Opioid Addiction

What are Opioids?

Opioids are narcotic medications which have been designed to alleviate pain. The drugs are a derivative of opium, which comes from the poppy. Opioids are classified as the entire class of drugs including synthetic opiates. These category of drugs work by binding to opioid receptors within the brain, spinal cords, and other regions of the body to reduce pain. Opioids are generally safe when used correctly, however they are commonly misused which often leads to addiction. Opioids are very strong and highly addictive drugs which often causes its users to develop a physical dependency with continuous use.

Opioid drugs include: Heroin, Morphine, Hydrocodone, Codeine, Oxycodone, Fentanyl, Dilaudid, Methadone and more.

What are the Effects of Opioids?

Opioid drugs have effects which produces a sense of well-being or euphoria which people often find addicting. Opioids are generally used for treating pain, when used for pain relief many people develop a tolerance, which causes them to need a higher dosage or more frequent use of opioids to achieve the same effects. Often once tolerance sets in, an addiction soon follows. Opioid drugs are often misused, whether they are in the legal form such as prescription pain pills or illegal form such as heroin. Tolerance for the euphoric effects develops faster than a tolerance for the dangerous effects which often leads to unintentional overdose while trying to achieve a higher high by using too much.  A high dose of opioids can induce cardiac or respiratory arrest which often ends fatally.Some of the long and short term effects associated with an opioid dependence/addiction includes:

  • Vision problems
  • Dehydration of the skin and mucous membranes
  • Digestive difficulties
  • Hyperalgesia (heightened perception of pain)
  • Mood swings and abrupt changes in behavior
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Decreased immunity
  • Distorted perception of reality
  • Jaundice
  • Dependence on opioids to feel happy or content
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Damaged interpersonal relationships with friends, family, and peers
  • Death by overdose or toxicity

Recognizing Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction is characterized by the compulsive use of opioids despite consequences associated with its use. Some of the signs and symptoms associated with an opioid dependence/addiction includes:

  • Continued use despite suffering negative consequences
  • Neglecting responsibilities and commitments in relation to opioid use
  • Using opioids under dangerous conditions
  • Experiencing uncontrollable cravings
  • Development of a tolerance; needing more of the drug to achieve the same effects
  • Unsuccessful attempts at cutting down or quitting
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon stopping or decreasing the use of opioids
  • Drastic changes in behaviors and moods in relation to opioid use
  • Decline in overall performance at work, school, or ongoing confusion or disorientation
  • Exhibiting deceitful and dishonest behaviors in order to obtain more drugs

Are you wondering if you have an opioid addiction?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has your use of opioid drugs increased over time?
  • When you stop using or decrease your use of opioids do you experience you experience opioid withdrawal symptoms?
  • Do you use more than you intended or more than what was prescribed?
  • Have you experienced negative consequences as a result of your usage?
  • Do you often find yourself putting responsibilities and commitments of in relation to your opioid use?
  • Have you found yourself thinking obsessively about getting or using your next dose?
  • Have you made unsuccessful attempts at decreasing your opioid use or quitting altogether?
  • Have you considered seeking treatment for your use of opioid drugs?

If you answered yes to at least three of the questions listed above than there’s a chance you may be addicted to opioids and should seek professional help.

Opioid Withdrawal

Withdrawal from opioids can be very painful and uncomfortable, the process of withdrawal can also be dangerous if one attempts to stop using opioids without seeking the help of a medical  professional. Opioid withdrawal occurs after stopping or significantly reducing one’s heavy use of opioid drugs and generally onset within 12 hours of one’s last use. Some of the more common symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal includes:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Sleeping difficulties such as insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low energy
  • Yawning

Withdrawal from opioids can last anywhere from one week to one month. Emotional symptoms such as low energy, anxiety, and sleeping difficulties can typically last for months following the sudden cessation of heavy opioid use.

Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Treating an opioid addiction is possible by following proper treatment protocol. There is currently no single treatment which is effective in treating all individuals suffering from opiate addiction, therefore diverse treatment options should be implemented including the use of medications and psycho-therapeutic approaches. Buprenorphine, Naltrexone, and methadone are medications for opioid addictions which are most commonly use in treatment for opioid addiction. It is most important to have a recovery plan in place upon completion of treatment, steps that should be implemented into one’s recovery plans includes: adopting relapse prevention skills, creating a strong support system, attending 12-step meetings and more!

You’re not alone.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an opioid addiction, let our team help.
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