Opioid addictions and overdoses have become an incredibly real problem affecting the whole health of Americans today. It is estimated that about 2 million Americans are currently battling opioid addiction, and in 2017, the Council of Economic Advisors estimated that the Opioid Crisis was costing the United States over half a trillion dollars in lost productivity, premature deaths, and increased healthcare and criminal justice costs. In their article titled Opioid Overdose, the World Health Organization defines opioids as “compounds that are extracted from the poppy seed as well as semisynthetic and synthetic compounds with similar properties that can interact with opioid receptors in the brain. Opioids have analgesic and sedative effects, and are commonly used for the management of pain.” While opioids can be helpful for whole health when used in moderation, the reality is that they are heavily addictive and often abused. 

When most people think of pain treatment, they picture someone laying in a hospital bed in sheer agony. But the truth is, pain is relative and is sometimes not as obvious to detect. Unlike physical pain, mental or emotional pain is a lot more elusive and is not subject to a specific location in the body, allowing it the potential to be even more detrimental if untreated. It is important to recognize the signs of emotional pain affecting whole health before they become unmanageable. Some of these symptoms include isolation from others, poor self care or risky behavior, chronic headaches, feeling heavy, and even depression. Unfortunately, with so many factors affecting our whole health, more people are relying on opioids as a short term solution rather than eliminating the root of the problem for long term gratification.

In VoiceAmerica’s new hit podcast series Make America Healthy, host Beth Shaw addresses problems, like the opioid crisis in America, and works through solutions alongside her expert guests. In the seventh episode of the series, Beth invites Dr. Joseph Volpicelli, a renowned psychiatrist in addiction treatment, to discuss effective ways to overcome addictions of any kind. Through his extensive research in psychology, Dr. Volpicelli found that all behavior is influenced by the prefrontal cortex and the limbic brain. The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brains responsible for making logical and long-term decision making, while the limbic cortex (or emotional brain) is responsible for instant gratification and short-term thinking. It is to no surprise that addiction based behavior mainly occurs in the limbic cortex. 

It’s easy to blame the opioid crisis on the addicted individuals themselves, but it is often the medical and pharmaceutical industries that are responsible. It is utterly too common for doctors to prescribe pain medication to patients with conditions that could have been treated through plant based alternatives. Many doctors are also guilty of over prescribing pain medication to vulnerable patients, creating a drug dependency. Many treated patients will experience drug withdrawals, causing them to find alternative drugs on the streets. This influx of drug addictions is one of the root causes of the prevalence of fentanyl overdoses in America. There are new stories every day of people overdosing on drugs laced with fentanyl. With a higher demand, drug dealers are using fentanyl to replace opiates because of its high potency and cheap cost. Having a 80 -100% higher potency than morphine, fentanyl, used in minuscule amounts can cause overdose and often death. 

If you are dealing with an opioid addiction or know someone who is, there are whole health treatments and helplines available to you. Dr. Joseph Volpicelli offers virtual and in person services to treat addictions on his website Volpicelli Center. You can also call SAMHSA’s national helpline for free and confidential help.  

The truth of the matter is that prescription drugs typically only treat the symptom rather than the root causes. If you are suffering from any physical or emotional pain, the best results are achieved through an internal journey of meditation and yoga practices. If you are looking for guidance on your whole health journey, YogaFit Worldwide, the world’s largest online yoga training school, offers an array of practices perfect for all levels. Founder and CEO, Beth Shaw, through her years of experience has developed a specific yoga program for addiction and recovery. If you enter the code VOICE22 at checkout you will receive 15% your next yoga session.

Remember to be kind and understanding of those suffering from addiction. We are all in this together.