Picture this: a man and a woman barely conscious in the front seat of a car, with the woman’s 4-yearold grandson sitting in the back seat. The situation spells a drug overdose. Hard to believe? In reality, this scene is a description of a widespread photo of a case in 2016, where authorities stopped a car in East Liverpool, Ohio. Unfortunately, cases like these aren’t very uncommon. According to the Ohio Department of Health, the number of opioid-related deaths skyrocketed from 296 in 2003 to 2,590 in 2015 — a 775 percent jump over a 13-year period. Many believe it is mostly an issue in Southern Ohio but that is not the case; it is an epidemic that is spreading throughout the entire state.
Opioids cover a huge variety of drugs, ranging from legal drugs such as fentanyl, codeine and morphine to illegal drugs such as heroin and opium. They are highly addictive and they are meant to block pain, slow breathing and create an overall relaxed physical and mental state, according to drugabuse.com. They work by attaching to receptors in the body, and they can cause large amounts of dopamine to be released. “Drugs, such as opioids can affect a person’s feelings of motivation, emotion and feelings of pleasure. When a person is experiencing a high from drug use, it can cause the individual to experience hallucinations, paranoia, impaired judgement and loss of self control,” Kathleen Smith, a trauma nurse at the OhioHealth Grant Medical Center in downtown Columbus said. Smith works with adult patients who have undergone different traumatic experiences such as gunshots or drug overdoses.
“Addiction to opiates such as painkillers like Percocet, Vicodin and Oxycodone can cause severe constipation and gastrointestinal conditions with long-term use. Short-term effects from opiate use may cause nausea, slurred speech, drowsiness and blurred memory,” Smith said.
The addiction and use of drugs and opioids does not limit itself to any specific age or gender. However, men are more likely to use drugs than women, according to drugabuse.com, It also has been shown that teenagers are extremely attracted to the opioid pill for a new high.
“As the younger population continues to experiment with drugs such as marijuana or prescription drugs, it often leads to the use of ‘harder’ drugs such as heroin,” Smith said. A drug overdose has many effects on a person’s body such as drowsiness, change in respiratory status, confusion, chest pain, seizures and death, according to The Better Health Channel. Drug overdoses are very severe, and often times, people end up in the hospital. It not only affects one’s physical and mental health, but it can affect the lives of family and friends as well.
“I have taken care of patients who have been admitted to the hospital as a result of a drug overdose, whether it being from alcohol, prescription medications or heroin. If the overdose was severe enough, it required the administration of the opiate antidote, Narcan, to reverse the effects of the drug in the body,” Smith said.
Withdrawal, or the symptoms that occur when stopping the use of a drug, can have many side effects. People are often times worried about discontinuing the use of opioids and other drugs due to the symptoms that could occur.
“Opiates are extremely addictive and often times, people say they experience symptoms such as nausea, fatigue and hallucinations when they don’t have them in the response to withdrawal,” Columbus police officer who asked to remain anonymous said.
Drug overdose and addiction is a problem that is continuing to spread like wildfire. However, many people in the community such as police officers, nurses and news anchors are working to make people more aware of the effects of opioids and the epidemic that is taking over Ohio.