DRUGS - OPIOIDS & Prescription
- Opiods are both heroin and a narcotic medication prescribed to alleviate pain or induce sleep.
Opioid drugs work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body. They reduce the sending of pain messages to the brain and reduce feelings of pain.
Opioids are used to treat moderate to severe pain that may not respond well to other pain medications. Some types of opioid drugs include:
- codeine (only available in generic form)
- fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora - available in a patch that allows the medication to be absorbed through the skin)
- hydrocodone (Hysingla ER, Sohydro ER)
- hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
- hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
- meperidine (Demerol)
- methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
- morphine (Astramorph, Avinza, Kadian, MS contin, Ora-Morph SR)
- oxycodone (OxyContin, Oxecta, Roxicodone)
- oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet, Endocet, Roxicet)
- oxycodone and naloxone (Targiniq ER)
For more information about Opioid drugs: Dosage, side effects, tolerance and addiction, see the source of this information at WebMD, Pain Management, 2017. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/narcotic-pain-medications#1
- WARNING! Drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. All evidence suggests the problem has continued to worsen in 2017.
Many people start using prescription painkillers at parties, just for fun. By the time it stopped being fun, it was too late. People are also turning from heroin to fentanyl or an analogues. Fentanyl is sold on the street as heroin, or drug traffickers use it to make cheap counterfeit prescription opioids. Fentanyls are showing up in cocaine as well, contributing to an increase in cocaine-related overdoses. The most deadly of the fentanyl analogues is carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer 5,000 times stronger than heroin. An amount smaller than a few grains of salt can be a lethal dose.
The severity of opioid withdrawal means users rarely get clean unless they are determined and have treatment readily available. “No one wants their family to find them face down with a needle in their arm…but no one stops until they’re ready.” (Source: Drug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster Than Ever," by Josh Katz, The New York Times, June 5, 2017)
- Opioid deaths is a disaster in the U.S. Most people don’t realize the magnitude of the problem. During the entire Vietnam War, 53,000 people died. In 2016, from overdoses of opiates, 53,000 people died. Essentially, we have a Vietnam War taking place in our country every year. Some of these powerful drugs are disastrously strong. The introduction of the powerful opioids fentanyl and carfentanil – an elephant tranquilizer – into the drug supply has only exacerbated the epidemic.
80% of heroin addicts started with a prescription drug, so clearly the medical community is now reducing the number of opiates they prescribe for control of pain.
Pharmaceutical companies, the medical community, and patients can all play a role in reducing the damage of the opioid epidemic. “This goes across all segments of society and I think the big problem is that society does not recognize the magnitude of the problem,” he said. (“The Doctor is In,” Dr. Toby Cosgrove, Cleveland Clinic President & CEO, CBS This Morning, March 31, 2017)
- The Painkiller Crisis. Substance abuse is one of America's most pressing public health problems. The problem is still growing and growing fast. "The U.S. is 5% of the world's population, and we consume in one way or another 99% of the world's hydrocodone. That's crazy, that's crazy," says the DEA chief.
Each year -
30,000 people die each year from gun violence.
About 33,000 people die each year from car accidents. (2014)
53,000 people die from opioid-related overdose (2016)
On an average day in the U.S.:
650,000+ opioid prescriptions are dispensed
580 people start using heroin
78 people die from opioid-related overdose (more than from car accidents or gun violence)
In 2014, 14 billion opioid pills were manufactured and dispensed in the U.S. with DEA approval. (The DEA sets the limits on how many pills can be manufactured, but they don't regulate the practice of medicine. The DEA is cutting production of prescription opioids by 25% in 2017.)
Why is the problem growing? Four out of 5 new heroin users started on prescription pills, and most of the people who start on prescription pills get them out of someone's medicine cabinet, get it 'legitimately.' In 2014 there were 18,893 opioid painkiller poisoning deaths, and 10,574 heroin poisoning deaths. (CDC)
DEA Chief Chuck Rosenberg says that
("The Painkiller Crisis," DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg on America's "growing" opioid epidemic, CBS News, November 17, 2016; U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services statistics)
- People need to recognize the signs of opioid addiction.
- We need to continue the national take-back (In 2015 they took in 1.6 million pounds of unwanted and expired prescription drugs. People dropped them off anonymously with no questions asked, and the drugs are incinerated. Only an estimated 10% of the drugs taken in were opioids, but that is still 160,000 lbs. of opioids out of medicine cabinets and off the streets.
