Understanding Opioid Addiction

opioid addiction

There is an epidemic in America. More people in the United States are addicted to both prescription opioids and illegal opioids than ever before. These powerful painkilling drugs like heroin, OxyContin and morphine are destroying the lives of individuals, families and entire communities.

Opioids are also referred to as opiates. Extracted from opium—a milky liquid in the poppy plant—these drugs are painkillers. Opiates are usually ingested as pills or injected as liquid. Opioid addiction is an epidemic that is taking lives all over the country. Every day in America, 78 people are killed as a result of opioid-related overdoses.

Understanding the Epidemic

The opioid epidemic in America and the world has several reasons. Opioid medications have been overprescribed. Many physicians have limited if any guidance on proper opiate prescribing protocol and prescribe too much of the drugs. Many doctors also learn in medical school that opiates are not addictive if used to treat pain. This is not the case.

Chemical dependency is a normal outcome for those who are prescribed opioid painkillers. For a number of people, however, dependency quickly becomes addiction. When people no longer have access to prescription painkillers, many people turn to a cheaper alternative: heroin. The drug cartels took note of the increase in prescription opioids, and heroin production increased exponentially from 2005 to 2009, which flooded the market. Because of this, for many, prescription opioid addiction became heroin addiction.

Commonly Abused Opioids

There are many popular opioids. Some of the most commonly abused opiates are:

  • OxyContin
  • Morphine
  • Vicodin
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin

Opioid Dangers

The potential for opioids to be addictive is great, but there are bigger dangers that surround these drugs. Even when they are used as prescribed, opioids can slow respiration and cause unconsciousness. Opiate abuse, however, carries bigger risks. Opioid abuse can cause side effects including:

  • Heart problems
  • Lung problems
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Coma
  • Death by overdose

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms experienced when going through opiate withdrawal may be mild or severe, depending on the individual’s situation: which drug he or she is addicted to, how large of a dose he or she usually takes, how long he or she has been addicted to opioids, etc. Early withdrawal symptoms typically start within the first 6-12 hours for short-acting opiates (Percocet, Vicodin, etc.) or within 30 hours for longer-acting ones (OxyContin, MS Contin, etc.) and can include:

  • Excessive yawning
  • Nose running
  • Sweating
  • Tearing up
  • Agitation
  • Muscle aches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Racing heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever

The late withdrawal symptoms typically peak within 72 hours and usually last a week or so:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Goosebumps
  • Depression
  • Drug cravings

Because of the painful withdrawal symptoms, many people who have an opioid addiction choose to have a medically supervised detox. If you attempt to detox from opioids on your own, you may be tempted to relapse once withdrawal symptoms become severe. In a detox center or a treatment center that has a detox program, you will have medical assistance throughout the withdrawal symptoms.

Opiate Replacement Therapy or Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

For some patients with opioid addictions, medication-assisted treatment may be an option. In MAT programs, behavioral therapy is combined with medications in the treatment of substance use disorder. Medications like methadone, Suboxone and Subutex are prescribed. These medications are synthetic opiates that are used to prevent withdrawals. They also block other opiates so that the patients will not be able to use heroin or any prescription painkillers.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling with an opioid addiction, it’s time to take back control of your life by seeking substance abuse treatment. At The Recovery Village Ridgefield, we offer inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. We understand that addiction is a disease that needs to be treated. After you have been through medically-supervised detox, you can go straight into an inpatient treatment program.

Our facility is convenient to Seattle, Washington; Tacoma, Washington; Portland, Oregon and Eugene, Oregon. Located in the Cascade Mountains, The Recovery Village Ridgefield provides the perfect serene backdrop for healing. If you are suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, it’s imperative that you seek the treatment that you deserve. Give us a call today.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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