History of opioid abuse goes back to 1990s

The beginnings of opioid abuse can be traced back to the early 1990s when the pain reliever Oxycontin was put on the market, according to Katie Talbot, a prevention specialist with Community and Family Resources.

It was marketed as a 12-hour continuous-release tablet, and Talbot said the company guaranteed a 1 percent addiction rate.

“They really targeted the marketing,” she said. “Obviously, it worked really well. They targeted doctors that prescribed a lot and gave them a lot of incentives.”

What makes opioids so dangerous and prone to abuse?

Talbot said it’s all because of how they work.

“When you do an opiate, if you have an injury, all signals going into the brain tell you you’re in pain,” she said. “The purpose of an opiate is to bind the number of signals going to the pain.”

When someone stops taking an opioid, Talbot said they can experience extreme pain.

“They can’t really stop without going through significant, painful withdrawals,” she said. “People have described it as bone-crushing.”

Prevention specialist Ben Rasmussen called opioids as “tak(ing) your pain pathway captive.”

“It’s hijacked your neurological system and your pain system,” he said. “So even the most minute pain that you would be able to regularly deal with, being addicted to opioids makes it unbearable.”