Opiods : A Deep Crisis

For the past 20 years opiods have been a big crisis in the United States. Prescription rates for opiods have been falling since the year 2011. The factor that really alarmed me when I read this is that the number of opiod-related deaths kept rising exponentially.Deaths involving opioids are now responsible for more deaths in the United States than car accidents or gun-violence incidents. For a lot of years the death toll related to opiods was at the same rate as the opiod prescriptions but the same cannot be said for the last few years. Thanks to the addictions the opiods cause due to their strength it has opened the way for huge underground illegal market. It has also helped create a market for stronger and more dangerous illicit drugs such as heroin , which is an opiod often cut with fentanyl or any other drug the vendors can mix it with ao they gain more profit for less.After a sharp rise in deaths caused by heroin overdose ,those linked to fentanyl are skyrocketing. Before , opiod addictions usually started out with prescriptions , but as the prescription rates stopped increasing in 2011 many people progressed to illicit opiods like heroin. Since 2011 the number of opiod addictions that started thanks to heroin has been rising intensely. Opioids can provide strong pain relief, or analgesia, but they are also extremely addictive. The benefits and risks of taking prescription and illicit opioids arise from the activation of a signalling system used by the brain to regulate numerous functions.

There are several types of opioid receptor in cells. Prescription and illicit opioids activate the μ-opioid receptor (μOR), which inhibits the activity of neurons by two main signalling pathways. The power of opioids comes from their ability to block pain signals in several locations, this is defined as ANALGESIA. Opioid dependence is a result from the euphoric and rewarding effects of taking opioids, and also from the desire to escape the effects of withdrawal. Crucial μORs are found in the midbrain, from where they trigger the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. μORs in the brain’s respiratory center suppress breathing. Overactivation of these receptors is defined as an overdose and can lead to death. If we are to put a stop to this crisis , there is a lot of work to be done on many levels. One of the areas that will demand a lot of work and concentration is decreasing dependence. These are some approaches that might help reduce dependence and addiction rates:
– treatment programs
– a weaker opioid to be prescribed
– counseling and social support
-Better care and vigilance over the patients (physically and mentally)
– Scientists are studying opioid-induced changes in neurons to help develop new ways to combat this epidemic and wean people off the drug.
Another approach to this increasing crisis is Harm Reduction. When patients who are prescribed opiods get their prescription cut off they are more likely to turn to the underground market to acquire illicit drugs that cause even more harm to their bodies. Harm Reduction consists of a treatment program in which the opiod dependent patients are slowly weaned off the drugs over a period of time. These include:
– Needle-exchange services
– fentanyl- contamination testing kits
-naloxone (a medication that blocks the effects of opioids) can reduce disease transmission and overdose among opioid users.

. An example of Harm Reduction Treatment that was well executed was in 2011 , in Scotland. Scotland launched a program to issue naloxone to opioid-dependent people on their release from prison. This program has helped provoke a decline in overdose deaths that happen in the month following the release of these prisoners.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02682-6

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