Addiction is a terrible disease that inflicts pain and suffering on millions every year. Many people are still under the guise that drugs are found on street corners and not in our medicine cabinets. Prescription drugs are just as widely abused as illegal drugs, and unfortunately, sometimes they are easier to obtain.
In order to understand why opioid addiction is an epidemic in thousands of American cities, we first have to understand what an opioid is: An opioid is a medicine that is used to help relieve pain. They can be prescribed for any number of things including post-surgery, injuries, dental procedures, or even chronic conditions. Opiates can be found in legal drugs such as fentanyl, codeine, and morphine, in addition to illegal drugs like heroin and opium.
Opioids easily lend themselves to an addiction because they alter brain chemistry and create artificial endorphins that block pain and make people feel good. Once someone begins to abuse opioids, their brain is no longer able to create endorphins on its own and will start to rely on the artificial endorphins.
Cases of opioid addiction are vast because not everyone realizes that their bodies have started to become dependent on the drug. Meaning, anyone, no matter who they are, can easily become addicted.
When a person has an addiction, it doesn’t just affect them and their health. It affects their families, loved ones, and friends—in one of the worst ways.
- Parent. When a parent has an addiction, it creates a negative energy within the household that can begin to suck everyone in little by little. Entire families are then pulled into a whirlwind of pain, anger, disappointment, and resentment. Families don’t want to enable, but they also don’t want any harm to come to their loved one. A child seeing an addiction ravage a parent can make them act out in their own destructive behavior. This behavior may not be aggressive or violent; it may simply be the child stepping up and trying to play an adult in a situation where they might still be too young to fully understand. Children can also take on a large amount of guilt, neglecting their own needs for those of the parent.
- Significant other. It’s not easy to love someone with an addiction. Their behavior may change quickly, and they can become erratic if their drug of choice isn’t provided when they need it. Many times addicts will blame their partners for everything that has gone wrong in their life, leaving a partner with a lot of emotional baggage. Partners may then begin to try and overcompensate for the lack of the relationship by trying even harder to cover up the pain, the addiction itself, and the guilt that comes with it. They may begin to feel as though they are not enough for their loved one to make a change.
- Child. A parent’s job is to give their child the best life that they can. When a child becomes an addict, parents often feel that it is their fault—that somehow they caused their child to turn to a substance. It’s common that marriages cease to exist because all the focus is now on the child with an addiction. Not only does this affect a parent’s relationship with their spouse, but it has a significant impact on the relationship with the other children. One child is getting all the attention while the others receive none.
Hazardous and deadly
Substance dependency has many risks, with the highest of those risks being death. Abusing a substance can lead to numerous health problems including nausea, shallow breathing, and sedation. Opioid misuse can cause slurred speech, confusion and poor judgment, pupil dilation, skin irritation, paranoia, and lethargy.
When a person has an opioid dependency, the brain cannot produce endorphins naturally and begins to crave more of the substance. Due to this, many addicts may form a tolerance to the substance, and their bodies will require more and more of the drug to get the high they need.
Many times, the need for more of a drug can lead to overdose and eventually death.
Families are not the only ones greatly affected by opioid epidemics; communities often suffer in their own way. For communities, this means that there is a greater death toll and that friends and loved ones are affected by a potentially deadly disease.
Areas around the country have formed support groups, written to senators and state officials, and attempted to change the way substance abuse is viewed within the healthcare system. It’s a hard road that many face alone, but when communities stand together, they create an effort for positive change.
Addiction is a disease. At any given time, there are approximately 20 million people struggling with an addiction. These numbers fluctuate throughout the years, but there are still millions of people suffering from similar addictions and problems.
If you have any questions, please call us at Center For Healing 888–500–9279.
Erica Franco Mortimer, MA, LPC, LCADC
Founder and CEO
Center for Healing
Erica is a licensed therapist with over twenty-years experience in mental health. Erica offers practical and straight forward advice to those struggling with addiction and their families. Having deep insight and understanding of addiction, Erica is able to offer guidance to those looking to regain control of their lives.