Opioid Addiction In Young adults

There is disturbing news in the use of opioids – more and more young adults are becoming dependent on opioids such as Vicodin and Percocet than ever before. 

A study conducted by researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City reviewed data finding that the use of opioids climbed 37 percent among 18- to 25-year olds between 2002 and 2014.

Even older adults between the ages of 26- to 34-year olds had an increased risk of opioid use from 11 percent to 24 percent.

Opioids are a class of very strong medications used to relieve pain by reducing the intensity of pain signals reaching the areas of the brain controlling emotion helping to diminish the effects of a painful stimulus. Examples of medications that fall under the umbrella of being an opioid include hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), morphine (Kadian, Avinza), codeine, and other related drugs.

Hydrocodone is commonly prescribed for a variety of painful conditions such as dental and injury-related pain while morphine is often used before and after surgeries alleviating severe pain.  Codeine is prescribed more for mild pain.

When opioids are prescribed by a physician and used under their guidance, they can provide good pain relief.  When given in low doses, they are usually safe but in high doses they can have dangerous side effects and complications. 

This recent study published online in the journal Addictive Behaviors also showed that heroin use has rose over the past 12 years going from 2 percent to 7 percent among young people ages 18 to 25 while heroin use rates soared sixfold to 12 percent among adults ages 26 to 34.

A bit of encouraging news from the study is that opioid addiction among younger teens has remained stable.

This is a public health concern in that the general public, particularly young adults should be informed of the harms and medical disorders prescription opioid use and addiction without regular medical supervision can create.

An opiate addiction is a chronic, neurological disease resulting from the use of opiates leading to psychological, environmental, and physical factors.  Here are risks associated with long-term use of opioids:

·        Breathing and heart problems.  Breathing becomes slower and more shallow and can cause irregular heart rhythms which can be life threatening.

·        Drowsiness is another side effect which could increase the risk of falls, accidents, and injury.

·        Prolonged use or overuse can lead to addiction or dependence.  The physical dependence leads to drug withdrawal symptoms making it very difficult to quit even if you want to.

·        People can build up a tolerance to opioids where they have to increase their dose to get the same relief.  Increased doses can lead to an increased risk of side effects and complications.

·        Sleep apnea can be increased with opioid use along with disrupting sleep patterns and poor sleep.

·        Opioids can cause chronic constipation.

·        Opioids can lower hormone levels leading to erectile dysfunction in men.  Women may experience ammenorhea or where her menstrual cycle has stopped.

·        The development of osteoporosis is increased with long-term use of opioids leading to weak bones and bone fractures.

·        Chronic dry mouth is another side effect of opioid use that can lead to acid erosion of tooth enamel.

Signs of someone with an opioid addiction

Common signs to pay attention to include:

·        Track marks or needle marks coming from shooting opiates intravenously.

·        Lethargic or heavy limbs

·        Wearing long sleeves or pants to cover up their needle marks

·        Hanging out with a different group of friends

·        Borrowing money without explanation

·        Lack of appearance or not taking care of themselves

·        Excessive sleeping

·        Unexplained weight gain or weight loss

 Anyone who has an opiate addiction needs help to overcome its grip.  There are many treatment methods that exist including detox, medication replacement therapy, counseling and therapy, as well as support groups.  The treatment may require residential care or inpatient therapy depending on the severity of the addiction.