What are Opioids?
There is a lot of talk about opioids in today’s world due to the spike in substance abuse from opioids, mostly prescription painkillers. The opioid epidemic grows rapidly across the country, but many people still have much to learn about opioids to protect themselves. But some may wonder what opioids are? What is opioid addiction? What is prescription drug treatment?
Opioids are types of prescription drugs administered by a doctor or specialist to relieve pain. The illegal form of opioids is heroin. This class of drugs is derived from poppy plants and made synthetically. The chemical forms of heroin and prescription opioids are very close, and they work very similarly.
Opioid addiction is an illness marked by a compulsion to abuse opioids with the inability to quit even after knowing the negative consequences. It is a chronic illness that leads to many negative consequences on the way a user lives. Continued opioid use can cause addiction, which will eventually cause brain changes, making it more difficult to stop using. Opioid addiction treatment is the best way to help become sober from opioid dependence.
Types of Opioids
Doctors can prescribe most opioid drugs to take by mouth. Fentanyl, the strongest form of opioid, is available in a patch, allowing the medication to be absorbed through the skin.
The most common types of prescription painkillers include:
Opioid Side Effects
Besides the risk of addiction, another reason your doctor must manage pain medications closely is due to their negative side effects, which include:
The drugs Naloxegol, Lubiprostone, Methylnaltrexone, and Naldemedineare were approved to treat constipation caused by opioid use for patients with chronic pain.
Opioids can be hazardous when taken with alcohol or other drugs like:
- Anxiety and antidepressants medications like benzodiazepines which include Ativan, alprazolam, and clonazepam
- Certain antibiotics
- Sleeping medicines
It is vital to tell your doctor all of the other medicines you’re using, especially if taking:
- Herbal supplements
- Prescription drugs
- Over-the-counter drugs
How Opioids Affect the Body and Brain
Opioids, also known as prescription painkillers, help reduce pain by attaching to brain receptors, which triggers a dopamine release. Human bodies naturally create chemicals as a reply to pain and to help heal it. These are known as endorphins, which help decrease pain in the same way as opioid pain medications do.
Once somebody takes an opioid, the pain becomes reduced for a short time, but usually becomes amplified within 72 hours. The result becomes many people continuously increasing their opioid dosage to receive the same pain relief. This is because the opioid receptors become less sensitive; therefore, larger doses must be taken to achieve the same pain relief level.
When a user takes opioid pain medications continuously for 2 to 3 weeks, a few times per day, the body’s capability of creating endorphins becomes destroyed. Endorphins are never discharged in the body chronically but only for a short period to allow the body system to return to normal once the pain sensation has gone. Once the body becomes dependent on opioids, it will never return to a normal state again.
Once the body becomes dependent on higher doses of opioids to reduce pain, only opioids can release the body’s dopamine levels. This eventually leads to depression and pain once the opioid pain medications are reduced or discontinued. The only way to break this cycle is with the help of opioid addiction treatment.
People, their families, and communities all across the nation are affected by widespread opioid and heroin addiction. This is why it’s more crucial than ever to recognize the potential dangers of opioid use, which include:
- How heroin, prescription opioid painkillers, and other opiate drugs act
- Why opioid or heroin addiction can develop quicker than you realize it
- When the risk of opioid overdose is most prominent
- Which opioid addiction treatment approaches are most effective
The Connection Between Opioids and Heroin
The nation’s opioid addiction crisis has contributed to the rise of heroin use because it’s less expensive and a more easily available substitute. Heroin is a highly addictive illegal drug that is usually used for its extreme euphoric effect. Heroin comes in white or brown powder, and black tar is either snorted, injected, and sometimes smoked. Street names for heroin are horse, brown sugar, junk, and smack. Heroin use and addiction rates are at an all-time high in the U.S.
Although heroin can be smoked or snorted, the drug is usually injected into a vein to deliver the quickest effects. The injection puts users at the greatest risk because of a heroin overdose, and because sharing dirty needles could spread infections and diseases.
Signs, Symptoms, and Side Effects of Opioid and Heroin Abuse
Each person’s situation varies, but generally, opioid abuse disorder is a disease that affects users both physically and psychologically. The progression of heroin addiction can be so incremental that it may not be identified until a crisis occurs.
