Education and Prevention on Opioids

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  • Transcript

    Last Updated: November 3, 2023

    SUPE:Hey guys! This is SUPE, the gentle dragon. Today, we’ll go over one of the most, if not the most, dangerous drug, which has caused more overdose deaths than any other drug, creating an overdose epidemic in the United States and other countries. I’m talking about opioids and more precisely, Fentanyl. We’ll teach you everything about it and how to protect yourself and others against it. I’ll leave you with Bob and Michael.

    Bob: Hello Michael! Hi Guys! Michael, do you know what opioids are?

    Michael: I know it’s a drug, and it’s very dangerous.

    Bob: You’re right Michael. So, let me give you more info about it. Let’s look at what an opioid is. Opioids can be made from the poppy plant or in a laboratory. Also, an opioid drug may contain both naturally derived and synthetic ingredients. All opioids work similarly. They activate an area of nerve cells in the brain and body called opioid receptors that block pain signals between the brain and body. They’re usually used to treat moderate to severe pain. A receptor is a molecule inside or on the surface of a cell that binds to a specific substance and causes a specific effect in the cell.

    Michael: I always wondered what the word receptor meant.

    Bob: That’s good Michael. You should always clear up any words you don’t understand. You become more intelligent when you do so. [laughs] Opioids are generally prescribed by doctors. They’re also a popular illegal street drug. Many people become dependent on and addicted to opioids by misusing their prescription pain medication. The scary thing is, opioid dependence can happen after just five days of use. When they can no longer get a prescription from a doctor, people have cravings and withdrawal symptoms, forcing them to buy street-level opioids.

    Michael: Wow that’s crazy!

    Bob: I know, right? And this is why SUPE wanted everyone to be aware of it. Now let’s look at this picture. This is how much Fentanyl is needed to kill you. So when you buy it on the street, a small error in quantity can be fatal. Researchers have found that taking opioid medications for more than a few days increases your risk of long-term use, which increases your risk of addiction. The odds you’ll still be using opioids a year after starting increases after only five days on opioids.

    Michael: But I wonder why people get addicted to it more than other types of drugs.

    Bob: Good question Michael! Let me give you a scenario of how someone can become addicted. Joe has an accident playing sports, and he breaks his knee. He gets surgery and is in pain. He’s being prescribed an opioid. After a few days, his body begins to tolerate the medication. Drug tolerance occurs when someone’s body or brain no longer responds to a prescription or recreational drug in the same way it once did. Tolerance does not mean someone is addicted. In many cases, tolerance happens when someone has been taking a particular drug for an extended period. The receptors or enzymes in their brain and body are less activated by the drug, so it’s not as effective. That means that to experience the same effects they initially did, they need to increase their dosage.

    Michael: I didn’t know that. Mr. Bob, I think, I think SUPE wanted to say something.

    SUPE: Hey guys! Now, let’s take a break and let’s do some HIIIISTORYYY! Yeah! Opioids have a long history in our society. It can be traced back to 6000 B.C. when ancient civilizations cultivated opium poppy and used it as an analgesic. Fast forward to the 1500s, opium was widely available in Europe and other parts of the world. It was known as the drug that cures all. In the 1800s, morphine was made from opium and used as a pain and cough medicine. During the American Civil War, many experts believe the first American opioid epidemic began. Injured soldiers were given morphine and developed life-long addictions. By the end of the 19th century, heroin was developed from morphine because scientists were looking for a less addictive pain medication. [laughs] It wasn’t until the 1900s that morphine became regulated. Yet, by the 1940s, synthetic opioids were being developed, which paved the way for drugs like oxycodone or fentanyl. Back to you, Bob!

    Bob: Thanks SUPE. Now, let’s look at the side effects of opioids.

    • Sleepiness
    • Relaxation
    • Euphoria
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Constipation
    • Slowed breathing, which can result in hypoxia, a potentially dangerous reduction of oxygen circulating in the body.

    Michael: That’s a lot!

    Bob: It is Michael. Now let’s jump to Preveeeeention! [coughs] Excuse me.

    • Opioids are the safest when used for three or fewer days to manage acute pain, such as pain that follows surgery or a bone fracture. If you need opioids for acute pain, work with your doctor to take the lowest dose possible, for the shortest time needed, exactly as prescribed.
    • If you are prescribed any other medication while on opioids, let your doctor know.
    • Make sure opioids are in a safe place, and unused opioids are disposed of properly.
    • Be aware of the risk of addiction. Be informed about the risk of developing opioid dependence.
    • Take them as prescribed. Taking more opioid pain medicine than you need puts you at risk for side effects and possible overdose and death.
    • Don’t take medicines prescribed for someone else.
    • Don’t give away or sell your medicines.
    • Avoid alcohol and street drugs. Combining opioids with alcohol, marijuana, or using street drugs can cause severe harm or death.
    • Talk to your provider about decreasing your opioid medication.
    • It’s a good practice to keep Naloxone at home if you’re taking opioids. Keep your family and friends aware of it.
    • Use caution when driving or operating machinery. Sleepiness and confusion are common side effects of opioids. Don’t drive or operate machinery if you feel sleepy or confused. Alcohol and other sedating medicines can increase these symptoms.

    Michael: Wow! That was interesting!

    Bob: I’m glad it helped Michael. Now everyone, listen up. Never, ever buy any opioids on the street. These meds are not monitored. They can be cut with other drugs, which makes them very dangerous. A large percentage of overdoses in the U.S. and Canada are due to counterfeit Fentanyl. Again, buying drugs on the street is a game of Russian Roulette. From Xanax to cocaine, drugs or counterfeit pills purchased in nonmedical settings may contain life-threatening amounts of Fentanyl. I hope this video helped clarify a few things about opioids and can help you make informed decisions if you ever must use opioids. See you next time.

    SUPE: Hey guys! I’m back. Opioids are not drugs you can take lightly. Always take opioids very seriously and talk to your doctor about alternatives that are less addictive. I hope you enjoyed that video and live a drug-free life!

    Sources: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prescription-drug-abuse/expert-answers/what-are-opioids/faq-20381270
    https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/opioids
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prescription-drug-abuse/in-depth/how-opioid-addiction-occurs/art-20360372
    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/drug-tolerance#what-is-it
    https://www.umassmed.edu/news/news-archives/2022/05/what-is-fentanyl-and-why-is-it-behind-the-deadly-surge-in-us-drug-overdoses/
    https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/opioids#:~:text=Symptoms%20of%20opioid%20use%20include,risk%20of%20overdose%20and%20death.

Test Your Knowledge on Opioids

  • | Describe what opioids are in your own words.
      Get Answer Here — 0:51  
  • | What are opioids used for?
      Get Answer Here — 1:17  
  • | How long can it take to become dependent on opioids?
      Get Answer Here — 1:54  
  • | Describe what drug tolerance is.
      Get Answer Here — 3:02  
  • | Does drug tolerance mean someone is addicted?
      Get Answer Here — 3:12  
  • | What should you do if you are already on opioids and you are prescribed other medication?
      Get Answer Here — 5:36  
  • | Why should you never buy opioids on the street?
      Get Answer Here — 6:48  

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