Substance use is the leading cause of accidental death in this country, and opioid pain medications account for the majority of overdose deaths in North Carolina. In High Point, heroin-related overdoses rose 102 percent this year compared to 2015. Substance use is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, despite harmful consequences. In many cases, opioid use disorder starts with the misuse and abuse of prescribed medications. While prescription drugs are legal to obtain, they can still be dangerous when not used as prescribed.
No single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted to drugs. A combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors influences risk for addiction. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction.
Repeated opiate use can lead to brain changes that challenge a person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. The sickness of withdrawal is so intense that individuals feel like they are dying, although they will not, and continue to get high to avoid it.
Over time, your body can develop a tolerance for a drug, and require you to take more of it to experience the same high, which can lead to overdose. Overdose symptoms may include:
- slowed breathing or no breathing
- very small or pinpoint pupils in the eyes
- slow heartbeats
- extreme drowsiness, especially if the person cannot be woken from sleep
If you have unused prescription drugs in your home, you can dispose of them at prescription drug drop-offs in Greensboro and at several police and sheriff’s departments throughout the year.
While some may survive an overdose, it can lead to death if not treated. To help combat overdose, law enforcement and emergency personnel across the state are equipped with Naloxone, more commonly referred to as Narcan. Narcan is used to treat a narcotic/opioid overdose in an emergency and is normally injected into a muscle, vein or under the skin. Since its widespread use, Narcan has been credited with saving more than 3,000 lives in North Carolina. Narcan can be prescribed by a doctor to individuals or family members of individuals at risk for overdose. If you or a loved one suffers from substance use disorder, there are a variety of treatment options available in the triad. Our area is fortunate as Cone Health Behavioral Health has an exceptional team of counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, nurses and other related healthcare professionals that employs a range of treatment options, including individual therapy, group (couples and families) therapy, life skills education, and medication management. For more information, call Cone Health Behavioral Health at (336) 832-9800.
Beth Mackenzie is a substance abuse counselor at Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital. She received a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 1977, and a Master of Science in counseling from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 2014. She has been practicing in the field for more than 20 years.