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Understanding
Opioid Addiction

Opioids, often referred to as narcotics, are medications typically prescribed by doctors to relieve chronic or persistent pain. Prescription opioids are used to help people with chronic headaches and backaches. They are also used by patients recovering from surgery or struggling with severe pain associated with cancer or chronic injury. Although most opioid medications are legal, some opioids are also man made and therefore illegal. Prescription opioids can successfully relieve pain; however, they carry significant risk and are considered highly addictive. Opioid drugs, whether prescription or illicit, work by attaching themselves to the opioid receptors in the brain, on the spinal cord, and in other parts of the body. This connection blocks pain messages sent from the body through the nervous system to the spinal cord and the brain. When someone uses a prescription or illegal opioid, the pain that they struggle with becomes manageable and, in many cases, disappears completely; until the drug wears off. 

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Opioid Abuse in the United States

How to Know if Someone is Abusing Opioids

Opioid use disorder is a condition characterized by one’s inability to stop using opioids despite known negative consequences or impacts on their day-to-day life. Someone struggling with an opioid use disorder or addiction may show various signs and symptoms. Some of the most common include:

  • The inability to control or resist using
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in eating habits resulting in weight loss 
  • Decreased libido 
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Changes in exercise habits
  • Self-isolation or avoiding time spent with family and friends
  • New or worsening financial difficulties
  • New or worsening legal problems
  • Stealing from friends, family, or co-workers to get money to buy substances
  • Stealing prescriptions

Anyone who uses opioids, prescription or otherwise, is at risk for abuse or addiction. Although signs and symptoms of addiction may be minimal or hard to recognize at first, early treatment and intervention are essential to achieving sobriety and recovery. If you suspect a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, the team at My Recovery can help guide you towards the best treatment programs in your area. 

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Learn About the drugs

What are Opioids?

Opioids are a specific class of drugs that include illegal substances, including Heroin, synthetically produced opioids like fentanyl, and prescription pain medications including oxycodone, morphine, and hydrocodone, among others. 

Painkillers (Prescription Pain Medications)

As previously noted, prescription opioids can be used to treat instances of moderate to severe pain. They are often prescribed for chronic health conditions where pain management becomes challenging or following surgery or injury. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in prescription opioid use interviews, which has resulted in an equally detrimental increase in illicit substance use. Prescription opioids have a high risk of addiction. In fact, as many as one in four patients using long-term opioid therapy struggles with opioid addiction. In 2018, nearly 47,000 Americans lost their lives to opioid overdose; of those, 32% involved prescription opioids obtained through legal prescriptions. 

Heroin

As the medical community works to reduce the number of prescriptions for opioids, those struggling with opioid addiction often look to replacement substances to satisfy cravings. Heroin has similar effects on the body to prescription opioids. Because of the shift in prescribing and subsequent drug-seeking, heroin use has increased nationwide in the last decade. Heroin is a highly addictive drug naturally derived from plants. It comes in several forms and can be smoked, injected, and snorted. Since 2000, more than 115,000 Americans have died from overdoses related to Heroin. 

Methadone

Methadone is a synthetic opioid agonist that is used in the treatment setting to reduce and eliminate withdrawal symptoms. It acts on the same receptors in the brain as prescription and illicit opioids. Although it occupies the same receptors, it does not provide the same high or feelings of euphoria and thus can be an effective addition to a specialized opioid treatment program. 

Suboxone

Like Methadone, suboxone is a prescription medication used as part of treatment programs for people struggling with addiction to illegal or prescription opioids. Composed of two ingredients, suboxone blocks opiate receptors and helps reduce urges while reversing the overall effects of opioids. 

Unfortunately, while Methadone and suboxone are used to help manage withdrawal symptoms in the treatment setting, they are also frequently misused. When not used as directed or under medical supervision, both substances can result in severe withdrawal symptoms. 

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Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms & Detoxification

Regular use of opioids can cause your body to develop a tolerance to their effects. Tolerance often leads to physical (and psychological) dependence. When you are dependent on a substance and stop using, painful and unpleasant symptoms can develop. In the case of opioid addiction, these symptoms, also called withdrawal symptoms, can sometimes be dangerous and even fatal. 

Opioid withdrawal occurs when you stop using or reduce the use of opioid drugs after developing a dependence on their effects. Some of the most common opioids that lead to withdrawal symptoms include prescriptions such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Codeine, and Morphine; illicit drugs like Heroin and drugs used to help treat addiction, including Methadone. Depending on the substance, withdrawal symptoms can occur in as little as six hours after your last dose. Common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, agitation, body aches, difficulty sleeping, sweating, gastric disturbances, nausea, and vomiting. Other, more severe symptoms can include delirium tremens (DTs), irregular respirations, irregular heartbeat, and seizures. 

It is the more severe symptoms related to opioid withdrawal that make detoxing in a safe environment essential. Many who struggle with opioid addiction and choose to withdraw “cold turkey” often fail and relapse as withdrawal symptoms become too overwhelming to manage. In a medically supervised detox setting, trained medical staff is available to guide you through the detox process and ensure your safety throughout while assisting with symptom management. Detox is often a difficult process, but it is the first, essential step on the journey to sobriety. 

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Escape Opioids by Finding Opioid Treatment Near You

If you are ready to seek treatment for addiction to opioids but are not sure where to start, let the team at My Recovery help you find the best opioid addiction rehab near you today.

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