Signs, symptoms, and side effects of opioid and heroin abuse include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Bad dreams
- Behavioral or psychological changes
- Collapsed veins
- Constricted pupils
- Dry mouth
- Heart infections
- Impaired mental functions
- Menstrual difficulties
- Mood swings
- Problematic mental health
- Rashes and infections
- Risk of HIV, hepatitis B or C
- Sexual dysfunction
- Slowed respiration
- Slurred speech
- Weight gain
Opioid Addiction Treatment
A patient’s addiction treatment experience often depends on a few circumstances. Some factors include the facility chosen, the severity of the addiction, and any co-occurring conditions such as mental health disorders present.
The intake process is the initial and most important step and involves discussing the treatment plan with an addiction specialist. They may ask questions about your previous and current substance abuse, important medical conditions, and life at your residence. Treatment specialists must gather this information to write the most efficient treatment plan possible. From there, the patient will go through the next steps of treatment which include:
Once the intake process has been completed, the patient will begin their addiction treatment with a medical detox program. The detox process helps patients purge opioids from their system, which helps them experience fewer withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are highly uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous when detoxing without the help of a medical professional.
Medication-Assisted Detox (MAT) helps the patients ease their withdrawal symptoms, allowing them to focus on treatment upon completion. Usually, treatment specialists will use medications to help temper the withdrawal symptoms until they become no longer dependent.
The medication distribution involves slowly reducing the number of opioids consumed until the patient system has been cleared out. Sometimes, a treatment specialist will prescribe medications during detox to reduce withdrawal symptoms like body aches and insomnia.
The detox process can take up to a week and is highly recommended under a medical team’s supervision. Therefore, if the patient does start experiencing unbearable withdrawal symptoms, the round-the-clock service of treatment staff can give them what they need to ease their pain. To detox alone at home could become so unbearable that the addict will go back to using to stop the withdrawal symptoms.
Rehab Treatment Programs for Opioid Addiction
Once the detox process is completed, patients will be moved to a rehab treatment center to continue their recovery. Most treatment programs or offer two categories: residential and outpatient treatment.
Residential treatment programs are built for patients that require around the clock medical supervision and emotional support. Residential treatment programs are intensive and are conducted in a structured, sober environment that allows patients to focus on their recovery goals.
Patients are encouraged to participate in on-site activities and therapy sessions the rehab center offers. Residential treatment is built for people who don’t have a structured home environment that supports their sobriety. Residential treatment programs usually last 30 days or longer.
Outpatient treatment programs are more of a flexible recovery option for patients who have a structured home environment. Outpatient treatment programs require patients to visit their treatment center a few times a week, lasting 3 to 5 hours during the daytime. They will attend support group meetings, drug education seminars, and therapy sessions throughout the week. Each outpatient treatment program component will teach the patients how to rebuild their newly sober lives.
Outpatient treatment programs are most convenient for patients with priorities at home like work, school, or caring for a loved one. There is no set schedule, but outpatient therapy usually can last 30, 60, or 90 days and sometimes longer.
Aftercare programs are an essential part of the addiction recovery process. These programs help patients stay motivated as they embark on their lifelong journey of sobriety.
Aftercare programs help to reinforce the lessons that were learned in rehab. They also help to control any temptations patients have during their initial months of recovery. It is recommended that the patient transition to an outpatient program that meets at least once per week. The patient will continue to undergo individual counseling and group therapy, allowing them to still receive support from counselors and peers.
Types of aftercare recovery plans include:
- Individual and group therapy
- 12 step meetings like AA and NA
- Family therapy programs like Al-Anon
- Alternative recovery programs like SMART recovery
In addition to aftercare services, there are many fun activities patients can engage in. These sober activities implement a creative, imaginative, and social outlet.
Some of the most popular sober activities patients can participate in include:
- Arts and crafts
- Cooking classes
- Learning to play music
- Recreational sports
- Taking fitness classes like yoga or kickboxing
- Volunteer work
Millions of patients have successfully beaten their opioid dependence and went on to lead happy, sober lives upon completing opioid addiction treatment. However, obtaining and sustaining sobriety is not a quick process. It takes significant dedication and a strong ambition to want to live a sober lifestyle.
Get Help for Opioid Addiction Today
If you or a loved one is suffering from opioid addiction, help is available. Our team of addiction specialists can customize a treatment program for each patient’s specific needs at Behavioral Health Centers.
Break the cycle of addiction today by contacting us today at Behavioral Health Centers today. Our staff will answer all your questions about opioid addiction, and provide beneficial resources, to you to make the most informed decisions for yourself or a loved one surrounding all aspects of recovery. Remember you are not alone!