- We need to teach, rehabilitate and treat this addiction.
- We need to teach teachers, parents and kids the signs of opioid addiction.
- We need help from doctors, pharmacies, manufacturers and Congress.
- What are Opioids? Opioids are medications that relieve pain. They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus. Medications that fall within this class include hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (e.g., Kadian, Avinza), codeine, and related drugs. Hydrocodone products are the most commonly prescribed for a variety of painful conditions, including dental and injury-related pain. Morphine is often used before and after surgical procedures to alleviate severe pain. Codeine, on the other hand, is often prescribed for mild pain. In addition to their painrelieving properties, some of these drugs—codeine and diphenoxylate (Lomotil) for example—can be used to relieve coughs and severe diarrhea. (National Institute on Drug Ab use, August 2016)
- The Deception. Prescription
drugs are deceiving. People feel they are safer with prescription drugs
because you get them from a pharmacy and they are prescribed by a
doctor. Younger people believe they are safer because they see their
parents taking them. It doesn’t have the same stigma as using street
- Teens and Drug Danger. Non-prescribed
prescription drugs are dangerous. The prescription drugs (pain killers
and sleeping pills) which teens are abusing and sharing at school are
just as dangerous as street heroine.
- We have an epidemic of abuse and death tied to prescription drugs like Vicodin and Percocet. A wave of overdoses is being fueled by the over-prescribing of medications and a steady supply of cheap heroin. Deaths linked to misuse and abuse of prescription opioids climbed to 19,000 in 2014, the highest figure on record, according to the CDC. Opioids are a class of powerful and highly addictive drugs that include both prescription drugs, like codeine and hydrocodone, as well as illegal narcotics, like heroin. Congress has been asked to provide $1.1 billion to combat opioid addiction. All 50 governors have been asked by the White House to reduce opioid over-prescribing and enhance addiction treatment. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; "FDA adds firmest warning to widely used painkillers," Associated Press, March 23, 2016)
- Drug Market. There is a huge market for illegal prescription drugs in Spokane. Young people are abusing legal drugs and getting many of them directly from the family medicine cabinets, which is extremely dangerous. They use pain killers to change their moods.
- Medicine Cabinets. The problem is in our medicine cabinets. OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma are the most commonly abused prescription drugs. Other potentially addictive prescription pain killers include Hydrocodone, Percocet, and Demerol. OxyContin, an opiate-based painkiller, is so potent and addictive that it's sometimes referred to as synthetic heroin. Fentanyl patches are 100 times more powerful than morphine. Such drugs now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
- Hydrocodone. The most commonly abused prescription drug, hydrocodone, is also the most widely prescribed drug in America. Sold under the brand names Vicodin, Norco and Lortab, hydrocodone-based medications are some of the most potent and addictive narcotics on the market. The pain reliever Vicodin is prescribed more often than the top cholesterol drug and the top antibiotic.
Hydrocodone is a key contributor to the nation's prescription drug death epidemic. Prescription drugs, primarily narcotic painkillers such as hydrocodone, cause or contribute to more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. As a result, drug fatalities have surpassed deaths from motor vehicle crashes, long the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. The United States consumes 99% of the hydrocodone produced worldwide, and doctors write more prescriptions for it than for the leading antibiotic and hypertension medications. Doctors have prescribed hydrocodone with few restrictions since it was introduced four decades ago. Because of the perception that it is less risky than other narcotic painkillers, it is widely prescribed by general practitioners and dentists. ("Legislation targets hydrocodone," by Scott Glover and Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times, March 21, 2013)
- Methadone. The people dying from
methadone are not hard-core drug users. In our society, people think
prescription medications are simply safe. Methadone is especially
dangerous in unskilled hands. Because it takes longer to have an
effect, people overdose, hoping to relieve pain or achieve a high. By
the time it takes full effect, the accumulated drug has slowed
respiration, overriding the body’s instinct to breathe.
- Addicts. Addicts range from teenagers to middle-aged working men and women who take medications prescribed for pain and anti-anxiety, and become addicted.
- Deaths of Children. Accidental poisoning deaths among young children have spiked due to prescription drugs. Parents and guardians are advised to store drugs in locked cabinets and rid the home of unused medications. (Dr. Randall Bond, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, 2011)
- Secrecy contributes to the problem. Both prescription pain killers and heroin can be snorted, avoiding needle marks.
