Opioid abuse is now a nationwide epidemic, despite efforts to curb addiction by increasing public awareness.
Opioids are highly addictive drugs that interact with opioid receptors in the brain to relieve pain and produce a euphoric high. These drugs include heroin, fentanyl, codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone.
Drug addiction is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States today, and research shows that 20.5 million Americans had some kind of substance abuse disorder in 2015. Two million of these disorders involved prescription pain relievers.
Furthermore, 47,000 fatal overdoses were reported in 2017.
Opioids are affecting many Americans, infiltrating households and dividing families. Kids, teenagers and adults are all affected by this vicious group of highly dangerous narcotics. The death toll of opioid addiction has risen, coinciding with rising sales of prescription pain relievers.
Addiction to opioids can not only result in death or hospitalization, but trouble with the law, marital problems, or financial problems. Now, a new study has shown that long-term opioid abuse can lead to hormonal deficiencies in men. The study, led by researcher Amir Zamanipoor Najafabadi, found that one in five long-term opioid users also suffer from low levels of cortisol, which helps to regulate the body’s metabolism.
This can lead to lower sex drive in men, as well as mood swings, muscle loss and fatigue. During the study, Najafabadi found that 65 percent of men who had been using opioids on a long-term basis had developed chronically low testosterone levels. The data was based on 15 studies that had 3,250 total participants. For women, the drugs affected cortisol levels as well as prolactin—a hormone that stimulates milk production.
Studies also show that abusing opioids on a daily basis for over a month can have an adverse effect on the endocrine system, decreasing levels of growth hormone and gonadal sex hormones, also known as opioid-induced endocrinopathy.
As new studies continue to show, the effects of opioid abuse are many and can be debilitating. In order to stop this epidemic, it is crucial that addicts have access to treatment and preventive measures.
Public information about the side effects of opioid abuse should not be withheld, to deter the use of opioids on a widespread basis. Many people are often prescribed opioid type drugs for severe pain, which can then lead to an addiction. Patients who use opioids long-term should get tested to see if they have any hormonal deficiencies. If so, appropriate treatment steps should be taken. Because the data is so new, many patients who use opioids are not aware they should also be getting endocrine checkups.
This new data on opioid abuse may deter someone in the future from seeking long-term pain management through opioids, which can lead to addictive behavior. Alternative options to pain control can be sought. Those who have a family history of addiction should also be careful when using opioids, as they may possibly be more at risk of developing a problem.
The opioid abuse problem has now become an epidemic, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.