Nine myths about opioid drug abuse

Do you think it’s a good idea to save your leftover pain pills to have “just in case” you might need one, or that heroin is primarily an inner-city problem? Think again. Those are among nine common myths that were busted at a community opioid forum in Corbin May 17 in hopes of decreasing some of the stigma that surrounds addiction.

“One of the things we know is that the stigma that exist around opioid abuse is largely propelled because of the myths that exist,” said Janet Jones, a representative from Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the nation’s largest nonprofit addiction treatment provider. Jones led the group discussion about nine opioid myths:

*Myth 1: Abusing prescription painkillers to get high is safer because they are made by a pharmaceutical company and doctors prescribe them.
Fact: Prescription drugs can be just as addictive and just as dangerous as illegal ones, like heroin. The brain and body treats heroin and prescription opioids the same.

*Myth 2: I should save my extra prescription pain pills just in case I need them for something else later, like joint pain or a toothache.
Fact: Saving pain pills that you no longer need can be dangerous because young people often gain access to them. The next time you need pain medication, talk to your health-care provider about the risk, ask them to prescribe only what you need, and properly discard unused drugs when you no longer need them.

*Myth 3: Snorting or smoking heroin or prescription opioids is safer than injecting them.
Fact: There is no “safe” way to abuse a drug. And while injecting drugs with shared needles increases the risk of HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C, any method of opioid abuse can lead to overdose and death.

*Myth 4: Heroin is primarily an inner-city problem.
Fact: Heroin use is on the rise nationwide, including in suburban and rural areas.

*Myth 5: A person addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers is a lost cause.
Fact: Treatment works. Recovery is possible with appropriate treatment and adequate social support systems.

*Myth 6: Heroin and prescription pain pills are just the latest “fad” drugs and their appeal will fade.
Fact: Opium, heroin and other opioids have been used for thousands of years. Prescription opioids have a legitimate use as effective painkillers and are not going away any time soon. And while illegal drugs come and go, communities are experiencing unprecedented use of opioid drugs, and people are dying at epidemic levels

*Myth 7: Making Narcan (naloxone) available to first responders wastes resources on people who have given up, and takes away an addict’s incentive to quit by making them less likely to die of an overdose.
Fact: Addiction is a chronic disease, not a moral flaw, and the only way a person can get help is if they are alive to do so. Time is critical to overdose survival rates and naloxone helps to save these lives.

*Myth 8: Heroin and prescription painkiller abuse only hurts those who use the drug.
Fact: Opioid abuse hurts everyone. Financially, the legal, healthcare and lost productivity costs total in the billions and the intangible costs to families and friends are incalculable.

*Myth 9: Hardworking everyday people don’t use heroin or misuse prescription painkillers.
Fact: Any type of person can develop an opioid use disorder.

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