Advanced Guide to Opioid Addiction: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Most opioid drugs are prescription painkillers, with the exception of heroin, which is an illegal opioid drug. Prescription opioids are pharmaceutical drugs that can only be legally obtained with a medical prescription. Although a doctor may prescribe an opioid, abusing prescription drugs carries just as many risks as illicit drug abuse does. Nonmedical use of prescription opioids is not only illegal, but it’s also extremely dangerous.
Prescription opioids are very powerful and addictive. While these substances have the potential to treat chronic pain, they also can cause serious physical and psychological harm if they are misused.
Prescription drug abuse, especially that of opioids, is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 64,070 people died from drug overdoses in 2016 (a 21 percent increase over 2015) and three-fourths of all drug overdose deaths are now caused by opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl.1
Prescription opioid abuse comes in many forms and may include some or several of the following behaviors:
- Taking someone else’s prescription opioids
- Taking a prescription opioid in a different way than prescribed
- Taking a higher dose than prescribed
- Taking the prescription more frequently than prescribed
- Self-medicating with prescription opioids
- Purchasing prescription opioids from a drug dealer or a friend
- Stealing prescription opioids from a doctor, clinic, hospital, or another type of medical facility
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
Prescription opioid abuse reduces a person’s reaction time and may hinder a person’s ability to drive safely. Impaired driving can lead to car accidents and serious or fatal injuries. If you are stopped by the police while driving under the influence, you may also be arrested and charged, just as if you were driving under the influence of alcohol.
Purchasing prescription opioid drugs from a drug dealer or forging prescriptions can also get you into legal trouble, with possible jail sentences of anywhere from six to 12 months.
Physically, the adverse of effects of prescription opioid abuse vary based on the frequency of the drug abuse, how the drugs are abused, and any other drug or alcohol addictions the person has, among other individual circumstances. Regardless, 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
Common physical consequences of prescription opioid abuse include:
- Trouble breathing
- Pinpoint pupils
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 coworkers
- Financial instability
- Increased risk for accidents or injury from falls due to impairment
Click on each prescription drug to show its short-term effects.
Click on each prescription drug to show its long-term effects.
Click on the prescription drug to show its withdrawal symptoms.
Some of the most commonly abused prescription opioid drugs include:
- Vicodin/Lortab/Lorcet (Hydrocodone)
- Dilaudid (Hydromorphone)
- Dolophine/Methadose (Methadone)
- Duramorph/Roxanol (Morphine)
- OxyContin/Percodan/Percocet (Oxycodone)
- Opana (Oxymorphone)
Opioid addiction treatment should be individualized based on the circumstances of the client. Most individuals need to begin addiction treatment with a medically supervised drug detox program, followed by long-term drug rehab and behavioral therapy.
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.
Medical detox is a process involving medical staff who help clients discontinue the use of opioids. Clinical detox programs at an opioid detox center 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 addiction treatment 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 at an opioid treatment center is led by a multidisciplinary treatment team who will work together to provide a well-balanced and comprehensive treatment plan.
Outpatient addiction treatment 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 living 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 addiction treatment options can be beneficial on their own, a comprehensive continuum of care plan provides the best chances for lifelong opioid addiction recovery and sobriety.
Opioid addiction recovery can be very difficult without the aid of professional addiction treatment. If you’re searching for an opioid addiction treatment center for yourself or a loved one, call Nova Recovery Center today for more information on our long-term inpatient and outpatient drug rehab programs.
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