Overdoses from illicit and prescription drugs are on the rise in the United States, leaving 92,500 dead and thousands of grieving family members, friends, and communities wondering what could have been done to save their lives.

August 31 is International Overdose Day, when all people globally are asked to consider the deadly consequences of drug abuse and the tragedy of those who overdose and die.

This article will explore drug overdoses and hopefully bring awareness to this growing cancer in society.

Opioid Abuse

Perhaps one of the most sinister drug categories abused today is opioids. Opioids include prescription drugs such as Hydrocodone and illicit drugs such as heroin. These drugs fall under illicit or prescription; they are highly addictive and dangerous if consumed irresponsibly.

The illicit drug heroin is made from morphine, a substance derived from the seed pod of various opium poppy plants grown in foreign countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Southeast, and Southwest Asia. When ingested, heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors, especially those involving feelings of pain and pleasure. These same receptors control heart rate, breathing, and sleeping. Many who abuse heroin report feeling a surge of pleasure or euphoria, which are described as pleasant. However, there are many adverse effects from heroin usage, including the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • A heavy feeling in the arms and legs
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe itching
  • Clouded mental functioning
  • Going back and forth between consciousness and semiconsciousness

Heroin is highly addictive and can become deadly quickly after an overdose. When people overdose on heroin, their breathing will slow down or stop decreasing the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain. This condition is called hypoxia and has short and long-term mental effects and can cause coma, permanent brain damage, or death.

It is vital to note that ALL opioids can have this deadly effect, including Hydrocodone (Vicodin) and Oxycodone. Never believe you are safe because a physician prescribes the drugs you are taking.

These drugs can kill.

Heroin doesn’t only affect the brain as it contains additives such as sugar, powdered milk, and starch that can clog blood vessels, paving the way for permanent damage to one’s lung, liver, and kidneys. Also, because heroin is injected, sharing needles can lead to contracting infectious diseases such as Hepatitis and HIV.


Fentanyl is a synthetic prescription opioid that is like morphine but I fifty to one-hundred times more potent. The purpose of Fentanyl is to treat people living with severe pain caused by surgery or cancer.

Unfortunately, Fentanyl is made and distributed illegally and is the cause of 59% of opioid deaths (2017). Synthetic opioids like Fentanyl are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the United States.

Prescription Fentanyl is usually given as a shot, lozenges, or a patch that the person suffering from pain puts on their skin. Illegal Fentanyl is sold as a powder, put in eye droppers, made into pills, put in nasal sprays, or dropped onto blotter paper.

Some drug dealers mix Fentanyl with other illicit drugs such as cocaine, MDMA, heroin (see above), or methamphetamine to make bad things worse.

Because Fentanyl is cheap, it has lured many people to using it and dying. Death occurs because people don’t realize they are using a mixed substance with other drugs or decide to ingest Fentanyl.

Some of the effects of Fentanyl on the body are as follows:

  • Loss of pleasure unless high on Fentanyl
  • Drug-seeking behavior
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Euphoria
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Breathing problems
  • Unconsciousness

One must not forget to throw into the mix of difficulties with relationships and low self-esteem because of Fentanyl.

Treatment for Opioid Overdoses

By now, many of you have heard of the drug Naloxone, a medicine administered to stop the overdose death of someone on opioids. However, Naloxone must be administered immediately to bond with the opioid receptors inside the victim’s brain.

The opioid drug Fentanyl is, as stated, often mixed with other drugs such as heroin and may require multiple doses of Naloxone.

If you have found yourself caught up in the cycle of addiction, do not attempt to quit cold turkey without a doctor’s close supervision. The withdrawal symptoms from opioids are far worse than you think, but a physician can help treat the most troubling of the symptoms.

Don’t Be Fooled or Become a Statistic

It can be easy to believe it will never happen to you, but death by opioids happens, and it is often an accident. Taking opioids such as Vicodin is dangerous if not taken as prescribed. They are highly addictive. Even if you start taking only one or two to get high, you will take more and more to chase that high before you know it.

The statistics of people dying in the United States are gruesome. Thousands of people are dying every year, and this number has grown since the COVID 19 pandemic began.

You don’t have to become a statistic in someone’s data. You can either avoid becoming addicted by not trying opioids, or you can get yourself clean.

Life is too precious to allow ourselves to live in the darkness of addiction. I’ve been there and know what I am talking about. I lived for forty years chasing my next high, and it was miserable. I admit that being high on an opioid relieves stress and tension, but there are other ways to obtain the safe effect.

I learned the hard way just what opioid addiction could do. My addiction stole my ability to walk and landed me in a nursing facility for over seven years. I am doing well now only because of going through the withdrawal and finding other ways to manage my stress.

Maybe you use opioids for recreation. Please, don’t. These drugs are deadly, and as I’ve already stated, death is usually accidental because you do not know what you are taking or take too many chasing a high.

Don’t become another statistic or be fooled. You, too, can become a victim and another lost life to the opioid epidemic.

Remember those who died on August 31 of opioid substances.


NIDA. 2021, June 1. Heroin DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin on 2021, August 21

NIDA. 2021, June 1. Fentanyl DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl on 2021, August 22

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