What’s Being Done to Improve Opiate Addiction in America?

Opiate addiction is increasingly becoming a big problem in America. Of the estimated 36 million opiate addicts in the world, roughly 2 million reside in the United States alone. Considering the numbers, opiate addiction has caught the attention of local and state leaders alike and has been called an epidemic more than once. This has resulted in an increase in funds for opiate rehab programs, addiction research, pharmaceutical regulations, and more. But are any of these measures helping? How do we know if our efforts to improve addiction in America are benefitting those addicted? Before diving into the future, let us cover the basics.

What is an Opiate?

Opiates are more commonly known as painkillers. Well-known opiates include Codeine, Vicodin, Morphine, Oxycontin, Dilaudid, and Duragesic. These are all painkillers prescribed by a doctor and administered by a pharmacist. When used as recreation, they can have dangerous effects on the brain and body.

How do Opiates Work?

Prescribed painkillers produce euphoric feelings, as they cause a generous release of Endorphins in the brain. The Endorphins flood into the spaces between nerves, keeping the neurons from firing. It is in stopping the neurons within nerves from firing that pain is felt. This creates the euphoric feeling sought after in painkillers. While helpful in recovering from illness and injury, without pain present, the good feelings they produce quickly becomes addictive.

Why are Opiates Dangerous?

Opiate addiction is typically more dangerous than other drug addictions. Tolerance to the feelings of euphoria is developed before tolerance to the effects of the drug. Therefore, accidental overdose is the common ending to opiate addiction.

History of Opiates


Image: Pixabay.com / CCO

The deaths of people worldwide and has brought opiate addiction to the forefront of drug addiction discussion. The famed singer, Prince, is the latest tragic death from opiate overdose. However, he is not the only prominent celebrity who has died from an opiate overdose. Some others include Elvis Presley, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Paul Gray, John Belushi, and Chris Farley. The rising numbers in both rural and urban areas have also contributed to getting the attention of the media and public officials.


It is difficult to fight addiction once it has been formed. For one, the withdrawal symptoms can be extreme and, at times, dangerous. These symptoms include dehydration, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is common, because of the extremity of these withdrawal symptoms, for the addict to check into the hospital. Another reason opiate addiction is particularly dangerous to kick is because of a lack of natural Endorphin release. The body adapts to its current state of being, which is why tolerance to drugs occurs. The body regulates its response as it comes to expect the use of drugs and regulates the abuse of opiates by only releasing Endorphins when the opiate is consumed. Natural Endorphin release will commence once again when the body regulates to its natural state, without regular opiate consumption.

How to Battle Opiate Addiction

There are several options for Addiction Treatment in America today. There are home plans, over-the-counter help, and hospitalization. While overcoming an opiate addiction at home is not advisable, it is possible. Ridding the home of all pain killers, including Ibuprofen and Tylenol, is the first step. Next is preparing for the withdrawal symptoms. Because vomiting and diarrhea are common in the early stages of withdrawal, it is important to stay hydrated. Many addicts have tried to taper off from the pain killers, by taking lower dosages of the particular painkiller they are addicted to. This is not advisable, considering tolerance to those dosages has already taken place. Therefore, the body will become irritated with the low dosages and cravings for the normal high dosages will occur. This is when relapse and a potential overdose will occur. Going this route is only successful when monitored closely and with the conjunction of other drugs.

Receiving over-the-counter help does not mean obtaining lower dosages of the painkiller. It is obtaining non-opiate medications that will relieve symptoms of withdrawal. They are similar to the medicines administered at the hospital to addicts seeking help. If withdrawal symptoms are particularly strong and the addiction is difficult to help, then hospitalization should be considered. There are also many centers like the California Detox/Residential treatment facilities available in every state. Many accept private insurance, while those that require out-of-pocket payment will work with the patient to set in place a payment plan. Rehab often takes well over a month. During that time, a private doctor will be assigned to the addict and help them overcome not only the physical addiction but the mental addiction as well. Once released, most centers have outpatient care for a time, while the addict adjusts to life without opiates.

Opiate addiction is a problem that is being addressed. Community leaders have recognized the problem and have released funds for opiate drug rehab programs and centers all over America. These are meant to battle this pernicious addiction. Anyone suffering from opiate addiction is encouraged to seek out one of these programs for help; one such way to seek help for yourself or someone you know who is battling addiction is to contact the Port Saint Lucie treatment center today.


Author: Eileen O’Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter @eileenoshanassy. For more education on the state of the economy check out online finance masters degree courses from Ohio University.