Treatment for Opioids Abuse

The category of opioids includes several natural, synthetic, and semi-synthetic drugs that are derived from or structurally similar to elements of the opium poppy plant. Opium and morphine are examples of natural opioids; oxycodone, hydrocodone, and heroin are examples of semi-synthetic opioids; and fentanyl and meperidine are examples of synthetic opioids. Some opioids are legally used in hospitals or in prescription medications, while others have been determined to have no legitimate medical use. Regardless of their legality or the purpose for which they are used, opioids share two common characteristics: they are powerful, and they are addictive.

Opioids are valued in the medical field for their analgesic, or painkilling, properties. OxyContin, which contains oxycodone, is commonly prescribed for individuals who need round-the-clock relief for mild to severe pain, while morphine and fentanyl are typically administered to individuals who are experiencing severe or breakthrough pain, often from surgery or cancer. In addition to alleviating pain, opioids also often cause users to experience relaxation, drowsiness, and euphoria. These latter effects are what make opioids popular among individuals who are seeking an illicit high.

Regardless of why a person starts to use opioids, he or she is at risk for both overdose and addiction. When used as directed under proper medical supervision, these risks are lessened, but not eradicated. And when drugs such as heroin or prescription painkillers are used for recreational purposes or in misguided attempts to self-medicate, the risk of both overdose and addiction increases considerably. Because opioids interact with the area of the brain that also controls involuntary processes such as heart rate and respiration, overdose can lead to extremely negative outcomes, including death. Those who survive repeated opioid abuse will likely become dependent upon these drugs. The strong cravings and painful symptoms that can occur when a person tries to stop using opioids make opioid use disorder very difficult to overcome without effective professional intervention.

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Statistics

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, reports that as many as 36 million people throughout the world have engaged in opioid abuse. In the United States alone, NIDA estimates that more than two million individuals are addicted to opioid-based prescription medications, and more than 460,000 others have become dependent upon heroin. The American Psychiatric Association, or APA, states that the 12-month prevalence of opioid use disorders is just under 0.4% of the adult population in the United States.

Causes and Risk Factors for Opioid Abuse

A person’s susceptibility to developing opioid use disorder can be influenced by several factors, including the following:

Genetic: The APA has identified genetic factors as playing a significant role in determining whether or not a person will develop opioid use disorder. Family history of opioid abuse and addiction significantly increases the likelihood that a person will have similar problems. Also, heritable characteristics such as novelty seeking and impulsivity can also increase a person’s risk for developing an opioid use disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of substance abuse and substance use disorders
  • Personal history of prior substance abuse or substance use disorder
  • Having easy access to opioids
  • Impulsivity and novelty seeking personality
  • Experiencing pain that is treated with opioid-based prescription medication
  • Associating with or being in proximity to individuals who engage in opioid abuse

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Abuse

The appearance of opioid abuse can vary depending upon several factors, including the type of opioid or opioids being abused and length of time that person has been engaging in this behavior. The following are among the more common signs that may indicate that an individual is abusing or has become addicted to opioids:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Slurring speech
  • Clumsiness
  • Use of opioids even after experiencing negative repercussions as a direct result of that behavior
  • Use of opioids in situations where it is clearly dangerous to do so
  • Diminished academic performance
  • Diminished occupational performance
  • Visiting multiple doctors in an attempt to get several prescriptions for opioid-based medications
  • Secrecy and deceptiveness regarding one’s whereabouts or activities
  • Borrowing or stealing prescription medications

Physical symptoms:

  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Constricted pupils
  • Drowsiness and/or lethargy
  • Psychomotor agitation and retardation
  • Powerful cravings for opioids
  • Presence of withdrawal symptoms when incapable of using opioids

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Memory problems
  • Poor judgment skills
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Preoccupation with thoughts of opioid use
  • Suicidal ideation

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Decreased interest in significant activities
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Opioid Abuse

The following are among the many negative effects that can result from opioid abuse and the development of opioid use disorder:

  • Dry mouth and nose
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Vision problems
  • Organ damage
  • Increased risk for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases
  • Family discord
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Academic failure and expulsion
  • Occupational failure and job loss
  • Unemployment
  • Financial instability
  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Social ostracization
  • Homelessness
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

People who struggle with opioid use disorder are at increased risk for the following co-occurring mental health conditions:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Other substance use disorders

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of opioid withdrawal: Once a person has become dependent upon opioids, abstinence from this drug can quickly lead to several painful withdrawal symptoms, including the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Muscle pain
  • Insomnia
  • Dysphoria

Effects of opioid overdose: When a person ingests opioids to a degree that overwhelms his or her body’s ability to metabolize or eliminate them, he or she is in danger. Anyone who exhibits the following symptoms after ingesting opioids may have overdosed, and may be in need of immediate medical attention:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme confusion
  • Intense headache
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Bluish tinge near lips or fingertips
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizure
  • Coma

Why Consider Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

It is difficult to overstate the damage that untreated opioid use disorder can inflict upon an individual and on his or her family and friends. As is indicated earlier on this page, the physical, psychological, and social impact of chronic opioid abuse can be devastating. Depending upon the nature and severity of an individual’s opioid use disorder, the physical ramifications can include vision problems, cardiovascular distress, kidney problems, liver damage, and even an increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C. The mental impact of chronic opioid abuse can include diminished cognition, memory problems, depression, paranoia, and thoughts of suicide. From a social and economic perspective, continuing to abuse opioids makes a person less likely to perform to his or her potential in school or at work, which raises the risk of expulsion, job loss, and unemployment. Ongoing opioid abuse will undermine a person’s ability to establish and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships, which can result in family discord and the loss of valuable friendships. By definition, opioid abuse is a crime, which means that the individual risks arrest and incarceration. It is no exaggeration to note that opioid abuse can put a person on the path to homelessness and hopelessness.

With effective professional treatment such as the services that are available at programs within the Sober Living by the Sea treatment network, the damage described in the previous paragraph can be either rectified or avoided. At the Sober Living by the Sea treatment network, dedicated professionals who have decades of combined experience work closely with individuals who have been struggling with opioid abuse and opioid use disorder. In addition to helping them to rid their bodies of opioids and resist the temptation to abuse these substances, our treatment professionals also guide men and women in the process of making the lifestyle changes that will promote the successful pursuit of healthier and more productive lives, free from the constraints of addiction. At Sober Living by the Sea programs, men and women can begin to heal physically, psychologically, and spiritually. We help our clients to take responsibility for their actions, address the damage that they may have inflicted upon themselves and others, and begin to move forward with a renewed purpose and potential. At Sober Living by the Sea, the pain of opioid addiction gives way to the promise of a much brighter tomorrow.

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