In the United States, opioid abuse and addiction is regarded as a nationwide epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 130 Americans die every day, overdosing on opioids. Within the state of Indiana alone, opioid overdose deaths have been on the rise, specifically in the counties of LaPorte, Porter, and Starke. As a way to educate the general public and those battling the epidemic, here is some helpful information about opioids, potential risk factors, and where to find help for managing an addiction.

What are Opioids?
Opioids are a specific class of drugs that include both illegal and prescribed medications. These include heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and more. When prescribed by a physician, opioids are generally used to treat moderate-to-severe pain after surgery or injury, or pain caused by a health condition like cancer.

Throughout the body, there are proteins on our nerve cells called opioid receptors. These receptors are responsible for sending pain messages from the injured part of the body through the spinal cord to the brain, resulting in us feeling pain and discomfort. Opioids work by attaching to these proteins and blocking the messages from being sent, greatly reducing or eliminating the discomfort you feel.

If taken over an extended period of time, your tolerance can increase, resulting in the need for a higher dosage to effectively eliminate the pain. This tolerance can lead to dependency, which is essentially your body and brain believing the opioid is necessary for survival, and you become addicted to the good feeling it provides.

Potential Risk Factors
It can be said that anyone who takes opioids puts themselves at risk of developing an addiction. However, like any form of addiction, it is important to remember that every case is different, both in form and treatment. Though your personal history and exposure to opioids can play a significant role in addictive behavior, it can be difficult to predict what your tolerance or dependence might be towards drugs right away, regardless of what kind they might be.

Evidence suggest that opioids trigger a release of endorphins, which make the individual taking them feel-good and alters their perception of pain. When the dosage wears off, you might find yourself craving those good feelings, leading to addictive behavior. Through over-exposure, opioids can slow your production of endorphins, those feel-good emotions. Some known risk factors of opioid abuse and addiction include:

  • Chronic Pain
  • Depression, Stress, or Anxiety
  • Heavy Tobacco Use
  • Poverty
  • Unemployment
  • Family History of Substance Abuse
  • Trauma (physical, emotional, and/or psychological)
  • History of Criminal Activity or Legal Problems (including DUIs)
  • Prior Drug or Alcohol Rehabilitation

Treatment for Addiction
Unfortunately, there is no definitive way to prevent opioid addiction except to avoid the medication completely. Discuss other pain relief options with your doctor if you do not want to take prescription opioids. If you have been prescribed an opioid for pain relief, be sure to take them exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Once you feel you are able to manage your pain on a less addictive medication, stop using the opioids right away. Be sure to properly dispose of any extra medication by taking them to a Drug Take Back location or event for proper disposal.

With a mission to serve the needs of our communities struggling with opioid addictions, the HealthLinc Mobile Response Team (MRT) consist of law enforcement, emergency medical services, and a recovery coach to provide wraparound services and on-going support to individuals who have a substance use disorder and reside in the counties of LaPorte, Porter, and Starke. While each team member plays a unique role in battling the epidemic, the recovery coach, specifically, is assigned to each individual in the program and keeps them connected to Medication Assisted Treatment, support groups, primary care appointments, transportation, and/or counseling services based on their specific needs. To date, our MRT has received more than 174 referrals.

At HealthLinc, we believe good health should be a priority for everyone. We offer services such as convenient same-day appointments, telemedicine appointments, physical examinations, health and wellness education, insurance enrollments and more. Our mission is to eliminate barriers to health care and give our patients the respect and care they need to move forward and live their best life, beyond opioid addiction. If you or someone you care for is interested in seeking help, please call 1-888-580-1060 (press 0 to make a referral) or email us today to learn more.