Before taking any kind of prescription medications, it’s important to understand what it will do to your body, and how it might interact with any other medications you’re on. This is especially true when you are taking opioids. While your doctor may prescribe you multiple medications, it’s always best to verify how they will interact to avoid any danger or unplanned hospital visits.
In order to understand the consequences of mixing drugs with opioids, you first have to understand what an opioid is.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids are a class of drug derived from the opium in poppy plants. Prescription opioids can be made from the plant directly; however, scientists can recreate the chemical structure in a lab setting.
Opioids are used in medicine because they relax the body with a rush of dopamine and block pain receptors. They can be used to treat ailments from coughing to severe pain.
They are sometimes abused because when a person takes enough of them they will feel incredibly relaxed and experience a “high.” This is incredibly dangerous because of how addictive they can become. As a result, overdoses and deaths are common.
Mixing Opioids with Other Drugs
Now that you understand what opioids are and how they work, it’s important to understand the dangerous of mixing them with other drugs. Below you’ll find a list of the most common prescription opioids, what they do, and how they interact with other medications.
Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. This incredibly strong medication is 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is often used with end-stage cancer patients, as an end-of-life sedative, or during operational anesthesia. Because of its potency, mixing it with other drugs significantly increases a person’s chance of overdosing. This is especially true when mixed with methamphetamines.
Hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is semi-synthetic opioid. This fairly powerful narcotic is well-known by its brand name, Vicodin. When abused with other drugs, the side effects may include changes in blood sugar resulting in seizures, passing out, abnormal behavior, coma, and more.
Methadone. Methadone is often used as an instrument to wean individuals off stronger opioid substances like fentanyl or heroin. Its effects tend to last longer than other opioids. Methadone is a central nervous system depressant, so when it’s mixed with other depressants it can be fatal. Prior to overdosing, a person may experience slowed heartbeat, shallow breathing, and asphyxiation.
Morphine. Morphine, a Schedule II controlled substance, is used to treat severe pain and has a high potential for abuse. It reinforces the brain’s reward center, which is why it’s so addictive. When morphine is mixed with other drugs, the risk of life-threatening respiratory problems increase.
Oxycodone. Oxycodone is another semi-synthetic opioid. Like all opioids, it has the potential to create a sense of euphoria if abused. When used correctly it is able to treat moderate to severe pain. When taken with other drugs, a person may experience nausea or vomiting, irregular heart rate, dizziness, and more. Overdosing is always a risk when mixing opioids and other drugs.
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s campaign Get Smart About Drugs reports that on an average day least 78 people die from an opioid-related overdose, over 3,900 people abuse their opioid prescription, and 580 people will try heroin for the first time.
In 2016, West Virginia had the highest prescription opioid death rate in the country. While the entire country averaged 10.2 opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 people, West Virginia averaged 37.7. In order to combat this issue, the governor of West Virginia signed the Opioid Reduction Act in hopes of lowering these numbers.
The act makes important changes to the healthcare field, workers’ compensation, the licensing of chronic pain clinics, and the licensing of medication-assisted treatment programs.
If you or a loved one have suffered from an opioid addiction that you feel could have been avoided, your medical provider or the opioid manufacturers may be liable. Our West Virginia opioid litigation lawyers can evaluate your case and discuss what compensation you may be eligible for. Reach out to us today for a free consultation.