Prescription Opioids: Facts, Addiction and Treatments

Prescription Opioids: Facts, Addiction and Treatments

Prescription Opioids: Facts, Addiction and Treatments

Prescription Opioids are an extremely addictive class of drugs. They are typically prescribed to help aid in pain management after surgery, a major injury, chronic pain conditions, or cancer treatments. They can provide much-needed temporary relief for the user, however, they can quickly become addictive and turn deadly. With so many people using and overdosing from prescription opioids every day, it is important to know as much as possible about them. Keep reading to learn more about prescription opioids facts, addiction, and treatment.

Prescription Opioids: Facts

The first step to understanding prescription opioids is to educate yourself on how deadly and addictive they have become. Knowing these statistics can help aid in the prevention of the abuse of prescription opioids if you see yourself or a loved one in a high-risk situation for becoming addicted.

The names of opioid drugs include:

  • Heroin
  • Opium
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Paregoric
  • Tramadol

The Rise of the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic and the rise in opioid overdose deaths can be outlined in three distinct waves, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  1. First Wave: The epidemic began with increased prescribing of opioids in the 1990s, with overdose deaths involving prescription opioids (natural and semi-synthetic opioids and methadone) increasing since at least 1999.
  2. Second Wave: In 2010 rapid increases in overdose deaths involving heroin began.
  3. Third Wave: In 2013, significant increases in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, particularly those involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl began. The market for illicitly manufactured fentanyl continues to change, and it can be found in combination with heroin, counterfeit pills, and cocaine.

Addiction Statistics

Addiction doesn’t discriminate by age, gender, socioeconomic status, or childhood upbringing. Some statistics on the wide range of people affected by prescription opioid addiction, provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, include:

  • More than 70,000 Americans died from a drug-involved overdose in 2019, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids
  • Opioid-involved overdose deaths rose from 21,088 in 2010 to 47,600 in 2017 and remained steady in 2018 with 46,802 deaths. This was followed by a significant increase in 2019 to 49,860 overdose deaths.
  • 2018 data shows that every day, 128 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids.
  • Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.
  • About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.
  • An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.

Prescription Opioids: Addiction

Understanding addiction to prescription opioids is one of the most important elements of helping yourself, or a loved one, through addiction treatment. By understanding how it begins, the signs and symptoms, and how overdose happens, you will better be able to understand the cycle and do your part to help end it.

How It Starts

Addiction to prescription opioids can begin in many ways. These include:

  • Exposure to drugs. If an individual is exposed to prescription opioids, even as prescribed through a doctor, they are susceptible to becoming addicted. This can become more true if an individual has been exposed to drugs prior to a prescription for opioids, because they may be more likely to experiment with it.
  • Underlying causes. Having an underlying cause, such as trauma or mental health conditions, is how many individuals become addicted. Substances are an escape from their symptoms, and many turn to self-medicating because of this.
  • The stigma. Many individuals who recognize they have become addicted to prescription opioids, or see it in a loved one, might be afraid to get help due to the stigma surrounding addiction. They might rather live in denial or hide their addiction, which worsens their condition and can ultimately lead to a deadly overdose.

The Brain Chemistry

When an individual takes prescription opioids, the drug works by binding to pain receptors and cutting off the communication between it and the brain. This interference with the pain signals helps give the user relief for their extreme pain that over-the-counter medications cannot handle.

However, the user also receives a euphoric high. This is because high levels of dopamine are released at the same time. Dopamine is the body’s feel-good hormone, and when too much of it is released, the body is left feeling a crash. This crash presents withdrawal symptoms, causing the user to seek more. This causes dependence, tolerance, and it all adds up to addiction. This is how a user can become addicted to prescription opioids after even just one use.

Signs and Symptoms

Physical signs and symptoms of prescription opioid addiction include:

  • Poor coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Slurred speech
  • Marked weight gain or loss
  • Small pupils
  • Slow breathing

Emotional signs and symptoms of prescription opioid addiction include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Low motivation

Behavioral signs and symptoms of prescription opioid addiction include:

  • Poor decision making
  • Suddenly strained relationships
  • Creating volatile situations
  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Drug-seeking behaviors such as multiple prescriptions, multiple doctors, and multiple pharmacies
  • Purchasing opioids from the black market
  • Using more than prescribed
  • The inability to stop or slow use
  • Frequent withdrawal symptoms
  • A lot of time spent on obtaining the drug, being high from the drug, becoming hungover from the drug, or thinking about the drug

Opioid Overdose

As mentioned earlier in this blog, overdose rates are climbing and can happen anytime an individual takes opioids. An overdose takes place when too much of the drug is ingested. Opioids are a depressant, which slows the body down. This is why people often are slow-moving, sleepy, and have poor coordination while taking the drug.