- In 2015, 718 people died from opioid overdoses in Washington. More people die in accidental deaths from heroin and prescription painkiller overdoses than from vehicle or firearm-related deaths. Prescription opioid drug deaths have gone down, but fatalities from heroin overdoses are rising, particularly among young people. ("Inslee executive action targets opioid addiction," Governor Jay Inslee, AP, October 9, 2016)
- Addiction in America. 12.5 million people report misusing prescription painkillers in 2015. 78 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses. (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2016)
- Deaths linked to misuse and abuse of prescription opioids climbed to
19,000 in 2014, the highest figure on record, according to the CDC. In 2014, more people died from drug overdoses than car accidents or gun violence. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; "FDA adds
firmest warning to widely used painkillers," Associated Press, March 23,
- Availability of prescription drugs. Nearly l in 5 teenagers says it is easier to buy prescription drugs than it is to buy marijuana, beer or cigarettes.
Overdose Deaths from Painkillers.
Prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and methadone led
to the deaths of almost 15,000 people in 2008—more than 3 times the
4,000 deaths from narcotics in 1999. Painkillers “are meant to help
people who have severe pain,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued the November
2011 report. “They are, however, highly addictive.”
Nearly 5% of Americans ages 12 and older said
they have abused painkillers in the past year—using them without a
prescription or just for the high. There are enough narcotic
painkillers prescribed every year to give every American a one-month
supply. For chronic pain, narcotics should be the last resort.
Overall, there were 36,450 fatal overdoses in 2008,
including accidental cases and suicides involving illegal drugs like
heroin and cocaine along with prescription medicines. About ¾ of the
deaths from prescriptions involved narcotic painkillers. (end of the
- Internet Purchases.
Prescription drugs are traded on Internet chat rooms for $10 to $80 a
pill. They are also sold on street corners along with heroin, marijuana
- Parents and Grandparents. Lock up your medicine cabinets!
- Old Medications. If you have expired or leftover pain medications in the house which you no longer need, get them out of your house. (see drop-off locations at Environment - Recycling - Medications on this site)
- Help organize a better Prescription Drug Take-back program than we currently have, for people to safely and conveniently dispose of old and unused prescription medicine. In 2017, there were only a few locations in Spokane where people could dispose of leftover or expired prescription and over the counter medications.
- Deadliest Drugs - An Epidemic. Get the facts about drugs and death caused by drugs.
(Source: CBS News, 2016)
- Set a Good Example. Parental
example is the greatest teacher for children in all things, including
substance abuse. Parents in turmoil look for ways to numb their pain;
but unfortunately, sometimes it is drugs and alcohol—an example viewed
by their children. Do your children watch you take a pill or a drink to
deal with stress, anxiety, and depression? What messages are you
sending and teaching your children?
- REMEMBER: Addicted Parents Neglect Children.
Children who are neglected by parents abusing substances will never
trust that they will have food, comfort, and unconditional love. They
will be thwarted in their ability to concentrate, interact socially, and
develop physically. If you are addicted to any drugs, get professional
counseling or therapy. Contact a drug rehabilitation/treatment
- Parents must Have the Conversation.
Talk to your children about the danger of all drug abuse,
including prescription drugs. Explain that even a small dose can take
someone’s life. For help talking to your children about the risks of
drugs and alcohol, visit http://starttalkingnow.org.
- Consumer Reports recommends to those with pain killer addiction:
- Try alternative pain relief methods
- Use low-dose, short-acting opioids
- Limit duration of use.
As the body builds up a tolerance for the drug, users increase the dose for pain relief resulting in physical and psychological dependence. Taking these drugs long-term can make it difficult to stop. ("Consumer Reports: Legal pain pills can be deadly," CBS Morning News, July 31, 2014)
- Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council.
Call to learn more about the dangers of prescription drugs and other
substances, or to share your story of recovery in an effort to help
- New Vision @ Holy Family Hospital
- Spokane Treatment and Recovery Services
(formerly Community Detox Services of Spokane)
312 W. 8th Avenue
- “Street Drugs—a Drug Identification Guide,”
is an outstanding resource book containing hundreds of pictures of
drugs which are sold on the street. Contact our local law enforcement
for a copy, or request a copy from Publishers Group, LLC, 2805 Alvarado
Lane N, Plymouth, MN 55447, (763) 473-0646, mailto:email@example.com, ISBN 0-942677-02-1.
- Drug Rehab
Addiction to drugs, alcohol and prescription drugs. Their mission is to equip patients and families with the best
information, resources and tools to overcome addition and lead a