There isn’t any demographic among Americans that is unaffected by the current opioid epidemic. An increasing number of Americans are losing their lives due to opioid addiction and overdoses each year. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the current state of the epidemic follows the same path that it has been for the last two decades (when opioid painkillers started becoming more and more widely prescribed in the U.S.). Since that time, approximately 200,000 deaths due to overdoses of opioids prescribed by doctors have occurred, and that number continues to grow.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of drugs that include prescription medication as well as illicit drugs. Pain medications that that are available legally by prescription, such as morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, and many others, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and the illegal drug heroin are all opioids.
Prescription opioids are frequently administered during and after surgical procedures to relieve pain, or as painkillers prescribed for chronic pain. Most opioids have a fairly short half-life (which means they enter and leave the body fairly quickly) and work by obstructing the paths related to pain from the area where the pain originates to a user’s brain. Opioids are not like non-prescription pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications, which instead affect the actual site of the pain.
Many users who eventually become dependent on or addicted to opioids start out using the drugs innocently when a doctor prescribes them for a completely legitimate reason. However, because opioids are highly addictive in nature, many users begin taking higher doses, more frequently, and they quickly become physically and psychologically dependent upon them. Then, when they are no longer able to obtain prescriptions from their doctors, they turn to illicit street opioids like heroin.
How Do I Know if a Friend or Family Member is Addicted to Opioids?
Increased tolerance to opioid drugs is a primary indicator of dependence or addiction. That means that more of the drug must be taken to achieve the same effects. Also, suffering from symptoms of withdrawal when drug use is discontinued or decreased, indicates there may be a problem. Other signs of opioid addiction are:
- Intense feelings of euphoria
- Lightheadedness, confusion, and dizziness
- Relaxation, drowsiness, or apparent sedation, including nodding off
- Stomach problems including nausea, vomiting, or constipation
- Going to various doctors for the same problem
- Agitation and anger
- Decreased activity
- Increasing relationship conflicts
- Frequent requests for early refills
- Complaints of ongoing pain despite having medication
- Refusal to try nonopioid medication options for pain
It may be difficult to identify opioid abuse in a loved one, but when you find a number of the signs listed above, it may point to the fact that abuse or addiction is an issue.
What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms from Opioids Like?
Withdrawal from opioids is typically uncomfortable or at least unpleasant. Withdrawal symptoms usually start within a day or two from when opioids were last used and peak within a week for most users. Withdrawal symptoms from opioids may include:
- Severe nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramping
- Fever and body chills
- Excessive sweating
- Muscular aches and pains
- Increased anxiety
- Anger and Irritability
While there are cases in which the withdrawal from opioids is mild, with flu-like symptoms, it’s often recommended that users should detox from opioids in a rehab facility with around-the-clock supervision. It’s not only safer for patients in the event that symptoms become serious, but they can also be helped with medications that make withdrawal symptoms more manageable.
Recovery for Opioid Addiction is Possible
Opioid addiction is treatable, and it is possible to recover from it. Inpatient rehabilitationis typically recommended over outpatient treatment for opioid addiction, and ongoing and consistent treatment of some kind is often necessary for opioid addictions.
If you or a loved one is using opioids – either prescription or illicit drugs – and you are concerned that you may be addicted, seek help now to begin recovering. The first step to recovery is asking for help. At My Time Recovery, we can help. You’ll find caring and supportive staff who will work with you to make it as comfortable as possible as your journey towards recovery begins.