Seventy-eight Americans die every day due to opioid overdoses – more daily fatalities than car accidents. In 2014, the United States hit a record number of deaths due to reported drug overdoses from prescription pain relievers and heroin. Why does there continue to be an upward growth curve for these statistics? For starters, opioids and opiates are found in illegal drugs such as heroin, but are also used in many legal prescription medicines to reduce pain to the brain. Opioids are easily misused and can quickly lead to addiction and indeed, many patients are often unaware they are slowly becoming addicted as usage persists. If these prescription drugs are not taken as recommended by a doctor, they can be extremely dangerous and lead to an unknown addiction.
Opioid addiction is something we feel needs a lot of attention, as the residual effects on businesses, families, and much more are significant. Here are a few things you can do to address the issue responsibly:
1) Get educated
Many people don’t even know they are struggling with addiction. How do you know if you might have a problem? You are likely addicted to opioids when you notice physiologic withdrawal symptoms. If you crave or miss the medications or notice any changes in your behavior or decision making due to wanting more of the medication, or have problems financially, at work or in your relationships, it could be a sign of withdrawal. If these symptoms seem strangely familiar, set up an appointment with your primary care doctor or you can seek out advice your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The AWANE EAP Program offers confidential and personal service, and is available to our members.
2) Use only for short-term pain
In most cases, opioids are not intended to be used in a long-term treatment plan. Extensive usage of pain medications can lead to a quicker and more severe addiction. If patients build up a tolerance to a medication or progressively seek larger doses, it can indicate an addiction. To avoid addiction, these pain medications should be taken as directed by your doctor. If opioids are properly used and taken over a short period of time, they can be extremely helpful or potentially lifesaving.
3) Know the warning signs
It is important to be familiar with the warning signs of opioid addiction. Knowing these warning signs could potentially save a friend, family member or even yourself. These signs can include, but are not limited to:
- The disappearance of prescription drugs
- Changes in friends
- Increased secrecy
- Constricted pupils
- Slowed breathing
- Frequent borrowing of money.
4) Seek help
Whether you or a friend or family member has been affected by this epidemic, there is help available. The key thing is acknowledging the issue and reaching out for help. Help is available and effective, but the person needs to take the step. If you think you have a problem, look to your loved ones for support system and encouragement through the process. If you are concerned there could be a problem, seek assistance through programs in the workplace such as an EAP Program.
AWANE exists for the help of our member businesses and their employees. As people look for more ways to offer more to employees and also reduce costs, keep employees healthier and more productive, AWANE continues to provide best in class programs and solutions.
Please contact us today to learn more about our programs and how joining our Association will keep you ahead of the curve. Since 1929 we have supported businesses in the automotive, roads, fuel, and related industries and we continue to grow and enjoy great success!
Thanks to our friends at Amwell for contributing to this piece.