Opioids are a class of pain-reducing drugs (prescription pills). Opioids are highly addictive, and they change the way the brain works. Anyone can develop an addiction, even when opioids are prescribed by a health care provider and taken as directed. In fact, millions of people in the United States suffer from opioid addiction.
The rate of overdose deaths has risen alarmingly in recent years. According to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the numbers indicate that there were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during the 12-month period ending in April 2021, a 28.5% increase from the 78,056 deaths during the same period last year.
Unfortunately, the drug overdose epidemic continues to worsen and spread rapidly, and increasingly, there are strong synthetic drugs involved, usually combined with other substances.
The International Overdose Awareness Day is an event held on August 31st each year and aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma that comes with substance abuse-related deaths or health problems. During this day, different activities are held around the world to remember family and friends who have lost their lives due to an overdose of drug abuse.
Overdose deaths are preventable and for this to be possible, the community has to be part of efforts to inform, participate in the promotion of prevention resources or events, or be aware of what is happening around us to act when needed.
If we have the concern and willingness to learn about opioids, we can be agents of change in the community as we can identify potential individuals at risk of having an opioid use disorder and eventually an overdose.
Actively participating in the different activities that take place in our communities is another alternative we have to raise awareness about the importance of sharing information to prevent overdoses.
If we are empathetic, and we are aware that patients who suffer and struggle with opioid use disorders cry out for help but often do not find ways to say what they feel or do not find a person able to listen to them without judging them, we can help that person find the right medical care and treatment.
Undoubtedly, reducing the stigma in people who go through an opioid use disorder is something that we have to consider because we must know that these people do not choose to be in this condition, there are many factors present that lead patients to suffer from these diseases. Opioid use disorders can be treated, and for this to be possible, the patient needs the right information, and family and community support.
Stigma is a barrier to people from receiving the best care possible. Stigmatize people who have a disorder or addiction, which means limiting them to talk about what happens to them. Addiction is mistakenly thought to be due to unwillingness, but many times there are other situations around each person that prevent them from seeking treatment that will help them rebuild their life, relationships, and health. The economic situation, the level of family support, the availability of services, and so on, are some of the limiting situations that prevent the recovery of the patient's health and well-being.