Symptoms, Consequences and Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Symptoms of Opioid Addiction
Opioid drugs are generally safe when used on a short-term basis and as prescribed by a doctor. Prescription opioids include pain relievers such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone and hydrocodone, among others. Heroin is an illegal opioid drug.
Opioid drugs interact with opioid receptors in the brain to create a pain-relieving and pleasurable feeling for those that take them. Unfortunately, this effect also makes these substances highly addictive. Prescription opiate abuse is a major problem in the United States today and many individuals who abuse prescription drugs are likely to become heroin abusers because it’s much easier and cheaper to obtain.
When an individual is addicted to opioids, he or she may exhibit some or all of the following signs and symptoms of addiction:
- Needing more of the drug to achieve the same effect (developing a tolerance)
- Being unable to control usage habits, such as how much or how often the drug is used
- Feeling symptoms of withdrawal when the effects of the drug fade
- Experiencing extreme changes in physical appearance and hygiene
- Choosing to do drugs instead of attending other obligations such as work, school or leisure activities
- Continually using drugs despite problems in all aspects of life
Consequences of Opioid Abuse
Short and long-term opioid use is very damaging and can even be deadly. Many people who abuse opioids are also at risk for overdose.
Opioid abuse can lead to serious health problems such as:
- Increased risk of blood-borne illness
- Weakened immune system
- Liver and kidney disease
- Collapsed veins (from injecting)
- Damaged nasal tissues (from snorting)
- Infected heart lining
- Abscesses at injection sites
- Brain damage
- Increased sensitivity to pain
Opioid abuse and addiction may also lead to (or contribute to) serious psychological problems, including:
- Mood swings
Opioid addiction results in many social problems as well, such as:
- Job loss
- Strained relationships with family, friends, and co-workers
- Financial instability
- Increased risk for accidents or injury from falls due to impairment
Treatment Options for Opioid Addiction
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 20.5 million Americans ages 12 or older had a substance use disorder in 2015, and of those, 2 million misused prescription pain relievers and 591,000 misused heroin.
Opioid addiction is clearly a major issue, but there are many treatment options for those who are suffering. A substance abuse specialist or clinical counselor may be able to help you find the most appropriate addiction treatment for your needs. The best type of treatment program for you or your loved one may depend on several factors. These include:
- Willingness to begin treatment
- Previous relapse and treatment
- Motivation for receiving treatment
- Financial capabilities
Depending on your circumstances, one or more of the following options may be the most effective way to address an opioid addiction.
Medically assisted detox is a process involving medical staff who help clients discontinue the use of opioids. Clinical detox programs are individualized to address the physical, emotional and psychological needs of each client. Facility staff members also provide on-site monitoring and stabilization medication to ensure clients reach a sober state safely and comfortably. During detox, clients may also begin their individual and group counseling to help them address their emotional responses to detoxification. This process also allows counselors and clients to discuss options for continued addiction treatment.
Residential inpatient care provides the long-term treatment needed to overcome an opioid addiction. With individualized programs lasting at least 90 days, clients have an adequate amount of time to progress through the 12-step program and participate in evidence-based behavioral therapies and other treatment modalities that will help them continue to live a sober life. Each client’s program is led by a multidisciplinary treatment team who will work together to provide a well-balanced and comprehensive treatment plan.
Outpatient care for opioid addiction allows clients to attend work, school and other obligations while participating in intensive addiction treatment. Outpatient programs meet several times each week in a safe, nearby location. Sessions consist of discussion, activities and educational lectures about the science of addiction, the effects of drugs on the body, and essential life skills and tools to fight relapse while living sober. During this eight-week program, clients will work through the 12-step program with their peers to learn how to live a life free of substance abuse and addiction.
Sober homes provide structure and accountability during early recovery and are designed for clients who have already completed an inpatient residential program for opioid addiction. A client may live in a gender-specific sober house or apartment for several months while completing their program. During this time, they will attend individual and group counseling sessions and practice implementing the life skills and tools they learned in rehab. In addition, each client will work with an assigned program coordinator to ensure they are progressing through the tiered program without issues. Regular drug testing, on-site staff, and family support help ensure residents remain accountable to their sobriety goals.
Even after a client has completed inpatient rehab treatment and a sober living program, he or she may still choose to receive additional support. Aftercare programs are designed to provide this support with consistent weekly group sessions. During group sessions, clients have the opportunity to address particularly stressful or emotional life events, successes, and ongoing sobriety goals with their peers. They may also continue working through the 12 principles of recovery during this time.
While each of these treatment options can be beneficial on their own, a comprehensive continuum of care plan provides the best chances for lifelong recovery and sobriety.
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