Opioid addiction is a chronic disease affecting millions of people worldwide. Did you know in the year 2019, more than 50,000 Americans died from opioid use disorder? Opioids are classified as a group of drugs that initiate changes in the nervous system, making a person experience feelings of pleasure and pain relief.

Though people also take prescribed opioids to get relief from severe pain, some patients are more vulnerable to addiction. Now, the question is how does an opioid addict get out of the rut?

Below we share key information about Opioid addiction treatment along with other important data about the disorder.

What Is Opioid Addiction?

Opioid addiction is a long-lasting disease characterized by the compulsive urge to use opioid drugs for self-satisfaction, even when they are no longer prescribed medically.

While drugs like heroin are deemed illegal in the eyes of the federal government, some opioids are prescribed by healthcare providers to manage chronic pain.

Buprenorphine, methadone, oxycodone, fentanyl, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine are some examples of legal opioids.

In most cases, many prescribed opioids are misused and are rather used for recreational purposes, causing a serious danger to the overall health of the patient.  Addicts also reach a level where they prefer using the drug over other activities and hamper their personal and professional relationships.

Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

  • Taking larger amounts of drugs to get the same relief that you were once getting from a smaller dosage.
  • Taking a longer time using an opioid or recovering from its effects.
  • A powerful desire or urge  to use opioids
  • Difficulty concentrating in other important areas of life, such as the workplace, personal relationships, etc.
  • Cutting down on activities of daily routine due to excessive opioid use.
  • Consuming drugs to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Using drugs in physically dangerous situations.
  • Continuing the use of opioids in spite of a physical or psychological problem caused by opioids.

The use of opioids is risky as it can often lead to physical dependence over a short span of time (even in 4-8 weeks). Speaking of chronic opioid users, a sudden break from drugs could often invite side effects like :

  • Muscle cramps
  • Unconsciousness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Diarrhea
  • Body pain
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Uncontrollable cravings

As per a report published in the American Medical Association (AMA), around 3 to 19 % of patients who take prescribed pain medications often get addicted to them.

Opioid Addiction: Causes

While some causes of opioid addiction are complex, others are unidentified. Yet, research suggests that the cause of opioid addiction lies in genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

Speaking of genetic factors, scientists strongly believe that genes play an imperative role in the development of opioid addiction. Here’s how.

Human body has an internal system called the endogenous opioid system which is responsible for regulating emotions, such as regulating pain, pleasure, reward, etc. The system produces endogenous opioids ( naturally produced opioid substances) and their receptors which bind to the exogenous opioids (external substances like heroin and opioid medications) and affect our behavior.

Some of the non-genetic factors that can also cause opioid addiction:

  • History of substance abuse
  • Psychiatric disorders like depression
  • Certain personality traits

Prevention of Opioid Overdose

The use of opioids is considered safest when used to treat acute pain for three or fewer days. If you are prescribed to use opioids for treating short-term pain, make sure you start on a low dosage.

Speaking of opioid consumption for chronic pain, it might not be the safest option. One should talk to their doctor and chalk out a treatment plan consisting of less-addictive pain medications, nonpharmacological therapies, and lifestyle changes. Consciously work towards building a healthier lifestyle that does not include the use of opioids.

Opioid Addiction Treatment & Management

The major treatments available for opioid misuse and addiction are:

  1. Medicines
  2. Counseling
  3. Support from family and friends

Medication

Most of the treatment plans would include the use of medications. The most common medications used in opioid addiction treatment include Methadone, Naltrexone, and Buprenorphine. For best results, counseling and other types of therapies are recommended along with the use of medications.

Methadone

Methadone is a powerful drug that acts as an opioid in the brain to control the cravings of taking drugs and also provides pain relief. Patients who take methadone feel normal and not high. The medication comes in a pill form and is generally advised to be taken once a day, but the dosage might be different as per the condition of the patient.

Naltrexone

Naltrexone is considered a good option for preventing relapse as it blocks opioids from acting on the brain and eventually prevents the person from getting high.

Buprenorphine 

Buprenorphine also works as an opioid in the brain to cut down cravings and also helps the patient avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Counseling and Behavioral Therapies

Counseling and behavioral therapies are considered quite effective in the treatment of opioid addiction. There are different types of counseling to treat opioid use disorder:

  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT):  It is individual counseling where the therapist helps you understand and stop negative patterns of thinking and behavior. CBT teaches you how to manage stress and initiate a positive thinking pattern for a healthier lifestyle.
  • Group Counseling and Family Counseling: In group counseling, you get a chance to hear the story of others who have been through similar experiences as yours.  This helps you learn new ways to deal with your situations.  Family counseling is when you spend more time with your closest family members and share your feelings. This gives you the support that you need to recover and improve your overall life.

Final Thoughts

Recovering from an opioid use disorder could be difficult and might take a lot of treatments to finally get relief. But what you need is the right treatment and the ‘will’ to get over your addiction and see things from a newer perspective.