There’s no question that Oklahoma suffers from a massive substance abuse problem. During the last decade, drug overdose death has only continued to rise. Now, they are at the point where almost 1,000 residents die each year because of an overdose. While the state is taking steps to reverse this impact, the problem still remains.
Opioid Statistics in Oklahoma
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 388 overdose deaths in 2017 were the cause of opioid use. This is lower than the national rate, but simply not small enough. Deaths from synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, have remained steady since 2010.
In 2017 alone, Oklahoma doctors wrote 88.1 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people. While this is on the decline, it’s still not good enough. Furthermore, NOWS (neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome) is on the rise. It went from 1.5 per 1,000 hospital births in 2004 to 8.0 per 1,000 hospital births in 2014. In the United States, a baby is born addicted every 15 minutes.
These statistics are staggering and point to a catastrophic epidemic in our country and our state.
Of all the states, Oklahoma isn’t afraid to fight back. In August 2019, the state won a landmark lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. This opened up the door for future lawsuits and hopefully, some further action. The judge ruled that Johnson & Johnson intentionally downplayed opioid dangers while praising the benefits. As part of the settlement, the company was ordered to pay the state $572 million.
What are Opioids?
The term opioid is used to describe painkillers (natural and synthetic) derived from the poppy plant. The similar term, opiate, refers to drugs that use natural opium poppy, such as heroin.
Physicians prescribe opioids to relieve pain from an accident, injury, surgery and toothache. Yet, studies prove that long-term opioid use is ineffective and only leads to addiction.
Some of the most recognized opioid drugs include:
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab)
- Fentanyl (Sublimaze, Actiq)
Addiction is the uncontrollable and compulsive use of drugs, despite the consequence. It occurs when the body adapts to a drug and causes withdrawal symptoms anytime that the drug use is discontinued or reduced.
Using high doses of opiate drugs for a prolonged time changes the brain and causes it to feel normal as long as the drug is present. This creates a drug tolerance and requires the user to take larger doses to achieve the same effects.
Most opioid users are seeking euphoria, but this effect diminishes as the abuse gets worse. Instead, they continue to take the drugs just to feel normal. At some point, this substance abuse becomes a form of torture for the user and no longer brings pleasure.
Opioids Destroy Families
The CDC has a section on their site dedicated to telling the stories from the victims of opioid abuse. One such story stood out to us. Ann Marie talks about her son Christopher who excelled at school and the baseball field. At the age of 20, he was involved in a car accident and prescribed opioids by the doctor for back pain. His tolerance multiplied and the doctor always gave him more until he was taking 25 pills per day.
Christopher’s mother highlights how his entire life changed. He went from being involved and close to his family to having trouble sleeping and not coming home at night. He also became combative and defensive. She attempted to get him help, but he was either kicked out for his bad behavior or turned away. Without help, the addiction only got worse until Christopher died from an overdose at the age of 22.
This may just be one story, but it’s commonly heard around Oklahoma. People with bright futures get caught up in opioid addiction. The sad part is that many times the usage starts because of the advice of a doctor or a trusted healthcare professional.
Without help, death is the projected outcome.
No More Suffering
With more help, this doesn’t need to be a familiar story happening in Oklahoma. It’s possible to recover from the effects of opioid abuse, but it requires compassion and hard work. While the legislators continue to take the battle to the courtroom and crackdown on the prescriptions in the first place, it’s time for us to care for our loved ones that are already in the battle.
You can seek help at treatment centers such as Arcadia Trails, where trained staff is there to walk you through the process of recovery. Now it is time to dig out of the hole. With medical help and emotional support, it is possible to recover from the effects of opioid abuse.
It doesn’t have to be the end of the road.