In the 1990s, some opioid prescription medications were deemed as safe to use with little to no risk of addiction. Since then, there has been a significant rise in opiate addiction and overdose rates.
What Is the Opioid Epidemic?
In 2017, the US Department of Health and Human Services declared a national public health crisis in what is now known as the opioid epidemic. The centerpiece of the national strategy to overcome the crisis is treatment for those who are addicted to prescription and street opiate drugs. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction helps families, friends, and those who struggle with opiate use seek treatment as early as possible.
What Are Opioid Drugs?
Opioid drugs are unique among all drug classes that lead to addiction. These drugs are available in legal forms, such as morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone, and illegal forms that are found on the streets, such as heroin. Often times, prescription medications that contain opiates find their way to the streets. When the availability is combined with the highly addictive properties of opiates, preventing abuse and addiction becomes a complex issue.
How Do Opioid Drugs Affect the Body?
Opioid drugs are pain relievers that block pain signals in the brain while releasing chemicals that produce a euphoric sensation for the user. The effects of opiates set in within 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion via smoking, inhaling, or injecting the drug. These effects can last for several hours. The signs to watch for that may indicate opiate use are:
- Relaxed body and mind
What Are the Side Effects of Opiate Drug Use?
Along with the pleasant feelings, the person may experience adverse side effects. These include:
- Passing out
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Loss of appetite
- Having trouble concentrating
- Damaged veins
- Inability to sleep
Opioids affect the body, and physical symptoms are issues that the person experiences, much like any type of illness.
Physical signs of opiate addiction include:
- Skin infections and abscesses
- Bruises on the body
- Weight loss
- Poor personal hygiene
- Trouble staying awake or suddenly falling asleep
- Ongoing flu-like symptoms, such as chills, fever, and body aches
- Decreased sex drive
- Impulsive behaviors and choices
Behavioral Symptoms of Opioid Addiction
If you believe that someone you know is addicted to opioid drugs, you can look for any unexplained changes in behaviors. These changes occur for no obvious reason, and all you may know is that a person is acting very differently.
You may feel as if you are dealing with a complete stranger, and this is a normal part of seeing someone you care about struggle with a substance use disorder. When addiction sets in, your loved one may:
- Be on the street looking for money
- Make poor financial decisions that are caused by all money going toward buying opioid drugs
- Show lack of performance at work or school
- Make multiple doctor visits for prescription refills
- Take more than the prescribed dosage of an opiate medication
- Lash out at people
- Legal issues, such as being arrested and not showing up for court dates
- Job loss
- Losing friends
- Going in and out of jail
How Can You Help Someone With an Opioid Addiction?
The first step to help someone who is struggling with opioid addiction is to take action. One of the most effective techniques is an intervention. The goal is to have an open and honest conversation with the person from a loving and supportive standpoint.
A person with a substance use disorder is likely already aware of the damage caused by their drug use. The issue is that the person does not know how to stop the cycle or does not see the benefit. An intervention can involve one person or a group of friends and family.
Planning an Intervention to Help With Opioid Addiction
The timing of the intervention is up to you, as you know the person best at this point. Look for a time when the person seems open to new options in managing work, relationships, and other important aspects of life.
At Green Mountain Treatment Center, we recommend that a professional interventionist be involved in this process because things can quickly spiral out of control without the right approach. Emotions are very high during these gatherings, and you need an objective person to keep everyone focused on helping the person seek treatment. Interventions are not the time to unravel what caused the addiction, lay blame, or overcome the emotional consequences of addiction.
What Is the First Step for Treating Opioid Addiction?
Once the person chooses to go to treatment, the team at Green Mountain Treatment Center takes over the care of the person struggling with opioid addiction. We typically begin with medical detox to give the body time to eliminate the drug and clear the system. This allows the person to be clear-minded and focused.
Medical detox is more effective than withdrawing alone or in a non-clinical setting. Doctors and nurses stand by to help with the physical symptoms that develop when a person stops using opiates.
What Happens After Medical Detox for Opioid Addiction?
After medical detox, recovery begins for the person who has struggled with a substance use disorder. At Green Mountain Treatment Center, our counselors work with the individual to develop a personalized plan that may include individual counseling, goal setting, and group sessions.
We also integrate alternative therapies as well as health and wellness activities to provide the person with a comprehensive set of skills that contribute to life after treatment. Because we are a residential facility, the person can focus on getting better without the additional stress of outside responsibilities.
What Happens After Treatment for Opioid Addiction?
Many people feel apprehensive about leaving treatment while they are in our program, but this only has to do with their confidence level in applying new skills and coping mechanisms. We work closely with each person to help build confidence and provide many opportunities for them to practice their new skills in a safe and supportive environment.
We may recommend that a person continue treatment through outpatient counseling or transition to a sober living facility. These facilities are a halfway point between full re-entry into society and the residential setting at Green Mountain Treatment Center. The intent of a sober living facility is to give the person some new freedoms without being overwhelmed by the entire responsibility of living outside treatment.
How Can Families Support Someone Who Is in Treatment for Opioid Addiction?
Friends and family play an important role in recovery, yet you may need to learn new behaviors that contribute to healthy relationships rather than becoming enmeshed. The team at Green Mountain Treatment Center encourages friends and families to use the time that their loved one is in treatment as an opportunity to reflect and heal, being loving to yourself rather than blaming yourself for the addiction.
Find ways to regain your life and improve your relationship with your loved one going forward. You may want to seek counseling or learn about healthy relationships and how to set boundaries. You must also understand that your role is to be supportive during the post-treatment journey.
Allow the person to make individual decisions and be available to provide encouragement and support. Many people in recovery are exercising personal choices for the first time, and there will be successes and areas needing improvement and additional work. With time and commitment, however, one can learn to live a healthy life beyond opioid addiction.