Substance abuse disorder is a challenging mental health problem that has become a major cause for concern due to the rising number of overdose related fatalities. We are in the middle of the most serious and destructive epidemic the US has ever known. Though there are a number of substances that are addictive and dangerous, the main substances that have fueled these rising numbers of overdoses are opioids. Opioids are pain medications that derive from the opium poppy, and their synthetic versions. In the early 90s, there was a sharp increase in the prescribing of opiates for non-cancer pain. Pharmaceutical companies assured doctors that these medications had a low potential for addiction. By the the year 2000, the medical field and law enforcement became aware of the high increase of prescription opiate abuse and diversion (sharing of medication to those not prescribed). Overdoses and substance abuse steeply increased, and by the mid 2000s government regulations greatly reduced the over prescribing of pain medication. As prescription opioids became harder to obtain, people turned to heroin, which is a cheap, widely available, and potent illegal opiate. By 2013, opiate-related overdoses sharply began to rise again - this time due to the addition of fentanyl, which is illicitly manufactured, non-medical grade, and up to 50 times more potent than heroin. Opiates are known to change the physical structure and function of the brain, and are highly addictive. It is virtually impossible for someone addicted to opiates to overcome their problem without help. Users experience devastating withdrawal symptom which are both physically and mentally painful. Most successful recoveries are achieved with in-patient rehab, followed by continued out-patient therapy, support group, and peer mentoring. Some people may need medically-assisted recovery using either methadone or suboxone. These medicines are controversial because they are also opiates, but recent medical studies have shown they can be helpful for people who are not able to control their cravings, Remember - these drugs permanently CHANGE the way the brain functions!
If you or a loved one has a problem with substance abuse, these are some resources that are available in Western N.C. for treatment options:
If you or someone you know is actively using opiates, especially heroin, PLEASE seek out help from a HARM REDUCTION organization. They can supply you with Narcan- a substance that can block opiates from binding to brain receptors and can possibly save a life during an overdose. They also provide a clean needle exchange and educational materials if you are ready to get help getting clean.