Opiate abuse is a widespread epidemic that affects 20.5 million people alone in the United States with millions more worldwide. What many people often forget is that opioids don’t just include illegal, illicit drugs, they include the legal ones such as prescription pain medications like fentanyl, codeine, morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone—which means it is much easier to get a hold of and even easier to become addicted because many of the drugs come from prescriptions written by doctors.
Addiction does not discriminate
The most important thing people need to know about opiate abuse is that it can happen to anyone. It doesn’t discriminate between race, age, socioeconomic standing, or gender. You can be the richest person or the poorest person and still be addicted to drugs or alcohol. It doesn’t matter how well you were raised or if you had a bad past, drugs don’t care. They latch onto you and fight hard to stick.
When you are prescribed medication, you think that because you went to the doctor and they gave you the medication you can’t become addicted. This is completely false and naïve thinking. Just because a healthcare professional prescribes you something, doesn’t mean your body will react one way or the other. We are all made up of chemicals, and medications can meddle with those chemicals to cause addiction.
Addiction can start innocently
Addiction can begin in very unassuming ways. For example, you go in to have your wisdom teeth removed, and the doctor prescribes an opiate for the pain. It truly is that simple. Soon your body begins to crave the drug more often, leading you to fill the prescription again if your doctor allows.
While opiates do help many manage horrible pain, the risks are very high regarding addiction. The problem with opiates is how addictive they are over a short period of time. Patients think that just because a doctor is giving it to you, it’s safe. But all too many people find out just how untrue that can be.
At the first sign of strange thoughts or feelings after taking opiates, seek your doctor for help.
Prescription medication isn’t always safe
Don’t take for granted that the prescriptions in your medicine cabinet are safe. If you have been prescribed an opiate, be mindful of how many you have taken and how many are left. Many people do not realize that their medications are being stolen by family members for recreational use or to be sold for profit. Stealing is an unfortunate part of addiction, making its victims do things they normally would never do. Be sure to keep track of your medications and place them in unassuming areas where only you know or have access to. It makes it safer for your family members and even more so if you have little ones roaming around the house who enjoy getting into things they shouldn’t.
Don’t keep old medications
Clean out your medicine cabinet. If you have old medications that expired, dispose of them properly. Check with your local police department; they will typically have a safe drop off locations for expired medications and even pill bottles.
While there are several myths out there for ridding your household of medications, such as grinding up the medications and disposing of them with either coffee grounds or kitty litter, the truth is, they can still be found a used by others. The safest way to dispose of them is through unwanted medicine take-back programs. In any other means of disposal, the risk is still there and leaves the possibility for someone to get hurt.
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.