When an overdose takes place, so much of the drug has been ingested that the body slows down to the point that it stops working. Essentially, the brain “forgets” how to breathe and how to keep the heart beating.

If you notice any of the below signs or symptoms of an overdose, it is important to call 911 immediately. Additionally, Narcan can be purchased at most drug stores to help stop overdoses from progressing. After you call 911, administering Narcan can help save a life.

Signs of an overdose include:

  • The person’s face is extremely pale and/or feels clammy to the touch
  • Their body goes limp
  • Their fingernails or lips have a purple or blue color
  • They start vomiting or making gurgling noises
  • They cannot be awakened or are unable to speak
  • Their breathing or heartbeat slows or stops

Prescription Opioids: Treatments

The good news, if any, about prescription opioid addiction is that it is a treatable condition. Successful treatment can provide the ability for individuals to live healthy, happy lives in recovery. While no two individuals who suffer from addiction are the same, the general path toward successful recovery includes detox, psychological treatment, and continuous aftercare.

The Journey to recovery begins with being detoxed and once you are through that important, cleansing process you’ll move into our village-like setting where the spirit of sisterhood, understanding, dignity, and empowerment begins to form. Once you begin our “Whole Woman” treatment program you will begin to feel the transformation begin from broken to whole. The typical stay with us is between 30-90 days and you will be assessed as to your progress and needs.

Prescription Opioids Detox

Detox is an important part of addiction recovery. It is the first physical step to becoming sober. With opioids, this can be tricky — and dangerous — to do alone, because the body has become physically dependent on the drug. Untangling all of that and rewiring the brain back to its natural chemistry can take time.

This is near impossible to do alone because an individual can become very uncomfortable during the early stages of detox. This is when the likelihood of relapse is the highest. As such, taking part in medicated-assisted detox is a great option to help keep you comfortable and supported by medical professionals during the detox process.

The newest treatments for those who are addicted to alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines have proven to help in the withdrawal process and help clients gradually decrease their cravings and discomfort.

Medical attention during this process will be around the clock until you are stable and ready to begin your therapies. The following are medications that may be used in medicated-assisted treatment:

  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol)
  • Suboxone
  • Methadone

Prescription Opioids Treatment

When it comes to addiction treatment, it is important to find what is right for you. What might work for some individuals, such as the 12 Steps, might not resonate with you as much. This can lead to a relapse situation, causing multiple trips to treatment. However, finding the right place for you that understands you can make all the difference.

As women, we have a unique set of needs. We treat your whole person; mind, body, and spirit. We understand the enormous pressures women face in our society, and our village-like atmosphere allows you the freedom and safety to work on underlying conditions.

The “Whole-Woman” approach to treatment utilizes today’s most cutting-edge, evidence-based therapies coupled with experiential and holistic therapies. The program includes individual therapy sessions with specifically trained Psychologists to help with your underlying conditions and your addiction.

Continuing Care

Once you have become sober from prescription opioids, that doesn’t mean your addiction recovery is complete. Addiction requires ongoing aftercare. This includes constant support by your loved ones and a sober support system, keeping up with your program by going to meetings and checking in, as well as maintaining your self-care, healthy lifestyle, and recognizing your triggers.

By keeping your stress levels low, your life enriched with hobbies and loved ones, and your addiction recovery ongoing, you will have the best chances for a healthy, happy life in long-term recovery.

About The Journey Home Women’s Recovery Center

The Journey Home was created over 20 years ago to be a safe, loving “village” in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for women to begin their journey to lasting recovery from addiction and the underlying causes that lead them to addiction. From the moment that you talk with us, you will know that you have made the best decision of your life.

We are a women’s only facility run and staffed by women. We treat substance use disorder differently, with an individualized treatment program focusing on trauma and co-occurring disorders. We also understand that you will be a big part of the discharge support planning and your involvement during treatment will be one of the building blocks to lasting recovery.

Once you get settled in with us, you will find that The Journey Home has created the perfect setting for your recovery. Surrounded by tranquil forests and acres of green grass along with a meditation pond, serenity and peace will begin to wash over you. The staff at The Journey Home will be devoted to you. They have one goal – and that is to make you feel safe, comfortable, and loved. They will be with you every step of the way on your journey. Our “Whole Woman” treatment approach will get to the underlying causes of trauma, depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. Our unique 12-step drug and alcohol treatment program puts you on the path to recovery.

For more information, visit