Pain Killer Addiction: The Silent Epidemic

Most of us are either naïve or just plain don’t care, but an epidemic is upon us and we’re all at risk. This beautiful flowering plant is the one to blame, the opium poppy. It alone, holds some of the most powerful and important chemicals known to man inside their tiny little bulbs, opioids.

A lot of us, myself included, have taken prescription pain medication. Whether it was Lortab for a sprained ankle, or Percocet after getting your wisdom teeth removed, opioid pain killers are used every day. But, did you know that the exact same plant that gave us the vital ingredients for the Lortab and Percocet is the same plant that the incredibly potent and addictive drug heroin comes from?

Heroin. The number one most addictive substance known to man. More addictive than crack cocaine, tobacco, or alcohol.

This is one powerhouse substance. It’s to blame for countless deaths, and millions upon millions of destroyed lives. It’s a drug that we strive to keep out of the hands of criminals, and loved ones alike. But, what if the illegal drug dealers are not the main culprits who are getting more and more people addicted to this deadly drug? What if the real person to blame is that friendly doctor in his white coat. The one that only wants to “get your pain level down”?

It began with a nagging, aching pain. It progressed into an innocent appointment at the local health clinic with a pain specialist. It moved forward to him writing me a prescription for a powerful pain med, OxyContin.
The surgery is finally done and I’m slowly healing. The pain is gradually going away…but for some reason I still look forward to that little pill every 4 hours.
The doctor tells me he’s going to slowly reduce the dosage on the pain med. Sounds easy enough.
Weeks go by and they have me down to 1 pill per day…
It’s day one without the pills…but why is it the only thing I can think about? It’s the only thing I think about anymore…when will this hunger go away?
“What’s wrong with me?” It’s been 2 days since you quit cold turkey. You’re throwing up and have the worst diarrhea of your life. Your heart feels like it’s beating out of your chest, like you’re having a heart attack. Your body aches like you’ve got the flu and just got ran over by a Mack Truck. You never knew your pain level could be at this level. You need something…something to take this feeling away or you feel like you’re going to die.
All it took was a quick Google search. You quickly come to find that Heroin is closely related to OxyContin. They’re both opioids and either one can take the pain away.

You remember you’ve seen people buying something from guy in a gray hoodie on the corner of 11th and Addison Blvd on your way home from work.

You pull up. He quietly asks in a hushed tone “H?”, you nod and shove 20 bucks into his rough hands. His cold dead eyes quickly dart around before he shoves 4 small, red balloons into your hand.

This, is where you become a heroin addict.

Stories like the fictitious one above are becoming a reality more and more everyday in America. A lot of people don’t know just how similar- and addictive prescription pain pills are vs. heroin, and likely never think about it. In an article called America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse on the’s website, succinctly points out-

“Because prescription opioids are similar to, and act on the same brain systems affected by, heroin and morphine, they present an intrinsic abuse and addiction liability.

This is an understatement. We’re talking about the most addicting chemical group known to man, Opioids.

Prescription pain medications are serious business, but there’s still a very important question that’s been left unanswered-

“How do pain medications affect the brain exactly, and why are they so addictive?”.

Great question. They affect the brain in many different ways. On the website Catalyst, in their article about the highly addictive drug OxyContin, titled Oxycontin on the brain, they give a brief description of what its like when you take the drug.

“A flurry of activity in the reward center, binding to neuro-receptors and telling our brain that we feel happy and at ease”
“When we cuddle, have sex, eat or go for a run, endorphins are generated which cause dopamine to be released into our limbic pathways”
“When endorphins are released, they are very fast-acting and quickly inactivated. When OxyContin is introduced to the nervous system, it has a much longer-lasting and potent effect.”

And this, is exactly why it’s so dangerous, and addicting.

In this graph from Business Insider’s website, shows just how many people are dying from prescription pain medication overdose.

As you can see there’s a steady and gradual incline in the deaths caused by opiod pain relievers shown here above from 1999–2013.

Something needs to be done, especially when something legal that you can get with a prescription is killing more people today than illegal drugs on the streets.

In an article by the Natural Society website titled Prescriptions Drugs Now the Leading Cause Of Death By Overdose, shockingly points out that 1 person dies roughly every 19 minutes from a drug overdose here in the United States. Shockingly, they also point out that-

“Opioid pain relievers are responsible for more overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin combined”.

Nalaxone. Not a lot of people have heard of this miracle drug, but you should get familiar with it. It’s an Opioid Receptor Antagonist. What that means, is it can stop a heroin/opiod overdose in 5 minutes!

More and more pharmacies around the country are letting you buy this medication without a prescription, in an effort to thwart this epidemic. This medication, literally save lives.

In closing, I want to add that the people you’ve seen throughout these pictures are not just random people, they are the people we interact with every day. My hope is that this will help to bring awareness, and open the eyes of people who are struggling with addiction, and to those that can offer them help.

Works Cited

“Opium Made Easy.” — BiodiverSeed. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. <>.

“Deadly Peas in a Pod: The Difference between Heroin, Morphine and Opium — Hooked Sober.” Hooked Sober. 2015. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. <>.

“I-290 The Heroin Highway.” The Windy City Word Chicago News. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. <>.

“The Blog O Solomon.” The Blog O Solomon. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. <>.

“What to Expect.” Whattoexpect. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. <>.

“Pakistan Drug Trade Blights ‘Land of the Pure’” — Home. 2013. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. <>.

“Teen Drug Abuse Pictures Slideshow: Statistics, Facts, and Symptoms.” MedicineNet. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. <>.

Gould, Erin Brodwin and Skye. “One Type of Legal Drug Is Killing Far More People than Heroin — and That’s Not the Most Disturbing Part of the Problem.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 2015. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. <>.

“OxyContin on the Brain.” OxyContin on the Brain. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. <>.

“Ahem. Well, Then.” Pinterest. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

“APOCALYPSE NO: Something Large and Hopeful Is Forming out There.” Kindred Media. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. <>.

“Naloxone: The Welsh Experience. A Presentation by Ifor Glynn, Director, Swansea Drug Project, Wales.” Naloxone: The Welsh Experience. A Presentation by Ifor Glynn, Director, Swansea Drug Project, Wales. Web. 01 Apr. 2016. <>.