Opioids addiction is when a person is not able to stop himself from the temptation of opioids. Opioids are the medicine used as a painkiller. These drugs include opium, heroin, morphine etc. In India, more than 1 million cases are reported annually in opioids addiction which is increasing rapidly. The most affected people being from the age range 19-60. Opioid addiction changes a person emotionally, professionally and interpersonally. It disturbs people mentally, weakens them physically and breaks them financially.
These drugs generate artificial endorphins which help in blocking pain and make a body feel good. Too much of opioids can lead to dependence of brain on these artificial endorphins making a person addicted to it.
According to National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 75% of opioid addiction starts with people using medicine that wasn't prescribed to them and are referred by friends, family, relatives, and people who don't have enough knowledge about medicine. In addition, some factors which cause this addiction are:
Genetics: If an individual’s older generation are suffering or have suffered from the addiction, it is more likely that this person will suffer from opioid addiction. The reason being the genes inherited in the person from the older and addicted generation.
Environment: If a person lives in an environment where drug use is common due to any purpose, the person is more susceptible to drug addiction.
Stress and Peer Pressure: Can trigger a craving in the person to use opioid as a method to relieve himself from these sufferings.
Pleasure: Opioids cause a feeling of extreme happiness in a person. The happiness is so large that person wants to feel it again and again. One of the reasons can be to escape from the difficulties she might be facing in her daily life. This increases her love for opioids and leads to what we called an addiction.
The Symptoms associated with this addiction are:
Behavioral Symptoms- Person runs away from his responsibilities, families, friends, relatives and work. He tends to spend most of his time with the opioids- fighting them, embracing them and craving for them. Bipolar, Schizophrenia, slurred speech, loss of motivation to anything might strike the person.
Different bodies react differently to opioids. So to turn a person from addicted to non- addicted, various treatment strategies have been developed. Let’s go through them one by one
Opioid replacement therapy (ORT): In this, the opioids such as heroin used by a person are replaced by less addictive and with longer life opioid such as methadone and buprenorphine. These help in reducing the number of withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings bringing stability in a patient's life.
Behavioral Therapy: It is not effective as ORT, however, have shown good outcomes in some cases. It involves improving the mental health of a person and changing their perspective of seeing the problem.
In an opioid overdose case, emergency medical treatment is required. A nasal spray called naloxone (Narcan) is available for such cases which give some instant relief.
Smart Opioids: The opioids which will only relieve pain and non- addictive in nature is expected to join the treatment methods soon. It will not affect a person’s nervous system as the current opioids do.
The increasing opioid addiction can be prevented by the following methods:
Educating people about both pros and cons of taking opioid through books and social media.
Checking photo identity of patients at the dispensaries while they have come to buy the opioids through prescription.
Keeping a track of the opioid amount in country and issue of selling license to few dispensaries only. Prescription monitoring programs may help in it.
At individual level- self monitoring can be of great help. This includes- not depending on pills for healing, keeping a check on medications taken regularly etc.
The withdrawal symptoms of opioids are:
Trembling of hands and legs
Psychological problems like mood swings, and depression
A stage called delirium tremens can develop which have all the above symptoms and can lead to the death of an individual. The first phase of Opium Withdrawal starts after the 12 hours of last opioid intake and can last for 1- 4 weeks. The Second phase could last up to two years. Therefore, it is advised to decrease the dosage of opioids slowly and slowly until a person becomes non-addicted to it.