Last updated: December 4, 2023
Extractions from the poppy plant Physicians prescribe opioids to control acute pain—unfortunately, they’re highly addictive. As a matter of fact, it’s possible for someone to form an addiction to some opioid medications before they complete their post-surgery prescription.
It’s estimated that more than two million citizens here in the U.S. suffer from opioid use disorder.
- These people formed an addiction to an opioid,
- Formed a dependence on the drug, or
- Both may be true.
However an opioid disorder affects someone, it’s dangerous.
Effects of opioid abuse
Opioids are narcotics and are listed on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) List of Controlled Substances. Oils extracted from the poppy plant are used to make drugs, such as morphine and heroin. Others, including oxycontin, oxycodone, and fentanyl, are synthetic opioids—in other words, they’re man-made.
When the medication travels through your bloodstream, it attaches to opioid receptors in your brain cells. Then, the cells release signals that diminish the perception of pain and boost your feelings of pleasure. That’s highly effective for treating acute pain. The patient can rest comfortably and that accelerates the healing process.
However, the feelings of euphoria are what keep people going back for more. It’s also the reason that people who aren’t under the care of a physician start using opioids. The problem is that the brain quickly forms a dependence on these drugs. In other words, it accepts the feelings of being normal and when it doesn’t detect the drug’s presence, it sends out stress signals.
If someone realizes they’re craving the drug or they’re dreading running out of their pills and the doctor refuses a refill, they may turn to the black market.
Today, the risk that they will suffer cardiac arrest, overdose—and, even, death—is greater than ever. And, opioid overdose was already the leading cause of death for people aged 25 to 64 years of age.
Cardiac arrest isn’t a heart attack
Opioids can cause a number of heart-related complications because they affect the heart’s electrical activity. One reason for this is that opioids change the rate of breathing. That could alter the heart rate or increase the risk of arrhythmias.
People suffering atrial fibrillation, for example, can experience:
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat in the upper chambers
We’ll note that people taking methadone are at risk of developing a life-threatening heartbeat. It’s called “long QT interval.” The condition causes a delay in the amount of time that it takes the heart to recover between beats. This leads to fainting and sudden cardiac arrest.
When people overdose on opioids, their breathing and heart rate slows down. The brain doesn’t get enough oxygen and eventually the heart stops. It can cause lasting brain damage if the person is resuscitated, as well.
Opioid-related cardiac arrests
Back in 2018, a nationwide study was conducted which examined the trends and outcomes of opioid-related cardiac arrest between 2012 and 2018. The US Nationwide Readmissions Database (NRD) was used to study all hospitalizations for cardiac arrest in those who tested positive for opioids upon admittance—noting chronic opioid users—compared to cardiac arrests in patients not taking opioids.
The data showed that the number of opioid-related cardiac arrests rose sharply during that time frame and by 2018, it equaled the rate of cardiac arrest from other causes.
It’s possible that opioid-related cardiac arrest now dominates the ratio since the pandemic set in. Opioid-related overdose deaths increased by the thousands as people struggled to cope with the drastic changes in their lives brought on seemingly overnight. Still, though, now that things are evening out, addiction continues to plague the nation.
We refuse to give up, that’s what.
Education is the first step in prevention. Knowledge gives young people and those already in the workforce the tools they need to make informed decisions. Providing information about the dangers of drug use and the effects addiction has on someone’s life helps some decide to never try drugs or alcohol. That way, they avoid the possibility of getting hooked. This seems especially true among those who grew up with an addictive-prone parent.
It gives others the courage to seek help.
Get out your phone or a pen and paper and contact your congressmen and women. It’s high time—no pun intended—that we regain control at the border. Illegal drugs, such as fentanyl, are entering the country in abundance. Drug dealers are scooping up the illegal drug, fentanyl, and cutting it into the drug they have for sale to increase their bulk.
Of course, they don’t bother to tell their customers that.
And, they’re dying because of it.
If you suspect someone formed an addiction to opioids—or any medication—at work, report it immediately.
It’s the right thing to do.
You can remain anonymous and supervisors will take it from there.