Addiction to opioids is a major public health concern for our country. It kills more people than car accidents or gun violence. To end the opiate crisis, we must understand what they are and how addiction to them can be treated.
You may have heard about opioids on the news, but what are they? An opioid is any substance that binds to opioid receptors in the human body.
Our bodies naturally produce chemicals to help block pain. Doctors prescribe opioid medications to treat pain after surgery. They may also be referred to as “narcotics.”
- Codeine is a drug that is used to treat moderate pain.
- Hydrocodone and oxycodone are opiates that are commonly prescribed to treat more severe pain. They may also be referred to by brand names such as Vicodin or Oxycontin.
- Morphine is used for the most serious pain.
- Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that is even more powerful.
- Methadone is used to treat heroin addiction.
Opiates vs. Opioids
Opioids are legal when they are prescribed by a doctor. It is also essential to follow the instructions that come with the prescription. Use of a prescription pain medication could be considered illegal if you:
- Take more than was prescribed in one dose.
- Take it more frequently than prescribed.
- Take someone else’s prescription.
- Take it in a different way (for example, smoking it instead of swallowing it).
Effects of Opioids
Opioids act as pain relievers and increase relaxation and pleasure. They can also have negative side effects. These include:
- Shortness of breath
Mixing opiates with drugs such as alcohol, cocaine or benzodiazepines (Xanax or valium) greatly increases the risk of an overdose and death. In 2020, over 81,000 people died by overdosing on opiates.
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Opioid Epidemic Explained
Opiate painkillers were developed in the 1990s and were widely prescribed for chronic pain. They were prescribed for moderate to severe pain. Pharmaceutical companies aggressively marketed drugs such as OxyContin without telling doctors about harmful side effects.
The pharmaceutical companies claimed such products were not addictive. OxyContin sales grew exponentially to $1 billion in just five years. Millions of people became addicted, then switched to heroin when their prescriptions ran out.
Opioids Addictive Traits
Opiate drugs stimulate the reward and pleasure centers in the brain. Patients become addicted to the euphoric feeling that their medication provides. When their prescription runs out, they usually try to obtain more from family, friends or another doctor.
Once these sources run out, they may begin using heroin because it has a similar effect. Although heroin is illegal, it is often less expensive and easier to obtain than a prescription opiate.
The severe withdrawal symptoms associated with opiate use also cause people to continue using and become addicted. This is why opiates are so highly addictive.
Are you Addicted to Opioids?
Opioids are prescribed to treat pain for a few days or a week. Here are some signs that you could have a problem with opioid use disorder:
- You want to take higher doses than have been prescribed to you.
- You are struggling to resist the urge to consume more than has been prescribed.
- You want to continue taking the drug after the prescription has run out.
- Your daily functioning is declining, instead of improving.
Addiction occurs when you have a compulsive urge to use more drugs that are not prescribed or needed for medical reasons.
We offer multiple treatment options for people struggling with opioid addiction. Our programs are evidence based with proven success rates. We offer a full continuum of care and individualized treatment options.
If you would like more information about our programs or guidance, we are available to answer your questions. Our experienced staff is here to help. Call us today at (800) 817-1247
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