The COVID epidemic has taken up a good deal of real estate in the news and other media, and its coverage has largely drowned out talk of a different, equally dangerous type pandemic of sorts. Although it’s not exactly obscure, attention to the Opioid Crisis has waned in the media, but it’s still a pressing issue. Unlike other, similarly widespread drug abuse issues, the opioid crisis is unique in how diverse its victims are; it’s not bound by class or income level, nor age or background of any sort. Some of the reasoning behind this is apparent enough- unlike other “hard” drugs, they’re regularly, and legally prescribed in medical settings. When someone mentions the word “opioid”, the first drug in particular that comes to mind is usually, but most opioid users don’t start there. Oftentimes, users will be introduced to opioids through legitimate means; an Oxycodone, Oxycontin, or Vicodin prescription following a medical procedure, usually some form of surgery. This isn’t to say that opioids don’t have genuine uses in medicine; it would be unethical for doctors to expose certain patients to pain unnecessarily.
Especially for individuals that require repeated surgeries, the euphoric and pleasant feeling that often accompanies opioid use can be tempting to pursue again and again. Interestingly enough, Purdue Pharmaceutical, the creator of Oxycontin, recently lost a major legal battle. When Oxycontin was originally marketed to healthcare professionals, it was advertised as revolutionary and nonaddictive- something we now know (and Purdue knew then) to be utterly false. This follows a predictable trend- Heroin was originally marketed and sold by Bayer in the late 1800’s- as a “safe” alternative to morphine. With that said, in false advertising in some areas, opioids are still a necessary part of medicine and post-surgical recovery, in particular. Obviously, addiction is far from guaranteed to occur when taking opioids as prescribed, and many individuals even dislike the feelings associated with them, preferring to grit their teeth and bear the pain of post-op recovery. But what options are there for those that attempt to pursue that euphoric rush after their prescription runs out? How can one get back on the right path after they find other, illegal means of attaining it? Next week, Part II will cover the history and options of and for recovery from opioid abuse.