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If you or a loved one needs help with opioid addiction, you’ve taken a huge step in just admitting the problem. Opioids are highly addictive and deadly substances that are responsible for claiming the lives of hundreds of Americans each day. While controversy constantly surrounds pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers opioid-prescribing practices, millions are left suffering from the effects of opioid abuse. Whether it’s prescription or illicit drugs, substance abuse of any kind is notorious for tearing apart families, friends, and communities.
Although opioid use disorder is a powerful and cunning disease, people get sober every day. Moreover, a large chunk of those people stay sober for good and go on to help others get sober. The process begins with opioid detox. Opioid detox is an uncomfortable process, but necessary to clear the mind and body of toxins before a person can move onto a drug rehab program. First, let’s look into what opioids are, what addiction looks like, and how a comprehensive addiction treatment program can help.
Opioids are a group of drugs known for their pain-relieving properties. While they are widely used in the medical field, the drugs are highly addictive and are responsible for nearly 128 overdose deaths every day. Opioids bind to opioid receptors in the brain to alleviate pain or discomfort, but when taken in high doses, they produce feelings of well-being and euphoria. These are the characteristics that make abusing opioids so appealing to some people.
There are two types of opioids: synthetic or manmade opioids and naturally occurring ones. While these vary in strength and composition, it’s more common for people to think of opioids as either prescription painkillers or illicit substances.
While many painkillers are sold over-the-counter, prescription painkillers are opioids that block nerves from transmitting pain signals to your brain. Instead, the body feels pleasure and comfort. These drugs are commonly used to treat pain after surgery, accidents, or chronic pain. Popular prescription painkillers include:
People who take these medications over an extended period of time run the risk of becoming physically dependent on them. However, not all people with physical dependency are addicted. Sometimes, doctors can help patients wean themselves off of prescription painkillers with no problem. In other instances, people abuse these drugs, and any kind of prescription drug abuse is considered illegal.
While any prescription is illegal if abused, bought on the street, or given away to people the prescription is not meant for, the most commonly abused illegal opioids are heroin and fentanyl. Fentanyl is the strongest prescription opioid, but street dealers are increasingly profiting from manufacturing and selling the drug. It is hundreds of times more powerful than other opioids and several times more powerful than heroin, making it an extremely dangerous illicit drug.
In recent years, widespread opioid abuse has dominated news headlines and various pharmaceutical companies and doctors have faced legal issues surrounding prescribing practices. Today, the opioid crisis is considered a public health emergency. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that:
Due to widespread opioid abuse and the risk of fatal overdose, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction so that those who are suffering can get the help they need.
Depending on the type of opioid being used, people swallow, snort, smoke, or inject these drugs. While each opioid has a different potency and half-life, common signs that someone is under the influence of an opioid include:
Sadly, even though opioids are widely known for the fatal overdoses they cause, people still abuse them. If a person has taken too high of a dose, he or she might experience some signs of opioid overdose, including:
In the event of an overdose, people should call 911 immediately and administer Narcan, if possible, while following the opioid overdose guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People who abuse opioids over an extended period of time risk becoming physically and mentally addicted. While opioid addiction is medically diagnosed as opioid use disorder, both are characterized by compulsive and dangerous drug-seeking behaviors. Signs that someone is addicted to opioids include:
Although it may be impossible for some people to quit using opioids on their own, treatment for opioid use disorder is available to those who want help.
When people who regularly take opioids stop taking them suddenly or decrease the amount they are taking, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, people experience withdrawals after as little as one week of taking the drugs. Opioids affect the central nervous system, therefore, affecting nearly every part of the body.
Most symptoms begin within the first 24 hours of not taking opioids, peak after two days, and subside after one week. Despite the quick process, opioid withdrawal is far from painless. The flu-like symptoms and incessant cravings for more drugs are difficult to deal with without medical care.
Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:
When patients seek help for opioid addiction, the first step is to participate in a medically-assisted detox program. These programs consist of pharmacotherapy and medical supervision to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce drug cravings, making for a more comfortable and safe detox process.
Although opioid withdrawal is typically not fatal, it can be hard to do without professional help. In fact, some symptoms of opioid withdrawal are so painful that people continue using simply to avoid getting sick. As a result, the best option is a medical detox.
Drug rehab programs led by certified addiction counselors help patients uncover and heal from the underlying causes and conditions of their substance abuse. Whether a person has only been abusing prescription painkillers for six months or has been addicted to heroin for five years – anyone with an opioid use disorder can benefit from opioid addiction treatment.
Opioids chemically and structurally change the brain, making it difficult to stay sober without cravings or relapse. As a result of the escalating public health crisis, addiction experts desperately sought new ways to effectively treat opioid use disorder. Currently, the FDA has approved medications like buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone to help people who are addicted to opioids. Common medications used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) include:
While these substances help alleviate cravings and reduce withdrawal symptoms, medication alone doesn’t cure addiction. Instead, medication-assisted treatment requires patients to actively participate in a comprehensive drug rehab program. However, MAT is shown to help decrease drug use and associated behaviors, improve outcomes in pregnant and addicted mothers, and improve treatment retention rates.
Patients may start taking these medications during drug detox and remain on them for varying lengths of time. Ultimately, the goal is to wean patients off of these medications when they are able to sustain sobriety on their own.
Evidence-based drug rehab programs provide help for opioid addiction through behavioral therapy, counseling, relapse prevention, support groups, pharmacotherapy, and more. While medications help ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings, therapy helps people learn how to stay sober in the long run. Behavioral therapies, both in a group and individual setting, help patients identify unhealthy behaviors, work through trauma, and learn new coping mechanisms that will improve their overall health.
Depending on a person’s needs, people may attend inpatient or outpatient rehab. Both programs provide intensive treatment for substance use disorder using the following types of treatments:
After people complete their individualized opioid treatment programs, they are encouraged to find a support group or seek ongoing counseling in order to continue treating their addictions.
As strong as addiction may be, you don’t want to be another statistic. If you’re abusing prescription painkillers or illicit drugs, seek help for opioid addiction today. Our addiction specialists at Charlotte Detox Center can speak to you about your addiction, determine your needs, and connect you with the best possible addiction treatment programs.
Contact us today to start your journey to recovery.