Every day, 140 individuals in the United States die of a drug overdose, 91 of them specifically due to opioids. 

 

Opioid addiction is an epidemic that has spread like wildfire across the United States, devastating communities, and forever changing the lives of those affected.

 

Most of us know someone who has faced addiction and maybe even lost their life to it. The death toll due to opioid overdose continues to rise, and that’s why at Seeking Hope, we’re focusing on how each of us can use emotional first aid to make a difference and save a life.

conversation about emotional trauma

What Is The Opioid Epidemic?

The opioid epidemic specifically refers to the growing number of deaths and hospitalizations from opioids, including prescriptions, illicit drugs, and analogs. Common types of opioids include heroin, oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone. 

In recent years, death rates from these drugs have ramped up to over 40,000 a year, or 115 a day, across the U.S. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, largely due to the opioid epidemic. The opioid epidemic first gained notoriety around 2010, but the factors behind it had begun several years earlier.

Every day, opioid overdoses take the lives of our family, neighbors, classmates, and friends. And, according to an analysis conducted by The Health Initiative, the number of opioid deaths is continuing to peak, and there is no end in sight.

Opioid addiction is a disease. 

Addiction, also called opioid use disorder, is a serious medical condition. It is a chronic, relapsing brain disease with symptoms that include compulsive seeking and use of the drug, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive behaviors. While the initial decision to use drugs is mostly voluntary, addiction often takes over and impairs a person’s ability to self-regulate. 

opioid crisis

How to Avoid Opioid Dependence

If you or someone you care for lives with depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition, here are a few things you can do to avoid dependency on opioids:

 

 

1. Care for your mental health

 

writing emotional self care

Avoid using opioids as a mental health treatment. Instead, see a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health professional to discuss a different therapy that may work for you. Treatment may involve antidepressant medications, counseling, and social support.

 

 

2. Follow directions

If you need to take opioids after surgery or an injury, use only the amount your doctor prescribed. Once you’ve finished the dose or you’re no longer in pain, stop taking the medication. Staying on these drugs for less than two weeks makes you less likely to become dependent on them.

 

 

3. Watch for signs of dependence

If you’re taking larger doses of the opioid to get the desired effect, you may be dependent. Going off the drug will lead to withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, vomiting, diarrhea, and shaking. See your doctor or an addiction specialist to help you stop using these drugs.

 

This epidemic is far from over. But every one of us has a part to play in this epidemic. Just by listening and being kind to somebody, you can make a difference in their lives. 

emotional support

Take Action Today

The statistics say it all.

It is more important now than ever that everyone is trained in Emotional First Aid to have the wisdom and tools to respond during a crisis. Sometimes all it takes to make a difference in the life of someone living with a mental health or substance use challenge is knowing how to start the conversation.

The CARES online program can help you recognize and respond to moments of crisis, like an opioid addiction or someone experiencing an overdose. 

The training is designed for individuals, professionals, and organizations who are working to prepare and have a plan in place for crisis and the after-effects of trauma.

Your training will challenge your perspective on crisis and prepare you for the realities that interrupt the flow of life in you and in almost everyone around you on a daily basis.