The Opioid Epidemic: OxyContin, Fentanyl and more

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Anyone who pays attention to the news is likely to be aware of the opioid crisis. When people use the word “opioid,” they are typically referring to a range of narcotics, some legal and some illegal. The Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, defines narcotics as drugs that act as pain relievers that also dull the senses. Opioids relieve pain but also often produce a sense of euphoria. The euphoria is thought to be the reason why so many people become addicted to these medications, which are often prescribed after an accident or surgery. Some people are unable to overcome the addiction and end up dying from an overdose. Educating people about the dangers of drugs, both prescribed and illegal, is essential so they understand the risks associated with these drugs. It’s also crucial that people realize the importance of following their doctor’s orders exactly when taking prescription pain medication and disposing of unused medicines correctly. Children also need to be taught to avoid other people’s drugs and know about the dangers of illicit drugs.

Heroin

Heroin is made from poppies and is an illegal drug. It is a highly addictive drug, and research suggests that around 23% of people who try heroin become dependent on the drug after the first hit. Treatment programs are available to help people quit using heroin. Often, people who become addicted to prescribed painkillers begin using heroin as their addiction worsens.

Morphine

Morphine was one of the first opioids to hit the market. It first became available in 1803 and is still used today to treat moderate to severe pain issues. It’s specifically prescribed to patients after surgery and during end-of-life treatment. Sometimes, patients don’t realize they’ve been prescribed morphine, as it may be prescribed under another name, such as MS Contin. People who become addicted to morphine usually begin injecting it into their veins. Intravenous drug use leaves users at a high risk of contracting illnesses such as Hepatitis B or C from dirty needles.

Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid painkiller available under a variety of brand names as pills, tablets, patches, and IV treatments. Some formulations, like the patches, are designed to constantly release small doses of the drug to help people in severe pain. Some addicts lick or suck the patches to get an immediate high.

Oxycodone

Oxycodone is sold under several brand names. It is an opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. Typically, it is taken by mouth. Oxycodone is often mixed with acetaminophen or aspirin; it’s the active ingredient in a host of painkillers, including Percocet. It was first sold in Germany in 1916.

OxyContin

OxyContin is an extended-release version of the narcotic oxycodone. Typically, it is prescribed after surgeries or for chronic pain. The DEA classifies oxycontin as a Schedule II controlled substance. Schedule II drugs can only be obtained with a prescription, and due to the opioid crisis, the DEA now monitors its distribution more than it monitors other Schedule II drugs.

Codeine

Codeine is used to treat coughing, diarrhea, and pain. Children in the United States have often been prescribed cough syrups that contain codeine, and this practice has come under criticism in recent years. Codeine was discovered in 1832, and it’s one of the most commonly taken opioid medicines.

Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone is sold under many brand names and is typically prescribed to treat long-term pain that is resistant to other medications. It is also used as a cough suppressant for adults. Hydrocodone was patented in 1923, but the long-lasting formulation currently used wasn’t available until 2013.

Demerol

Demerol is one of the brand names for the drug meperidine. It’s a synthetic opioid pain reliever that was first created in 1938 in Germany. It is used to treat moderate to severe pain. When first approved for medical use in 1943, Demerol was thought to be a safer alternative to morphine.

Opana

Opana is a brand name for the drug oxymorphone. Oxymorphone was first developed in Germany in 1914 and approved for use in the United States in 1959. It is highly addictive. The FDA requested that the manufacturer remove extended-release Opana from the market in 2017, saying that its benefits no longer outweighed its risks.

Percocet

Percocet was first approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 1976. It’s a brand name for a mixture of oxycodone and acetaminophen. Percocet is typically prescribed to treat moderate to severe short-term pain.

Vicodin

Vicodin is a brand name for a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Typically, it is prescribed for post-surgical pain and moderate to severe acute or chronic pain. It’s available in an oral solution and as a tablet in various strengths. Vicodin is one of the most abused prescription drugs.

Tramadol

Tramadol is sold under various brand names, including Ultram and Conzip. In the past, it was also sold as Ryzolt. It is typically prescribed to treat moderate pain. Tramadol was created in Germany in the 1970s and entered the United States in the mid-1990s. As of 2016, it was the 39th most prescribed medication in the U.S.

Kratom

Kratom is an extract from a tropical tree and is used in Eastern medicine. Kratom has opioid-like properties. There’s been little scientific study of the effectiveness and safety of Kratom, but what research has been done has found troubling safety concerns.