Opioid addiction is not an uncommon issue. In fact, in 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the U.S. succumbed to opioid-involved overdoses. It has become a severe national crisis. Opioid misuse is marked by an unhealthy dependence on opioids – including prescription pain medication, heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl – that eventually hinder one’s daily life. Turning to an addiction treatment center can help patients take back control and take active steps towards living a healthy life again. If you know of someone needing to access recovery programs, know that drug and alcohol treatment centers are the best path to recovery. These centers are equipped with healthcare professions ready to help and various resources to live a life free of addiction.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are chemicals, natural or synthetic, that interact with the opioid receptors on the nerve cells in the body and brain. They aim to help decrease feelings of pain. For this reason, opioids also include prescription pain relievers. Heroin and synthetic opioids are also included in this category.
Prescription opioids aim to treat severe pain, usually from an injury or after surgery, chronic pain, cancer treatment during the active phase, palliative care, and even end-of-life care. Patients depend on these opioids to help alleviate their pain and manage their severe conditions.
Of course, there are some side effects to using opioids, such as drowsiness, mental confusion, euphoria, nausea, and constipation. Sometimes, when taken in high doses, weakened respiration is also observed.
Prescription pain relievers include:
- Oxycodone (OxyContin®)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
- And more
Synthetic opioids include:
Synthetic opioids are extremely potent. Fentanyl, for example, is more powerful than heroin (by 50 times) and morphine (by 100 times).
How Do People Get Addicted to Opioids?
In some cases, people will get addicted to opioids if they begin taking them differently than how they were prescribed. For example, crushing a pill to snort or inject it into their system. This can be life-threatening, as it quickly delivers all the drugs to the body.
Another way to become addicted to opioids is by taking more than have been prescribed or taking it more often than prescribed by a doctor. Research shows the potential for addiction is high if opioids are used for long-term pain management, and even taking them longer than a week increases the risk of dependence.
Women are at a higher risk of becoming addicted to opioids and this is because they are more likely to have chronic pain. This means they are also more likely to be given higher doses when prescribed opioids, and will often need to use the medication for longer.
Stopping the use of opioids, especially abruptly, causes severe symptoms including pain, chills, cramps, diarrhea, dilated pupils, restlessness, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and very intense cravings. These symptoms of opioid addiction are often the reason behind continued use, as they are so intense it’s easier to avoid them and carry on using the medication.
Some genetic, psychological, and environmental factors play a role in addiction, such as:
- Poverty and unemployment
- A family or personal history of addiction
- Taking opioids at a young age
- A history of criminal activity
- Risk-taking or thrill-seeking behavior
- A history of severe depression or anxiety
- Stressful circumstances, and more
What Are Some of The Common Symptoms of Opioid Addiction?
Similar to other substance abuse, the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction are different for each individual, but the baseline is an increased dependency on the substance. The signs can be physical, behavioral, and psychological. Common symptoms of opioid addiction include:
- Not being able to stop using opioids
- Using more than the amount prescribed
- Shallow or slow breathing
- Being physically agitated
- Poor decision making
- Abandonment of responsibilities
- Mood swings
- Lowered motivation
- Anxiety attacks
Patients may also find taking the drug starts causing trouble in their daily life. These can show up as problems either with their health, responsibilities like school or work, with the law, and with friends and family as those closest begin to notice significant changes in their behavior.
The reason opioids can be so addictive is due to their high levels of positive reinforcement. As a result, despite the negative results they may have on the patient’s life, often patients will continue using them. The addiction then creates an ongoing cycle that can be difficult to break if the patient is unwilling to change their behavior.
What Are the Treatment Options?
As a chronic illness, opioid addiction should be continuously managed and observed. Needless to say, the treatment will be different for each person, with the goal being to stop using and avoid the future use of opioids.
Unfortunately, stopping will often lead to severe side effects as part of the withdrawal process. The best practice is always to inform a doctor before quitting opioids, as they can help with guidance towards a safe treatment program. A patient can be prescribed medicines to help relieve withdrawal symptoms and control cravings.
Of course, a patient will also need to address the mental or emotional addiction to opioids. Drug and alcohol treatment centers can help manage a patient’s depression, cravings, and assist them in dealing with damaged relationships. For these reasons, the treatment ranges from outpatient individual treatment or group counseling, inpatient treatment, self-help programs, and cognitive therapy.
How The Rubicon Can Help
At the Rubicon, we have a 3-day outpatient approach substance abuse treatment that will help you start your recovery, and it includes:
- Awareness: How has substance abuse affected your life and the life of those around you? How has addiction impacted your personal and relationship values? And, how have your addictive patterns of behavior impacted your life?
- Action Planning: A plan to maintain your recovery on a long-term basis. A plan to establish and maintain a supportive network of relationships throughout your recovery. And, a plan to establish and maintain ongoing activities to avoid a relapse.
- Wellness: This phase addresses a plan to establish and maintain your physical and emotional well-being throughout recovery.
As a team of trained professionals, we offer a highly personalized, collaborative approach to substance abuse treatment. We are committed to addiction treatment and provide caring and compassion in an outpatient clinic setting.