Today is National Overdose Awareness Day and the Huntsville OPP is launching a five day opioid public awareness campaign with a focus on prescription opioids.
Prescription opioids are medications prescribed by a healthcare professional most often to treat pain from medical conditions, such as injuries, surgery, dental procedures, cancer or long-term chronic pain. However, when these powerful drugs are misused, they can cause harm.
Prescription opioids are available in various forms in Canada, including tablets, capsules, syrups, solutions, liquid form or injection, skin patches, transmucosal preparations, suppositories and nasal sprays.
What are common prescription opioids?
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®)
- Oxymorphone (Opana®)
- Morphine (Kadian®, Avinza®)
Popular slang terms for opioids include Oxy, Percs, and Vikes.
How do prescription opioids affect the brain?
Opioids bind to and activate opioid receptors on cells located in many areas of the brain, spinal cord, and other organs in the body, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure. When opioids attach to these receptors, they block pain signals sent from the brain to the body and release large amounts of dopamine throughout the body. This release can strongly reinforce the act of taking the drug, making the user want to repeat the experience.
What are some possible effects of prescription opioids on the brain and body?
In the short term, opioids can relieve pain and make people feel relaxed and happy. However, opioids can also have harmful effects, including:
Opioid misuse can cause slowed breathing, which can cause hypoxia, a condition that results when too little oxygen reaches the brain. Hypoxia can have short- and long-term psychological and neurological effects, including coma, permanent brain damage or death. Researchers are also
investigating the long-term effects of opioid addiction on the brain, including whether damage can be reversed.
Prescription Opioids and Seniors:
Seniors may be at a greater risk of opioid poisoning, hospitalization, addiction or opioid-related harms.
Older adults are at higher risk of accidental misuse or abuse because they typically have multiple prescriptions and chronic diseases, increasing the risk of drug-drug and drug-disease interactions, as well as a slowed metabolism that affects the breakdown of drugs.
Misuse of prescribed opioids can include:
Taking more medication than prescribed.
Taking the medication more often that prescribed.
Taking the medication for reasons they were not prescribed (ie. Emotional pain or loneliness).
Risks and side effects of taking opioids:
Risk of an overdose.
Increased risk of interactions with alcohol and other drugs.
Increased tolerance (need more medication for same pain relief) and dependence (have symptoms of withdrawal when medication is stopped).
Increased risk of falling due to drossiness and altered balance.
Serious risk of addiction and overdose, especially with long-term opioid use.
Managing your medications:
Consult with your healthcare provider to determine if there is an alternative medication to use other than an opioid.
Only use as prescribed.
Have your healthcare provider or pharmacist review all of your medications annually.
Store prescription opioids in a secure place and out of reach of others.
Return any unused medication to pharmacy for safe disposal.
If you suspect an overdose, stay, call 9-1-1 and save a life. Visit www.opp.ca/opioids to learn more.