The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the sales of prescription opioids in the United States nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014, without any significant reduction in the amount of pain Americans experience. However, during these 15 years, there has been a steep rise in the number of deaths due to opioid overdose. Opioid abuse is affecting all sections of society. Young sportspersons and athletes constitute one such section of society, where this dangerous trend is distinctly visible in the growing numbers of individuals battling opioid use disorder.
“I couldn’t throw like I used to,” said 24-year-old Jarvis Wade (name changed), a baseball standout from Los Angeles who required surgery for a torn labrum muscle. His doctor prescribed him Percocet for managing the excruciating pain. Shortly, the medicine worked wonders, eliminating his physical as well as emotional pain. The opioid painkiller eventually led him to full-blown addiction, pushing him toward heroin.
“It was painful to even stretch my leg,” said 23-year-old Cathy McGee (name changed) of Riverside who suffered a debilitating sports hernia affecting the muscles and tendons of the groin. Unable to participate in athletic events, Cathy was recommended Vicodin by her physician to deal with the pain. Though the pain subsided, the accompanying feel-good sensations got her hooked on the drug. In days, she wanted more of it to feel good again.
“I only wanted to compete without taking time off,” said 28-year-old Joe Griggs, a three-time local wrestling champion from San Francisco. He had injured his neck twice in a span of 15 months, but the pressure of adhering to the schedules was immense. He was determined to win again. He resorted to OxyContin to numb the intense pain, so that he could handle his opponent in the ring. Higher doses left him addicted to the pills that he couldn’t dream of entering the ring without popping a pill.
There are many like Jarvis, Cathy and Joe who are willing to take the risk of prescription opioids to get rid of the pain, as they need to stay in the game. Powerful opioid painkillers may offer speedy relief, but users have to pay a heavy cost in the long run.
Dealing with painful conditions without risk of addiction
According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM), chronic pain affects more Americans than heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined, which has led to an enormous spike in health care expenses, loss of income and workplace productivity amounting to around $100 billion. In such a situation, a large number of doctors are increasingly prescribing different classes of medications, such as opioid painkillers, antidepressants and relaxants to their patients to cope with their distressful conditions. While these medicines offer immediate to short-term relief, on the flipside, their addictive nature could lead to potential abuse as patients are usually unaware of the precarious side-effects associated with prescription drugs. In most of the cases, even after experiencing considerable relief, many individuals continue to crave for the opioid-induced euphoric sensations, due to which they resort to non-medical use of prescription drugs to feed their addiction. Over time, chronic users tend to build greater tolerance levels to the medicine and required larger doses to achieve the desired effects.
The most commonly prescribed painkillers by American doctors are morphine, codeine and oxycodone, which inhibit the neuron cell receptors in the brain, rendering them unresponsive to the pain signals. While this may alleviate the patient’s misery, the very same receptor also controls the user’s urges and feelings to get high. However, acknowledging the chronic pain problem nationwide, doctors should seek newer and safer ways to curb the rising levels of prescription drug addiction:
- Determining patients’ susceptibility levels: Prior to prescribing any pain-relieving medication, physicians should study the patient’s personal and family medical history and history of psychological and behavioral disorders.
- Exploring substitutes to prescription painkillers: At all times, doctors should refrain from prescribing addictive painkillers to those who run the risk of addiction. Instead, patients can be recommended other alternatives such as psychotherapy, physical therapy, tai chi, non-opioid medicines and acupuncture.
- Insisting on safe storage of medicines: Doctors should ensure that patients are educated about the safe storage and disposal of addictive painkiller medicines, which could be dangerous if misused. It is recommended to keep prescription opioids away from the reach of teenagers, children and the elderly to prevent non-medical use.
- Using medicines as per directions: Doctors and health care workers have a responsibility to make people aware of the dangers of prescription drug abuse. They need to educate their patients that painkillers are not coping tools for various problems or stressful situations in life.
Leading an addiction-free life
The abuse of prescription opioids has reached deadly proportions, plunging the United States into a phenomenal crisis. Spreading awareness about prescription drug abuse is a significant step toward thwarting major addiction-related health problems in the future. However, the good thing is that opioid addiction can be treated with timely medical intervention.
If you or a loved one is struggling to break free from addiction to prescription opioids, contact Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California, which offers a variety of customized treatments for addiction. Our licensed clinicians use several approaches to resolving each underlying problem. Programs at our addiction treatment centers are tailored to individual needs in order to treat the person holistically. For more information, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives.