Honoring National Opioid Awareness Day on September 21st

For too long, the opioid epidemic has concerned people all over the world, especially those in America. As a result, National Opioid Awareness Day was established to shed light on the devastating impact of opioid misuse, drug overdose, and opioid use disorder to promote education and prevention efforts.

The late 1990s marked the beginning of the opioid crisis. With an increase in opioid prescriptions for pain management, misuse, and addiction rates soared. The government identifies three distinct waves of opioid-related deaths: prescription opioids, heroin, and the synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

This article delves into the background of this significant day, the nature of opioid use disorder, signs and symptoms, and ways to recognize an opioid overdose to prevent future overdose deaths. Furthermore, we will discuss the lifesaving benefits of Naloxone and how individuals can support and raise awareness about opioid abuse. Lastly, we’ll provide information on how to seek help for those struggling with opioid addiction.

National Opioid Awareness Day

The 1990s saw a surge in prescriptions for opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Their potent addictive properties meant that even those using them as prescribed were at risk of developing an addiction. As prescription opioid misuse grew, many turned to illegal alternatives like heroin and fentanyl. Most heroin users had previously misused prescription opioids. Fentanyl, often mixed with heroin, has been a significant contributor to overdose deaths.

In 2017, the U.S. government recognized the gravity of the opioid epidemic, declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency for Americans. Despite efforts, including the introduction of drug-monitoring tools, the crisis has persisted. A brief respite in 2018, where overdose deaths slightly declined, was short-lived. The subsequent rise, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been alarming, with states like Massachusetts, West Virginia, and Ohio being particularly affected.

National Opioid Awareness Day serves as a stark reminder of the toll that opioid addiction and opioid drug overdose deaths have taken on countless lives. This day is not just about statistics and figures; it’s about the nearly 1 million lives lost to opioid overdoses since 1999 and the families left grappling with their absence. Originating as a grassroots movement, this day was established to raise awareness about the dangers of opioid misuse and to honor the memories of those lost to this epidemic. It’s a day for reflection, education, and action. By understanding the history and significance of this day, we can better appreciate the importance of ongoing efforts to combat the opioid crisis. This day reminds us of the collective responsibility we hold in addressing and alleviating the opioid crisis’s impact.

National Opioid Awareness Day also champions legislative efforts to combat the crisis. Notable legislations include the Comprehensive Addiction And Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016, which focuses on best practices for pain management, and the SUPPORT Act, which seeks non-addictive treatment alternatives.

What Is Opioid Use Disorder?

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is a medical condition characterized by a problematic pattern of opioid use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress. Opioids, which include prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, can lead to physical dependence and addiction when misused. OUD can result in a range of negative outcomes, including overdose and death. It’s essential to recognize that OUD is a chronic disease, much like diabetes or hypertension, and requires comprehensive treatment and support Recognizing OUD as a chronic disease is the first step in destigmatizing it and understanding its multifaceted nature.

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Use Disorder

Peeling back the layers of OUD reveals a myriad of signs, both overt and subtle. Beyond the visible physical symptoms, there’s an emotional and social dimension. Relationships may fray as the individual becomes more consumed by the need for opioids. Work, hobbies, and passions that once held significance might be sidelined. The increasing tolerance to the drug’s effects can lead individuals down a perilous path, seeking more potent forms or higher doses, amplifying the risk of overdose.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of OUD can be the first step in getting help for oneself or a loved one. Common signs include:

  • Taking opioids in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.
  • Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control opioid use.
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of opioids.
  • Craving or a strong desire to use opioids.
  • Continued opioid use despite social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by its effects.
  • Neglecting major roles at work, school, or home due to opioid use.
  • Developing a tolerance, meaning needing more of the drug to achieve the desired effect or experiencing reduced effects when using the same amount.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when reducing or stopping opioid use.

How To Recognize An Opioid Overdose

An opioid overdose can strike swiftly and without warning and although an opioid overdose isn’t always immediately recognizable, certain signs can be telltale. Recognizing signs is crucial to end overdose deaths. Beyond the physical symptoms, there’s a haunting stillness, an unresponsiveness that’s chilling. Every second counts, and understanding these signs can empower individuals to act swiftly, potentially averting tragedy.

Awareness of overdose symptoms can be life-saving if acknowledged and treated promptly. Key signs of an overdose include:

  • Shallow or stopped breathing.
  • Blue or purple lips and fingernails.
  • Cold and clammy skin.
  • Limp body.
  • Vomiting or gurgling sounds.
  • Pinpoint pupils.
  • Inability to speak or be awakened.

If someone is suspected of overdosing call 911 immediately and administer Naloxone if available.

Lifesaving Benefits of Naloxone

In the toolkit for combating opioid overdoses and overdose prevention, Naloxone stands out as a game-changer. This medication, a lifesaver, can pull someone back from the brink of an opioid overdose. Often known by its brand name, Narcan, Naloxone acts as an opioid antagonist, meaning it can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, restoring normal breathing and potentially saving a life. It may be administered as a nasal spray, and is safe and easy to use.

Its mechanism, though complex, can be distilled to its ability to block opioids’ effects on the brain temporarily. As the opioid crisis has intensified, the call for widespread Naloxone availability has grown louder, with many viewing it as an essential public health tool for intervention before first responders can arrive.

Many states have made Naloxone available without a prescription, and it’s recommended for those at risk of an overdose or their loved ones to have it on hand.

What You Can Do to Raise Awareness of Opioid Abuse

The opioid crisis, vast and multifaceted, requires a collective response. Raising awareness is not a solitary act but a communal endeavor.

Some ways you can help is by educating yourself and others about opioid addiction and its complexities. Wear a purple ribbon as a symbol of solidarity. Engage on social media platforms, sharing information and joining discussions.

From community seminars to personal conversations, every effort counts. Advocacy plays a pivotal role, pushing for policies that prioritize prevention, treatment, and support. On a personal level, understanding and compassion can make a world of difference and even save a life. By creating safe spaces for dialogue, we can chip away at the stigma surrounding addiction, fostering a more inclusive and empathetic society.

Recovery from opioid addiction is challenging but attainable. Treatment options range from medication-assisted treatments to cognitive behavioral therapy and support groups.

Get Help for Opioid Abuse Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, know that help is available. Riverside Recovery of Tampa offers comprehensive treatment programs tailored to individual needs. Our team of experts is dedicated to providing compassionate care and guiding individuals toward a path of recovery. Don’t wait; reach out today and take the first step towards a brighter future.