Published in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new evidence suggests that addiction to opioid painkillers can begin within mere days of first use.
The emerging study focuses on “initial prescription episodes” of opioids, and the results that such prescriptions can have upon an individual’s future opioid use.
The research in questions suggests that the likelihood of long-term opioid use increases “most sharply” in the first days following the initial prescription. When patients were prescribed a course of treatment lasting for 8 or more days, the incidence of long-term opioid use increased by 13.5%. This statistic grows to nearly 30 percent when the course of treatment is prescribed for 30 days or more.
As thousands have suffered opioid overdoses in recent years, opioid abuse has remained in the spotlight. The epidemic is one that does not discriminate. Opioids’ addictiveness is not a secret, though as millions of painkillers continued to be prescribed each year, the dangers must be presented from the onset of prescription.
Developed to treat patients with chronic pain, opioids have a long history in the United States. The use of opioids for long-term pain management is controversial, both within the medical community and general society.
When a person takes an opioid, signals are sent to the brain. Opioid receptors affect the person’s perception of pain, as the painkiller acts as a “blocker,” and creates a sense of euphoria. The brain’s reward system, as a result of opioid use, fills with dopamine.
Over time, a tolerance to these effects can develop. Long-term use of opioids, for certain individuals, can result in changes in the brain—ones that are indicative of addiction.
All over the country, the opioid epidemic continues. While opioids taken as directed can be safe, the potential for abuse is a question that remains, and one that has contributed to the addiction crisis in a staggering fashion.
The CDC reports that 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose on a daily basis.
Available treatment for opioid abuse is crucial. As the statistics surrounding opioid misuse and abuse continue to swell, those who are suffering must be able to access the compassionate and respectful treatment that they deserve.