Opioid addiction is a long-lasting or chronic condition with major health, social, and economic problems. The below article details the same.
Opioids belong to a class of medications that work by reducing the number of pain signals the body sends to the brain. They also change the brain's response to pain and produce feelings of pleasure and pain relief. They are the derivatives of the plant Papaver somniferum, commonly known as the poppy husk. Opioids are taken orally or by inhalation, intravenous, intramuscular, and subcutaneous routes. Healthcare professionals often prescribe opioids to manage moderate to severe pain. The commonly prescribed opioids are Opium, Oxycodone, Codeine, Fentanyl, Buprenorphine, Methadone, Oxymorphone, Morphine, Tramadol, and Hydrocodone. Some opioids, like Heroin, are illegal drugs with a tendency of abuse. When used correctly, opioids are safe. But when a person takes opioids for a long time, it can lead to drug abuse, dependence, and addiction.
These medications manage pain well and can help boost the quality of life. Opioids are widely prescribed to treat many issues, like toothaches and dental procedures, injuries, surgeries, and chronic conditions such as cancer.
Opioid addiction refers to a powerful and compulsive urge to use opioids even when they are no longer required medically. Opioid drugs can even cause addiction in some people when the drugs are appropriately prescribed and taken as instructed. People who become addicted to opioids can prioritize getting and using these drugs over other activities in their lives, often negatively affecting their professional and personal relationships and resulting in poor quality of life.
Opioids alter the brain by forming artificial endorphins. Besides stopping pain, these endorphins also make you feel good. Unfortunately, excessive opioid use can cause the brain to rely on these artificial endorphins. Once the brain does this, it can stop creating its own endorphins. Opioids change the brain's chemistry and lead to drug tolerance, due to which, over time, the dose needs to be increased to attain the same effect. In addition, taking opioids for a long time produces its dependence. When people stop taking this drug, they experience withdrawal symptoms like diarrhea, muscle cramping, anxiety, sweating, nausea or vomiting, chills, shaking, pain, depression, and insomnia.
Opioid addiction is also known as substance abuse. One clear sign of opioid addiction is an inability to stop using opioids. The other common signs and symptoms of opioid abuse include:
Shallow or slow breathing rate.
Changes in sleep habits.
Lack of hygiene.
Changes in exercise habits.
Isolation from family or friends.
Stealing from family, friends, or businesses.
Several genetic, psychological, and environmental factors contribute to opioid addiction, which can happen quickly or after many years of opioid use.
The known risk factors for opioid addiction and include:
Family history of substance abuse.
Personal history of substance abuse.
History of criminal activity or legal problems.
Prolonged contact with high-risk people or high-risk environments.
Issues with family members and friends.
Heavy tobacco use.
History of severe depression or anxiety.
Prior drug or alcohol rehabilitation.
In addition, women have a particular set of risk factors for opioid addiction. For example, women are more likely to have chronic pain than men. They are also more often prescribed opioid medications, given higher doses, and use opioids for extended periods.
The medical health professional can diagnose opioid use disorder and opioid addiction by a medical assessment. It also often includes testing to rule out mental health disorders. A person struggling with opioid addiction may not display symptoms right away. However, there may be some signs that they need help over time.
Opioid addiction is a serious and chronic problem and should be treated and continually managed and monitored like other chronic conditions. Opioid addiction treatment is different for each person. The main goal of therapy aims to stop using opioid drugs. Treatment can also help avoid using these drugs again in the future. The treatment modalities for opioid addiction include:
1. Pharmacological Treatment: The pharmacological treatment includes two phases, the detoxification phase, and the maintenance phase.
Detoxification Phase: It consists of flushing out opioids from the body under the cover of prescribed medications to counter the withdrawal phenomenon.
Maintenance Phase: It includes keeping the person abstinent from opioid use by using either opioid agonists, like Buprenorphine or opioid antagonists, such as Naltrexone.
2. Non Pharmacological Treatment: In addition to pharmacological treatment, mental or emotional support is also necessary to manage opioid addiction. The non pharmacological methods are combined with pharmacological treatment to improve the therapeutic regime. These treatments also help a person with opioid addiction avoid opioids, deal with cravings, and heal damaged relationships. It comprises therapies, including:
Motivation level assessment.
Motivation enhancement therapy.
Relapse prevention management.
Opioids are safe when used for fewer days to manage acute pain, such as pain after surgery or a bone fracture. Work with a doctor to take the lowest dose possible for acute pain. However, opioids are not likely to be a safe and effective long-term treatment option for chronic pain. Many alternate treatment options are available, like less-addictive pain medications and non pharmacological therapies. If a loved one is considering taking opioids to manage pain. In that case, it is vital to consult a physician, anesthesiologist, or other pain medicine specialist about using them safely and exploring alternative options if needed. Learn from a physician or anesthesiologist to use opioids more wisely and safely and explore what pain management alternatives may work for you.
Opioids are drugs that a doctor often prescribes to help reduce pain. These drugs usually are safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor. When used correctly, opioids are safe. But when used for a long time, it can lead to drug abuse, dependence, and addiction. Treatment for opioid addiction and abuse is given by medical professionals. Medications such as Methadone, Buprenorphine, or Naltrexone combined with behavioral therapy can help people recover.
Last reviewed at:
09 Jun 2022 - 4 min read
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