Opioid Addiction Help
Opiate-based painkillers disrupt your mind's natural processes. When these drugs enter your bloodstream, they tell your brain cells to release huge amounts of dopamine. You feel calm, relaxed, and euphoric.
When we talk about opiates, we often mention how users feel. But don’t forget that this is a chemical process. You don’t just sense that something is different. You’re changed at the cellular level.
Keep taking opiates, and your brain and body can grow dependent on them. Without a dose, you’ll feel sick.
Persist in taking them, and you could develop addiction. You’ll use despite the consequences, and you won’t feel capable of quitting.
People with addiction can feel trapped. But treatment programs may help you to push through your addiction and into a happier, healthier future.
What Is an Opioid?
Opioids are prescription painkillers. They’re made in laboratories, and they’re available for people experiencing pain due to accidents, injuries, or illnesses.
Taken properly, they can help people function despite discomfort. But all of them come with the risk of dependence and addiction.
Common opioids include:
- Fentanyl. One of the most potent opioids available, fentanyl is made for people in severe pain that can’t be controlled by other medications.
- Hydrocodone. This opioid is often combined with medications like acetaminophen to reduce pain and swelling.
- Hydromorphone. This medication is designed to offer strong pain relief, and it’s made in time-release formats.
- Oxycodone. This is one of the most notorious opioids, as it was widely prescribed in the 1990s. We’ve all heard of OxyContin, and it contains oxycodone.
How Does Dependence Happen?
Most people who take opiates have no intention of sticking with them for years. They might want temporary pain relief, or they might want a quick high.
Unfortunately, the body grows accustomed to opiates very quickly. When that happens, dependence sets in.
Experts explain that drug dependence is a natural consequence of exposure. When we take opiates, our brain cells are hijacked. They respond by increasing tolerance to the drug. The next dose doesn’t do as much.
That increased tolerance can mean the brain stops functioning normally. It produces no dopamine alone, for example, and needs drugs to help you feel content. The cells come to depend on the substances you took.
Anyone can develop dependence, experts say. Take opiates long enough, and your brain cells will need them.
But not everyone who has dependence will develop a substance abuse issue. Only a small group of people experience the compulsion associated with addiction.
Signs of Addiction
Mayo Clinic says addiction is defined as an irresistible drug craving, combined with compulsive and continued use despite consequences. Those issues may manifest differently in every person, but doctors have a checklist they use to make a diagnosis.
Experts say doctors look for:
- Unusual dosing. Opioids should be short-term solutions, and people should stick to recommended amounts. Taking too much, or using them for too long, is a sign of trouble.
- Inability to stop. People who hope to quit or at least cut back, but feel unable to do so, may have a problem. They may keep using even when it causes problems with family and friends.
- Time spent using. People may devote part of every day to getting, using, or recovering from drugs. They may be unable to fulfill obligations. They may withdraw from social or occupational tasks to spend more time on substance abuse.
- Cravings. People with addictions feel compelled to use. They keep at it even when their physical or mental health suffers. They may also reach for substances when it’s dangerous to do so.
- Dependence and withdrawal. They may feel sick when they quit. They may also need to take more opioids to get high.
Physical Signs of Abuse
- Marked sedation/drowsiness
- Constricted pupils
- Slowed breathing
- Intermittent nodding off or loss of consciousness
Other Signs of Abuse
- Taking higher doses than prescribed
- Inability to control use even though it’s having a negative effect on personal relationships or finances
- Continuous ‘loss’ of prescriptions
- Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor
- Social withdrawal/isolation
Dangers of Abuse & Dependence
- Weakened immune system functioning
- Low blood pressure
- Dangerously slowed breathing rate and hypoxia
- Permanent brain damage
How to Safely Stop Using
You may know your opioid use isn’t right for you. But you may not be able to quit using without help. There are programs that can make your move to sobriety a bit easier.
You can get help with:
- Detox. You might feel sick and overwhelmed with cravings when you try to quit. Teams may offer you medications that soothe distress so you can move through the process.
- Education. You may need to learn more about how drugs work and why they’re dangerous, so you’ll be motivated to preserve the sobriety you achieve.
- Skill building. You may not know how to avoid relapse triggers. Your team may help you understand what to do when one pops up.
- Support. Having an addiction can be isolating. Your team may help you to build a community of supporters to help you when times are tough.
- Trauma recovery. You may have issues in your past that spark your addiction. Therapists can help you understand the connection.