The USA is currently in the middle of an opioid crisis. What is the opioid crisis? It’s the situation that we’re in where the frequency of opioids being abused and overdosed (causing many different problems) has rapidly increased. This essay will focus on how the opioid crisis began, the mental effects of opioids, the physical effects of opioids, and possible solutions to the crisis.
First, how did the opioid crisis begin? In the late ‘90s, drug producers (of medical drugs) told the medical community that the opioid pain relievers were not addictive. With this information, doctors started prescribing the medicines in greater quantities. The pain relievers were actually extremely addictive, and it soon became clear that they were. But it was too late to stop. Thousands of people had already died from an opioid overdose, and even more were addicted. Opioid overdose killed more than 42,000 people in 2016. Even prescription drugs have contained opioids and addictive qualities. Prescription opioids have been responsible for more than 40% of opioid overdose deaths. In fact, now “almost half of all opioid deaths in the U.S. now involve a prescription opioid” (drugabuse.gov). According to the CDC, “On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose”.
Many different studies that have been conducted all show that drugs are very harmful. There are many different types of drugs, and many different effects. Opioids are psychoactive drugs. Psychoactive drugs are drugs that affect your central nervous system and “alter your brain”, as Sara Bellum (teens.drugabuse.gov) puts it. These psychoactive drugs can create changes in mood, awareness, and behavior. They also can create more specific mental health problems like depression, psychosis, problems with sleeping, mood swings, and anxiety. There is also a second different mental problem related to drugs: substance-induced mood disorder. Substance-induced mood disorder can be caused by alcohol, prescription drugs and painkillers (including opioids), illegal drugs, and toxic chemicals. These substances could cause substance-induced mood disorder regardless of whether or not they were abused.
Most of the time, substance-induced mood disorder looks like other mood disorders, including: major depression, dysthymic depression, bipolar disorder, etc. But, unlike the other types of mood disorders, substance-induced mood disorder has, as Amy Gelman (in Coping With Depression and Other Mood Disorders) says, “a single, identifiable cause.” “These disorders must be treated somewhat differently from mood disorders that have organic physical and psychological causes,” Gelman continues. A third and final connection between drugs and affected mental health is the relationship between substance abuse problems and mood disorders. This is also covered in Coping With Depression and Other Mood Disorders. According to Amy Gelman again, “There are three basic types of relationships between mood disorders and substance abuse disorders.”
Those relationships are:
- the mood and substance abuse disorders are two different problems due to “similar biological and psychological causes” (Gelman)
- mood disorders cause substance abuse
- substance abuse causes mood disorders
There are a lot of different mental health effects stemming from opioids and just drugs in general. But, what about physical effects?
There are many different possible physical effects from taking opioids (none of which are good), some long term, some short term. The short term effects include “drowsiness, slowed breathing, constipation, unconsciousness, nausea, and coma,” says drugfreeworld.org. Long term effects can include dependence on and addiction to the drug. “The body adapts to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms occur if reduced or stopped”, drugfreeworld.org adds. Additional symptoms include “restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and cold flashes with goosebumps” finishes drugfreeworld.org in its article.