Prescription medications, heroin, and more opioids have flooded the pharmacies and streets. They are more available than ever and more people are suffering from opioid addiction than any previous time in American history.
Addiction In Connecticut
Opioids are a class of drug typically prescribed medically for it’s pain numbing effects. It is highly addictive and more potent kinds of opioids have a substantial risk of killing the user by way of overdose. According to the CDC, nationally, opioids killed more than 70,000 Americans in 2017 with over 450 of those being from just heroin use just in Connecticut.
Connecticut’s average rate of use is 1% higher than the national average with a reported amount of known users totaling over 23,000. Deaths and overdose statistics reporting indicate that the state is seeing a sharp increase in both between 2013 and 2017, overdoses more than doubled in that time, going from 10-12 per-capita (100,000) to nearly 25. The overdoses are also being contributed to by fentanyl, a high potency opioid that is more dangerous than any other form and has resulted in a spike in opioid overdose numbers in the last two years overall. Fentanyl overdoses cross over into non-opioid drugs as well, contributing to many accidental deaths. Distributors that handle both drugs have been blamed for ‘impure’ cocaine batches where a cocaine user unknowingly uses fentanyl mixed in their cocaine, generally causing near instant death.
Costs For Connecticut
Every year, the opioid addiction numbers incur a publicly shouldered responsibility for treatment and hospital visits, costing the users themselves up to $10,000 a year to maintain their drug use and costs productivity for the state in lost work time from either losing their job or having to take time off for treatment or use. In 2017, a proposed bill that took into account the complete and total cost to handle prevention and treatment for opioid addiction allocated $3.7 billion which included Opioid Response Grants to specifically target opioid overdoses and death prevention.
Another $1.86 billion was proposed for state agencies to simply monitor the drug use in the state by allocating cities and counties with funding for their own addiction prevention plans as a move to promote general public health. The money also supports grants for treatment centers to provide holistic treatment to those suffering from addiction and either choose to enter rehab or are sent to rehab by a drug court. Even at this high of a budget, it doesn’t even touch the total costs of handling the usage and its effects completely.
Types of Opioids
Opioids are a class of painkilling substances. Medically, it is used for controlling pain before and after major operations in the form of morphine. For outpatients, many begin on one of it’s less potent pill forms like oxycodone or Vicodin. These drugs, if not properly monitored by the patient or doctor, can become addictive and habit forming. People with chronic pain are especially at risk to develop a dependency that escalates into the more notorious form of opioid, heroin. Morphine and heroin are only slightly different in potency, the difference being that morphine is natural and procured from poppy plants and heroin is processed morphine and illegal. A more powerful form of opioids has gained popularity in recent years, a synthetic form called fentanyl, which is generally between 50 and 100 times more potent than heroin or morphine.
All forms of the drug operate in essentially the same way. They attach themselves to receptors that trigger the body to produce less pain impulses and disables pain receptors. When an overdose occurs, the brain, heart and lungs typically will begin shutting down. Fentanyl can kill within moments of use if careless with even a single grain in a dosage. Opioids can also induce comas at high levels of use.
Long Term Use Side Effects
Opioid use develops into addiction largely due to the withdrawal effect that increases from simultaneous tolerance increase through use over time. For instance, a person prescribed pain pills may develop a tolerance over the period of time they’re directed to take it as prescribed. Because of the tolerance increase that also contributes to stronger withdrawal symptoms, addiction will escalate up to harder versions of the drug.
Physical illness when not on the drug is the primary sign of addiction and can include insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes and muscle and bone pain. For many, the financial problems that typically occur alongside strong addiction can lead to criminal activity in order to maintain drug access. Weight loss is also common for long term users.
Users who get treatment have a higher level of risk for overdose if they relapse. Their tolerance typically will drop during the treatment period so that when they go to use the same amount as they used to before treatment, it will be too much for their body to handle, resulting in an overdose situation.
Primary Treatment Options
Opioid addiction is not impossible to treat, but does require medical supervision due to the withdrawal symptoms that come with addiction and use. In the event of an overdose, medical intervention is typically administered in the form of counter-agent drugs like naloxone. In addiction treatment, the same family of drugs may be used to help the addict handle withdrawal symptoms as some can reduce the effects of withdrawal as well. This high level of supervision and physical monitoring is the detox portion of a typical treatment plan.
Physical and behavioral therapy tend to accompany a well rounded and holistic addiction treatment regimen. Users may find themselves suffering from anxiety or depression in addition to their addiction. Group therapy and activities help to break behavioral changes that substance use disorder tends to influence. Some clinics may also offer job placement assistance for those who have been financially disabled as a result of their drug use. Long term relapse monitoring is also offered for patients with a long history of drug use, which help an addict from falling back into old patterns of addiction after successful treatment. Successful treatment generally means control over the use as with all addictions, it’s a chronic illness that requires attention for the rest of the patient’s life.