This is actually a REALLY GOOD question! Most of the time, when terminology starts making its way around media outlets, we tend to miss out on the explanations or definitions of such. Nowadays, in the world of prevention, the new challenge to overcome and the new “term” to learn (and teach), is the one surrounding the “opioid epidemic”. I have found that in talking to high school students about opioids, many of them were… well… clueless! They had no idea what this meant. As a matter of fact, many of them didn’t even know what these drugs were called until we began talking about it. Once we got into the subject and the names of some well-known opioid-bearing drugs like Vicodin, Percotet, Fenanyl, Morphine or OxyContin. When these names came up, most of them were like “Oooh! I’ve heard of that!” and then… the look of confusion set in their eyes. They weren’t sure as to why we were discussing these prescription drugs. But, after a little while. they completely understood why we were on the topic. In every room (averaging 30 students each), at least 5 of them had taken these drugs for pain in the past. Some were given prescriptions for broken limbs or for wisdom tooth-issues. Then, at least one of them stated they had heard of other students or peers misusing these drugs. That opens up and reveals the reason for this lesson for high school students.
Much of the time, there is a feeling of “safety” when it comes to opioids. Since a doctor has to prescribe these pills, teens and most adults, feel that they are “safe” to use. Obviously, as the eyes of the world begin to open regarding the dangers of these drugs, we now know that this is FAR from the truth!
Currently, in the United States, there are 129 drug overdose deaths per day. 61% of these deaths are related to pharmaceutical opioids or heroin. Nearly one in five teens say that they have used prescription medicine to get high, in their lifetime. THESE are some VERY staggering numbers coming from prescription medications that are and always have been looked at as “safe”.
To keep our kids healthy, we subject them to playing sports. Some of these sports can be quite physically involved. So, injuries are bound to happen. Whenever these injuries are treated, more than half of the time, pain control medications will be prescribed. The problem here is that if there are some underlying emotional or psychological issues going on with the patient, taking these medications can prove to be a good “outlet” for their internal pain as well. This is usually when the misuse of prescription medication begins. As a matter of fact, seldom heroin addiction begins this way as well. Once the opioids are no longer attainable, heroin usually becomes the next unfortunate option.
In order to get ahead of this beast-in-the-making, as a community, we must all learn the importance of the drugs that we take or allow our kids to take. We must also talk to our kids. Make sure that they’re not feeling stressed or depressed about anything. Let’s keep the communication channels open so that something like an opioid addiction can be averted.
At the same time, let’s also learn about alternative ways to deal with, or help our kids deal with pain. There are “holistic” methods for pain control available that can be better for the body and cause less stress on our system, than opioids can. You can learn more about the holistic approach to pain management right HERE. WebMd has a list of great methods to try.
In conclusion, remember that pain is temporary… but an addiction is for life!
For more information, please watch this video regarding opioid misuse and the epidemic we’re facing.