for a few days or months.

Opioids activate receptors on your cells in the brain and spinal cord related to feeling pain and pleasure. The drugs block the receptors from sending the sensation of pain to the brain and increase dopamine production in the body. These actions provide the pain relief you get when you take an opioid.

While this may be the intended use of opioids, they have many long-term effects on the brain, according to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Some of these long-term effects on the brain include:

  • Tolerance: Your body will get used to opioids with continued use, necessitating larger or more frequent dosages to get the same feeling.
  • Behavioral changes: Any time you alter your brain or body chemistry, you may find yourself acting in ways you normally wouldn’t.
  • Substance Use Disorder: Your brain may develop a dependence on the drug that goes beyond your desire to use it to feel better. If you find yourself needing the drug just to maintain normalcy, you may have a Substance Use Disorder.

Maryland Recovery: Lasting Recovery From SUD

Many people begin to feel hopeless while dealing with opioid dependence and other substance use disorders. While it may seem difficult at the moment, help is available. At Maryland Recovery, we will work to help you get on the road to recovery and give you the tools you need to avoid future dependence on opioids.

We offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) that uses medication to help curb cravings for opioids and mitigate any withdrawal systems. Our team will attend to you with empathy and understanding to help you through this difficult time. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help.