Hey everyone, Howard Barker here with Clear Recovery Center. Today we wanted to talk about what a teenager needs to know about opioid abuse. Opioids are an interesting topic because unfortunately, most people’s first introduction to them is through prescription drugs. It’s not because they went to the street looking for heroin and it’s generally not someone that has any preconception that they want to become an addict. Usually, it’s someone that has a friend that plays sports, sustained an injury, they just got their wisdom teeth pulled out, or maybe they had a more severe surgery. But their first introduction is through something like Vicodin or through something like Percosets. And it appears to be relatively harmless, right? It’s a prescription drug. They have a friend that takes them periodically and that person is fine and they’re still doing well in school. Maybe one of their parents deals with some pain issues and they take them and it’s not a big deal.
The problem is that opioids work really, really well. They numb you out they make you feel good emotionally and they make you feel good physically. If you’re dealing with a breakup or if you’re dealing with a lot of other things that are regular parts of life, opioids take a lot of that pain away. And the other thing is that they’re not so intoxicating the way a tremendous amount of alcohol is or the way that a bad trip on some sort of a psychedelic is. So a lot of people think, “Hey, this is harmless, right? I’m going to drink this lean or I’m going to take this Vicodin and it’s not that big of a deal.”
Unfortunately, what happens is that opioids are very different from a lot of other drugs in the sense that you can rapidly develop a physical dependence. Usually it’s very, very cunning. Usually it’s very, very insidious. It’s something that happens in spite of yourself and it’s something that you’re not aware of what’s happening. But really, really rapidly, your body develops a physical dependence. Once that physical dependence starts, it’s not something that is your force of will or you get to choose not to do because you start to get sick. And from personal experience, as someone in long-term recovery from opioid addiction, no one starts out saying, “You know, I want to shoot heroin into my arm.” That’s never how it begins. It starts out with things are going well, I’m in school, I’m hanging out with my friends, I’m going to take these pills periodically. You know, I play sports, I get good grades and it’s not that big of a deal. Then really quickly, what happens is, all of a sudden it’s more expensive to find prescription drugs. I can much more cheaply go get heroin or fentanyl on the street and use that instead. And by then, you’re off to the races.
What happens is, it morphs in the beginning into this very fun and lighthearted thing. And really, really quickly, without your knowing and without your choice, it becomes this really serious addiction that requires detoxification. It kicks you into withdrawals and it can lead to very serious overdose. And overdose isn’t something that’s limited to the end stages. Someone can overdose their first few times, especially when mixing opioids with alcohol or other things like Xanax, which is very, very common and which unfortunately we’ve seen here in the South Bay. So the next time you’re in a situation where you have a friend that’s using a prescription opiate or you’re considering taking one at a party, think twice and understand the big picture. It’s not about just the here and the now, but the trajectory of opioid use is never a pretty one.