Opioid Addiction & Abuse

Opioids are a synthetic form of the oldest drug in the world. Over the years, the opium plant has been cultivated for both medicinal and recreational use. Today, these drugs are considered acceptable for some medical purposes, such as treating severe pain. However, opioids are extremely addictive, and they can cause unwanted physical and psychological effects.

Opioid addiction is a problem throughout the United States. In 2018, there were 47,000 deaths from opioids. If you have an addiction to opioids, you develop a strong physical and psychological dependence on the drug. Even a less severe opioid use disorder can have a devastating effect on your loved ones and you. If you are struggling with addiction, reach out to an opioid treatment program for help.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are known as a class of drugs with a narcotic analgesic. These drugs are mainly synthetic and not found in nature. The drugs work within the brain to produce a wide variety of effects, including pain relief. In many cases, opioids are prescribed by a medical professional for pain relief.

These drugs are used to block the pain signals from the body to the brain. For the most part, opioids are prescribed to treat moderate to severe physical pain. As a side effect of the medicine, opioids can produce a relaxed or happy “high” for the patient. In turn, they can be extremely addictive. If you had major surgery, your doctor might have prescribed opioids for pain management. While these drugs can be beneficial, there are some side effects of the drugs, including nausea, slowed breathing, constipation, confusion and drowsiness.

Opioids are often called narcotics. They can relieve pain, but these drugs do not fall under the same category as over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or aspirin. Vicodin and Oxycontin are some of the most commonly used opioids. Heroin and fentanyl are also used by those who have an opioid substance use disorder.

There are many risks with the use of opioids, including dependence and addiction. When a person has a dependence, they will often feel withdrawal symptoms without the use of the drug. In the case of addiction, the person will feel the need to take the opioids compulsively, even if it causes harm to them. If you misuse a prescribed medication, then your risk of dependence and addiction can increase. You can misuse opioids in various ways, including taking too much, taking someone else’s prescription or taking it to get high. When a person misuses prescriptions, they may turn to heroin as the addiction starts to progress.

In the United States, opioid addiction and overdoses are a serious public health problem. Opioid misuse is on the rise for women during pregnancy. In these cases, the babies are born addicted to opioids, and they must go through withdrawal symptoms known as neonatal abstinence syndrome.

For those with an opioid use disorder, the main treatment is medication-assisted treatment in tandem with counseling and support from the individual’s friends and family. A rehab program can help addicted individuals with ending their drug usage, receiving treatment through the withdrawal process and coping with cravings.

If you are taking opioids, you will always want to follow your doctor’s instructions for the medicine to reduce your risk of becoming dependent. If you think that you or a loved one has an opioid addiction, it’s time to seek help from a professional treatment program.

The Difference Between Opioids and Opiates

Today, the word “opioid” is used to describe both opioids and opiates. They can both be highly addictive and lead to dependence and addiction. With these two categories of drugs, there are some similarities. However, there is a distinction between the two drugs. You should learn the differences between these two terms as it makes a difference for those seeking treatment.

As the drugs change and evolve, the terms for them will change as well. The term “opiate” was first used for any drug derived from opium, a natural substance taken from the poppy plant. People began to create substances with opiate-like effects, and these drugs were called opioids. In today’s world, opiates refer to drugs with naturally occurring opium. For those drugs with synthetic opium, they are called opioids.

Many opiates are used for medical purposes, but others are considered Schedule I drugs. In those cases, they are not accepted for any safe usage. These drugs include:

  • Opium
  • Percocet
  • Demerol
  • Oxycodone

Opiates and opioids work by activating receptors in the brain as they depress the central nervous system. When the receptors become activated, they will release chemicals known as endorphins. These endorphins can make a person feel happy, calm and relaxed.

Many professional organizations use the term “opioids” for all opiate and opioid addiction issues. While there is a distinction between the two types of drugs, it doesn’t matter whether the drug was derived from a synthetic chemical or a natural source when it comes to misuse. Opiates and opioids both carry the risk of potential abuse and addiction.

The Use of Opioids

While heroin is more dangerous, there are concerning issues with Schedule II opiates in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 2 million Americans addicted to prescription opioids since 2014. In that time, over 183,000 people died from overdoses of these drugs. Due to this crisis, medical professionals have been changing the way opioids are prescribed to patients. Many doctors are now encouraging non-opioid treatments, or they offer guidance to patients for responsible use. In some cases, medical professionals even implement prescription monitoring programs that can watch for signs of opioid use disorders.

