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opioid picReaching a national emergency, the opioid crisis is affecting communities from the smallest burg to the largest urban setting. Approximately 90 people in the United States pass away daily from an opioid-related overdose, and the numbers are increasing.

There seems to be a story in the news every week showing addicts slumped over in their cars or a young child in the street seeking help for a parent that has overdosed in the home. Ohio estimates the state will see 10,000 overdoses by the end of 2017.

Opioids are medications used to relieve active or chronic pain. These prescription medications include oxycodone, hydrocodone (Vicodin) and codeine. When abused, even a single large dose may cause an overdose or death.  Regular, long-term use of opioids can lead to physical dependence and/or addiction.

Prescription opioid addiction may then lead to heroin addiction, which is easier to obtain and cheaper to purchase. Heroin is a very addictive drug and is processed from morphine. Many heroin addicts turn to the narcotic drug after losing access to prescription pain medication.

Signs of opioid or heroin abuse include:

  • Constricted, pinpoint pupils
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Nodding out
  • Itching and scratching
  • Use of laxatives
  • Weight loss
  • Track marks on arms
  • Unhealthy appearance
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Problems in school
  • Loss of interest
  • Time away from home
  • Finding Ziploc bags
  • Finding spoons with burn marks
  • Disappearance of spoons
  • Aluminum foil with burn marks
  • Purchases returned for refund
  • Bottles of vinegar and bleach
  • Cotton balls
  • Missing money
  • Theft of household valuables

What can you do?

Be proactive. Lock up your medications and take inventory to record the name and amount of medications you currently have in the house.  Check regularly to make sure none is missing.  Educate yourself and your child about the most common abused medications, sedatives, stimulants and tranquilizers.

Communicate with your child the dangers of abusing these medications. Set clear rules and monitor frequently.  Be sure your child understands they are not to take prescription medications without a prescription.  Lead by example!  Share your knowledge, experiences and support with friends and parents.  Work together to ensure the safety of your children.

Last, but not least, dispose of old, leftover medications correctly. Many police departments have disposal bins for those types of medications.  Don’t just throw medications in the trash, down the drain, or flush down the toilet. Water treatment plants can’t remove all traces of drug residue from your drinking water.  A 2008 Associated Press investigation found pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans in 24 major metropolitan areas.

Dealing with the addicted person.

If you suspect your loved one may be using opioids, be open and non-judgmental in your conversation. Treat them as individuals, do not make assumptions, and do not move too fast.  Remind them you love them, are concerned, and are here to listen. Encourage them to seek treatment from professionals who are knowledgeable and skilled in treating drug abuse problems.

References:

https://whttp://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/narcotic-pain-medications#1ww.asam.org/advocacy/toolkits/opioids

https://web.extension.illinois.edu/unusedmeds/whatarethey/unwantedmedicine.cfm

Written by: Beth Stefura, OSU Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Mahoning County, Stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Donna Green, OSU Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

 

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