Although the government of the United States has worked to curtail the supply of opioids, both from foreign countries and from domestic suppliers, enough drugs are still in the country to constitute a crisis that impacts the economy and national well-being. Analysts point to the over-prescription of legal drugs, such as hydrocodone, as the beginning of the problem, and point out that synthetic opioids and cheap drugs, such as heroin, have entered the market and compounded the problem.

What Puts You At Risk?

One of the most alarming characteristics of this epidemic is that everyone is at risk. A patient who visits their doctor for unexplained back pain may eventually receive a prescription for oxycodone or codeine. It is possible to develop an addiction to the medication after just three days and long-term dependency to the drugs within just eight days. Many patients, through no actions of their own, develop an addiction. The numbers back this up; according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, roughly two million citizens of the United States abuse opioids.

Talk to Your Medical Professionals

You can protect yourself from opioid addiction. Talk to your doctor, your nurse, or your anesthesiologist (or all three) about other options. There are alternatives to pain management. Options include physical therapy, local anesthetics, acupuncture, and surgery. You may find that therapists can offer biofeedback, massages, or relaxation techniques.

Recognize the Symptoms of Addiction

How can you tell if you or a loved one has developed a dependency on the drugs? Some of the symptoms or warning signs of addiction include:

  • Withdrawing from family, friends, and coworkers
  • Becoming isolated or spending time with others who use drugs
  • Losing interest in hobbies and activities
  • Becoming very irritated, nervous, sad, or tired
  • Sleeping at irregular intervals
  • Missing appointments, work hours, or school days
  • Switching rapidly between moods
  • Spending less time on personal hygiene

If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or your loved ones, reach out to a health care or mental health professional. Most experts don’t recommend confronting your loved one with an “intervention;” these methods often backfire. Also, recognize that overcoming drug dependency may require multiple attempts.

Understand the Recovery Process

During recovery from these drugs, individuals may experience symptoms of opioid withdrawal. These symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Drug cravings
  • Feelings of being cold
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Shakiness

These symptoms may last anywhere from three to 10 days. The best way to alleviate these symptoms is to work closely with a medical health care provider. Trying to overcome an addiction without supervision and support can be extremely difficult. Appropriate treatment methods may involve counseling, medication, and community support resources.

Choose Your Role in the Crisis

Prevention is the best protection for opioid addiction. Take time to learn as much as you can about opioid use and the types of medications or illegal drugs that lead to dependencies. Protect yourself from addiction by discussing treatment options with your health care providers. Make sure you understand warning signs and, when you recognize them, seek professional help right away. You could also reach out to help others in your community by getting involved in a prevention coalition or related resource.