The medical community is making a conscious effort to end prescription opioid dependence and save lives. However, opioid use disorder is still a significant issue throughout the country and around the globe. In 2013, the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime reported that 0.3 to 0.4% of the world’s population uses a form of illegal opiate drugs. While there is a difference between opioids and opiates, they are still connected. Many individuals who are dependent on opioids will turn to opiates, including heroin. No matter how the person begins using opioids or opiates, the risks of physical and psychological dependence are the same, and it can lead to an addiction to these drugs.

The Signs of Opioid Use Disorder

If you are worried that your loved one might be misusing opioids or opiates, there are some common signs of usage. These drugs affect both the mind and body of the individual, so you may notice a change in their physical appearance or mental health. Slurred speech, nausea, numbness, sleepiness and flushed skin are common physical signs of opioid use.

With most drugs, there is also a change in the behavior of an individual. As the psychological dependency strengthens, your loved one might withdraw from friends and family. You may also notice other psychological symptoms, such as impaired judgment, anxiety, indecisiveness, memory problems or confusion.

There is an increased risk for severe and irreparable damage to the body for those who use opioids over a long period. Prolonged opioid use can cause heart inflammation with an increased risk for stroke or a heart attack. If the opiate is administered by injection, there is the risk of infection or transmitted disease. In addition, long-term opioid use has been linked to mood disorders, like depression. Over time, these issues will become harder to manage and treat for the individual.

For most people, the biggest consequence of opioid use is the risk of an overdose. In 2015, the CDC estimated that 33,000 deaths were due to a prescription opioid overdose. With these statistics, there is a sense of urgency to help those with opioid use disorder get into treatment.

Treatment Options for Opioid Use Disorder

Opioids can create a strong pattern of addiction, so you will want to find a treatment center for you or a loved one to get help from qualified professionals. The first step for many people is the withdrawal stage, and it can be the most uncomfortable for many drug users. When a person is addicted to opioids, the body will struggle without the drug. As the opioids begin to leave the body, the individual will go through withdrawal symptoms. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Muscle pain
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Chills
  • Depression
  • Intolerable craving
  • Confusion

Opioid withdrawals are uncomfortable, but they are not life-threatening. However, you should always seek help from a professional treatment center. In some cases, the individual might have to seek medical detox to reduce the chance of a relapse and keep them safe. During this process, a doctor will prescribe medicine to ease the withdrawal symptoms and make the process more comfortable for the individual.

In some severe cases, medications are used to manage opiate withdrawal. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine are used to treat severe opioid addiction. These drugs can help to decrease withdrawal symptoms and block the effects of opioids. The medication will bind the receptors in the brain and remove that addictive euphoric appeal for many people. In some cases, naloxone can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and it may even help to prevent death.

These drugs are not used exclusively for treatment, and many are combined with other treatment options. For example, behavioral therapy is used in many treatment programs. In these programs, individuals will work with a therapist to help identify the root cause of their addiction and change their destructive behaviors. With group therapy, the person will also work with therapists and other individuals to share their own struggles. In a 2010 study by the Psychiatric Clinics of North America, researchers found that cognitive behavioral therapy was extremely effective for treating addiction and decreasing the chances for a relapse.

Overcoming Opioid Addiction

In the medical community, there is no official standard for a full recovery from substance use disorder. Many treatment options can be lengthy and personal. It is vital to find a treatment center that offers a customized approach to recovery and takes into account an individual’s needs. Once the individual finishes the program, the treatment process will not end. For many people, there are aftercare programs, such as continued therapy and meetings. Many of these programs will help to prevent opioid relapse.

Treatment Centers in New Hampshire

If you are looking for an opioid treatment center in New Hampshire, the Green Mountain Treatment Center is here to help. We are a residential recovery program for both men and women that focuses on a well-balanced approach to substance use treatment. Within the framework of the Stages of Changes model, the clinical treatment is based on 12-step principles. In addition, our staff offers plenty of supplemental treatment options such as meditation training. The clinical team is composed of highly trained individuals who want to help patients recover from their dependence and addiction. For those struggling with opioid dependency, there is a medical detox program available as well.

If you or a loved one have issues with opioid use, you want to find the right treatment. There are many programs to help in your recovery process. The first step is to accept your opioid use disorder and get help on the road to a sober lifestyle.