The U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) recently requested for an opioid painkiller to be pulled from the market over risks of widening the current opioid epidemic. Just how exactly does a simple drug go from painkiller to an addictive substance?

FDA Request

The United States is in a battle for the lives of its people as the opioid epidemic ensues. Most recently, the FDA requested for the reformulated drug under the name Opana ER (oxymorphone hydrochloride) to be pulled from the market.

Opana ER is an opioid pain medication, and due to the company's reformulation of the drug, turning it into an injectable from the previous nasal formulation, the FDA worries that it could have the potential for misuse and abuse. As such, the FDA is requesting for its manufacturer Endo Pharmaceutical to voluntarily withdraw the opioid.

"When we determined that the product had dangerous unintended consequences, we made a decision to request its withdrawal from the market," said Janet Woodcock M.D., director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the FDA.

Understanding Substance Abuse

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), on an average day in the country, over 650,000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed, with 3,900 people using the prescription for non-medical use. What's more, 78 deaths due to drug overdose are recorded each day.

Basically, substance abuse is the hazardous usage of any psychoactive substances including alcohol and illicit drugs. What's worrying about the current opioid epidemic is the involvement of prescription drugs that are misused and abused.

Substance abuse and drug addiction is a serious disease. By definition, addiction is characterized by a compulsion to seek for a stimulus despite its possible harmful consequences. Though the drug may initially be taken for medical purposes, repeated drug use may impair an individual's sense of self-control and ability to resist using the drug.

What Happens To The Brain?

In most cases of drug addiction, the drug affects the brain's "reward circuit" by bombarding it with dopamine, which leads to feelings of pleasure and motivation. The "high" that comes with the stimulation causes an individual to engage in repetitive drug use.

Eventually, the brain adjusts to the dopamine "high," which would make an individual go for higher doses to achieve the pleasure response. The brain continues to adjust and build a tolerance to the drug as the individual continues to increase the dosage.

In time, a drug-dependent may get less pleasure from other activities such as social activities and gain less control of their judgement, behavior, memory, decision-making, stress, and learning.

Though it is difficult to manage and control, drug abuse can be treated. Further, it has nothing to do with a person's willpower or a lack thereof and can be prevented through a combination of efforts from educators, parents, health care providers, and healthy social circles.

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