Why the Risk for Opioid Overdose May Be Higher than You Think

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Opioid abuse and addiction continue to affect increasing numbers of individuals and families with each passing year. Whether used for treatment or recreational purposes, the effects of these drugs remain the same. If you or someone you love is abusing opioids, call 800-442-6158 Who Answers? for immediate treatment help.

Opioid drugs encompass a range of prescription pain reliever medications and illicit drugs, such as Vicodin, OxyContin and heroin. In addition to their high potential for abuse and addiction, opioid drug effects take on a life their own in terms of the vicious cycle of abuse that develops out of frequent drug use.

This opioid abuse cycle opens up the door for opioid overdose episodes to happen. For these reasons, anyone engaging in opioid abuse may well benefit from an understanding of how these drugs hijack the brain, making the likelihood of opioid overdose an ever-looming possibility.

Opioid Overdose Rates

Opioid Overdose

Irritability and depression can be experienced during opioid withdrawal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, opioid overdose rates have increased by 200 percent since the year 2000. With the development of newer and stronger prescription pain meds, more and more people have been exposed to the effects of these drugs. Couple this with the built-in potential for abuse these drugs carry, and opioid overdose rates stand to continue as is in the absence of newer approaches for treating pain symptoms.

Call our helpline at 800-442-6158 Who Answers? to see if your insurance will help pay your rehab costs.

The Opioid Abuse Cycle

The opioid abuse cycle takes root within the cumulative effects these drugs have on the brain’s chemical system. When ingested, opioids target neurotransmitter-producing cells in the brain, forcing the release of copious amounts of chemicals.

When taken as prescribed the risk for abuse and addiction remains low. Otherwise, repeated surges in neurotransmitter levels eventually create an imbalanced environment within the brain’s chemical system.

Once imbalances start to take shape, the brain becomes increasingly dependent on opioid effects to function normally. At this point, users start to develop withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia, depression and irritability that only work to perpetuate continued drug use. Meanwhile, the brain’s tolerance for opioids continues to rise, requiring increasingly larger dosage amounts to produce the drug’s desired effects.

Opioid Overdose Components

While the brain’s tolerance for opioids increases at an incredibly fast rate, the body’s major systems come to tolerate the drug’s effects at a much slower rate. Since opioids produce depressant-like or slowing effects, these differences in tolerance rates can cause serious health complications to develop, namely opioid overdose, according to the Connecticut Poison Control Center.

Opioid effects not only slow pain signal transmission rates, but also slow many of the body’s major systems, including;

  • Respiration
  • Heart function
  • Body temperature
  • Blood circulation

While the brain may have reached the point where it can handle an incredibly large dosage amount, one or more of the above systems can easily be overpowered to the point where normal functions cease. In most cases of opioid overdose, the body’s respiratory system shuts down and breathing stops. This can easily result in death.

Opioids and the Potential for Recovery


Once a person becomes addicted to these drugs, opioid overdose is the last thing on his or her mind. In effect, it’s this state of mind that leaves users so susceptible to opioid overdose. Under these conditions, the need for treatment help becomes more and more pressing with each passing day.

If you suspect you or someone you know may be at risk of opioid overdose and have more questions, or need help finding treatment that meets your needs, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-442-6158 Who Answers? to speak with one of our addictions specialists.

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