Opioid abuse and opioid addiction have led to an opioid crisis in the United States. Every day, 90 Americans die from an opioid overdose. Therefore, protecting teens from opioid abuse has become a national priority.
Opioids are an addictive class of narcotic drugs that include heroin, synthetic fentanyl, and legal prescription painkillers. They are chemically similar to the alkaloids found in opium poppies, the source plant of these drugs. Opioids work by binding to the opioid receptors in the central nervous system and the brain, leading to a surge in the neurotransmitter dopamine, which reduces pain and increases pleasure. Prescription opioids include codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Opioid abuse and opioid addiction are products of the drug’s intensely euphoric effects.
Additional symptoms of opioid abuse include drowsiness, vomiting, pinpoint pupils, and itching or flushed skin. Moreover, the misuse of illicit opioids and prescription painkillers can lead to overdose incidents and death. Although an opioid overdose can be reversed through the administration of the opioid antagonist drug naloxone, the window for saving a life is short.
Well-known opioid brand names include Dilaudid, Vicodin, Demerol, and OxyContin. Typically prescribed as painkillers, such drugs often are diverted for opioid abuse. Repeated use of opioids increases the risk of developing a serious drug problem, as opioid abuse quickly leads to opioid addiction. Due to the intense withdrawal symptoms, opioid addiction is difficult to overcome.
Sources: National Institute on Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency