“Opioids are a family of drugs that have morphine-like effects. The primary medical use for prescription opioids is to relieve pain. Opioids can produce euphoria, making them prone to abuse” (NIH, 2014).
Prescription opioids such as Vicodin, Oxycodone, Morphine, Codeine, etc. are medications whose primary function is to relieve pain. These opioids relieve pain by reducing the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain while simultaneously affecting areas of the brain that control emotion, this then reduces the overall effects of a painful stimulus (NIH, 2014).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. “One-third of people aged 12 and over who used drugs for the first time in 2009 began using a prescription drug non-medically” (Office of National Drug Control Policy, n.d.). There is often a deep rooted belief that prescription opioids are safer than other illicit substances; this belief, and the fact that these drugs are dispensed by a pharmacist often lead to high rates of abuse.
Over the past 35 years, drug overdose deaths have been significantly increasing. Over the past decade, prescription opioid deaths have increasingly been added to this statistic. “Opioids, alone or in combination with other drugs or alcohol, were involved in 60% of drug overdose deaths in 2010” (Behavioral Health Coordinating Committee, n.d.).
NCBI, (2005) found that the most effective pharmacotherapeutic medications for both prescription and illicit opioid addiction treatment are Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone.