What You Need to Know About Opioid Dependence

Opioid dependence is becoming a national epidemic, affecting people from all walks of life. Use of prescription opioids outside of their medical purpose is resulting in substances abuse disorders affecting teens and adults across the country.

To better understand the resulting dependence, you need to know how the addiction starts and how strong the pull is.

Defining opioids

Opioids are prescription medications designed to control chronic pain, especially following a major surgery. There are a number of medications in the opioid family, made up of synthetic materials and natural components of the poppy seed plant. Common opioids include:

To ease pain, opioids bind to the receptors in your brain responsible for sensations of pain. This process creates a relaxed feeling and a sense of euphoria.

Although use of opioids under the strict guidance of your physician can be the most effective way to alleviate severe pain, the sensations opioids provide can increase a person’s risk for addiction.

When used for a long period of time, increasingly higher amounts of opioids are needed to achieve the same pleasing effects.

Even worse, those who take opioids recreationally rather than for medical necessity are at even higher risk for addiction. People in the throes of an addiction not only increase dosages to achieve a high, they utilize different methods for taking the medicines, such as direct injection or pill-crushing, which can increase the risk of an overdose.

Health risks of opioids

Opioids change your brain functionality to deal with pain. However, long-term use of the painkillers can result in less sensitive receptors that require higher doses of opioids to achieve a high. These dosage changes can trigger a long-lasting addiction that leads to a lack of oxygen in the brain and ultimately, brain damage.

Your heart is also at risk with opioid use. Heart damage and cardiovascular disease are common side effects of opioid use. You can also develop an irregular heartbeat, which increases the potential for a life-threatening heart attack.

Recognizing opioid overdose

Taking too much opioid medications, or using them in combination with other drugs, can result in an overdose. Without prompt treatment, an overdose can lead to serious health issues and death.

Common signs of an opioid overdose includes:

You can also observe physical changes in the body, including pinpoint pupils in the eyes and slow movements.

In the event of an overdose, especially if the person loses consciousness, naloxone injections can be useful in reversing the effects of the drug to save a life.

Recovering from opioids

Achieving a successful recovery from an opioid is possible. However, due to the difficulties and physical stress of withdrawal, you need a qualified professional to help you detox safely. For some, the intensity of withdrawal causes them to return to opioid use rather than recovery.

During detox, symptoms of withdrawal should be medically supervised to protect the person from injury or other health complications. Common symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:

Generally, these symptoms last for a week until the medication is out of the system and recovery can begin. With intensive therapy and other strategies, recovery from an opioid addiction is an achievable goal for anyone.

Dr. Sherman offers multiple resources for opioid addiction treatment and recovery. The first step is asking for help. Call the office today, or book an appointment online to end your addiction to opioids.

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