The Silent Addiction

by Tanya Monteiro on 01/18/2018

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Some time ago I read about the book Dreamlandand as a result have been following the life of the author Sam Quinones. I’d never really considered how “easy” it was to become addicted to painkillers and my understanding of “addiction” was so limited. It was also something I considered “not for me”, it’s just not my thing.

But the truth is that we are all addicts about or with something. I think the best understanding I got on this topic was watching the movie Thanks for sharing.

The most ‘subtle’ of addictions, at least in our everyday, is that of Opioids. Doctors hand out painkiller prescriptions when we are in pain, pharmaceutical companies have build billion dollar businesses on making sure they are easily accessible and somehow Opioid addiction is not understood to be at the same level as Heroin or “drug” addiction, not even as feared and accepted as alcohol addiction. We seem to go along with that I idea that if we, feel a pain, we take a pill. It’s that simple.

Somehow feeling pain is not something we humans will tolerate. There’s a pill for almost any pain you can think of and most of these can be bought at a local pharmacy, but if you do need a prescription, one can easily be arranged.

So for some time now I have been looking into this enormous problem and trying to learn as much as I can on the topic.

What is an “opioid”?

Opium, a narcotic obtained from a kind of poppy, has been used in human societies for thousands of years. From opium people derived a whole host of other drugs with similar properties: first morphine, then heroin, then prescription painkillers like Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin. Opium along with all of these derivatives are collectively known as opiates.

Then there are a handful of compounds that act just like opiates but aren’t made from the plant. Opiates along with these synthetic drugs — chiefly methadone and fentanyl — are grouped together into the category of substances called opioids.

Opioid receptors regulate pain and the reward system in the human body. That makes opioids powerful painkillers, but also debilitatingly addictive.

Addiction to opioids goes back centuries, but the current crisis really starts in the 1980s. A handful of highly influential journal articles relaxed long-standing fears among doctors about prescribing opioids for chronic pain. The pharmaceutical industry took note, and in the mid-1990s began aggressively marketing drugs like OxyContin. This aggressive and at times fraudulent marketing, combined with a new focus on patient satisfaction and the elimination of pain, sharply increased the availability of pharmaceutical narcotics.

An interesting statistic I found, states that enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for one month = 30 full days. And don’t think this is only specific to America or that it has decreased since 2010. In fact I don’t even want to imagine what the statistics are for 2017.

If you are curious about the topic and want to learn more then I recommend watching the C Span video below.C Span Sam Quinones testifies on the opioid crisis or anything on Sam Quinones, he is walking the talk!

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