Statistics on Opioid Use & Dangers of Opioid Abuse

Reports on opioids in the US continue to elucidate interesting facts on opioid use and abuse. With opioid use at an all time high in the US, more research is being performed to show some of the issues surrounding abuse. In fact, pain in America now represents an $550 billion industry, with approximately 1/3 of citizens currently dealing with a pain problem. The more we know, the better.

Research shows narcotic use is higher among the less educated and unemployed. A recent report in the American Journal of Medicine specifically looked at fibromyalgia patients receiving opioids for their pain. There was an increased incidence of unemployment, disability payments, and history of substance abuse. Also, the statistics showed overall lower education and an increased incidence of unstable psychiatric disorders. The study was not small and contained over 450 patients, so the results were most likely valid despite potential statistical variances.

Patients in chronic pain are likely to take opioids for multiple years. A study done at the Universities of Washington and Arkansas showed when patients are prescribed opioids for chronic pain, they are likely to still be taking them 5 years later. Interestingly, there were 2 factors that lead to the continued usage. One was if the patient had been prescribed the drugs before, and the other was if the patients were prescribed doses in excess of 120 milligrams of morphine. Of note, that is a hefty dose.

Older adults can suffer from pneumonia from opioids. In patients between the ages of 65 and 94, recent research has shown a link between narcotics and pneumonia. The project looked at those patients contracting pneumonia and whether those folks had taken narcotics or benzodiazepines prior to contracting the illness. The results were impressive, with 14% of the patients with pneumonia having taken opioids prior, compared with only 8% in the control group (who did not have pneumonia). Individuals were 3 times more likely to contract pneumonia within the first 2 weeks of taking narcotics.

Dangers of Opioid abuse

  • Nausea

Opioid abuse can make an individual experience nausea with or without vomiting. Opioids affect the brain and gastrointestinal tract that causes nausea. Young women are found to be at more risk of developing nausea due to opioid abuse.

  • Constipation

Opioid drug abuse can result in severe constipation for many people. The opioid induced constipation is almost universal and may remain for a longer time. Opioids affect the CNS and myenteric plexus of gut and slows down the passage of stool through the intestinal tract. The constipation due to opioid abuse might become very severe that sometimes emergency surgery is required to remove the fecal impaction from the body. 

  • Vomiting

Opioid abuse affects the part of brain that controls vomiting and makes you vomit. Even patients starting opioids for genuine reasons experience vomitings. Usage of opioids without prescription can cause adverse vomitings.

  • Dry mouth

One of the adverse effects of opioid abuse is dry mouth. Opioid abuse decreases the amount of saliva in your mouth. It reduces the production of saliva making your mouth feel dry and uncomfortable.

  • Itching and Sweating

Opioid drugs release histamines, secretions released by the human immune system during allergic reactions in the body. This can result in itching. Opioids abuse can cause excessive sweating. These drugs make you lose large amounts of sweat. The excessive sweating due to opioid abuse causes cold or clammy skin.

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