In addition to being a natural brain chemical, opioids are a common prescription and popular recreational drug. Over the past decade, opioid overdose and addiction have affected hundreds of thousands of people, making opioids one of America’s most significant substance-related public health issues.
How does opioid addiction work, and how can it be treated? Find out what opioid addiction is and how it can affect you.
What Are the Different Types of Opioids?
The first opioids were derived from the opium poppy plant and can also be called opiates. These opioids commonly treat moderate-to-severe pain, including pain after surgery, in patients with cancer and those with chronic pain.
Synthetic opioids are created in a lab and are usually stronger than naturally derived opioids. These include drugs such as fentanyl, methadone, and buprenorphine. They are typically used to treat severe pain or manage pain in patients with addiction.
Semi-synthetic opioids are created from naturally derived opioids and are often used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. These include drugs such as hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone.
Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction
Knowing the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction can help identify it sooner and get you the needed help.
One of the first signs of opioid addiction is a growing tolerance to the drug, which means the person needs higher doses to achieve the same effects. They may also begin taking more of the opioid than prescribed or begin to take it more frequently than prescribed.
Physical Signs and Symptoms
Physical signs and symptoms of opioid abuse or addiction can include:
- Itchy skin
- Flu-like symptoms
- Excessive yawning
Mental Signs and Symptoms
Mental and behavioral signs and symptoms of opioid addiction can include:
- Engaging in dangerous behaviors while taking opioids
- Difficulty concentrating, thinking, and making decisions
- Having difficulty controlling opioid use
- Feeling a strong need or craving for opioids
- Neglecting responsibilities to use opioids
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not taking opioids
- Feeling the need to take larger amounts or take it more often than prescribed
Opioid Addiction Epidemic Statistics in the U.S.
Opioid addiction has been one of the most widespread substance use problems in the United States. An estimated 80,816 opioid overdose deaths occurred in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prescription opioid misuse often leads to heroin and fentanyl use. There has been a steady increase in overdose deaths during the past decade. In 2021, overdose death rates spiked to 107,622, an increase of 15% from the previous year.
The CDC also reports that fentanyl causes most opioid overdose deaths. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. In a dose as small as 2 mg, like a snowflake’s weight, it can cause a fatal overdose. In addition to heroin and cocaine, fentanyl can be mixed with other drugs without the user knowing, resulting in a deadly overdose.
If you or someone you know has an opioid-related substance use disorder, help is available. Don’t wait one more day to get the help you need to be free from active addiction. To learn more about opioid addiction treatment options, speak to a representative at TruPath today.
Opioid Addiction Treatment Options
Despite being a chronic disease, opioid addiction can be treated. Addiction treatment involves treating biological, psychological, and social factors. In addition to intensive medical treatment, addiction treatment includes clinical outpatient programs and several other levels of care.
You will undergo an assessment process to determine the right level of care before beginning an addiction treatment program. After your assessment, you may go through one or more of the following treatment options:
Medical detox is the highest level of addiction treatment available. In detox, medical professionals monitor you as you go through the withdrawal phase of recovery. Opioids do not usually cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, but they can cause uncomfortable flu-like symptoms.
Opioid withdrawal can cause dehydration in some cases, which can be dangerous. Many people with opioid use disorders undergo detox to ease their symptoms and avoid relapse.
Inpatient and residential programs may be appropriate if you need high-level physical or psychological care after detox. You can move to intensive outpatient or outpatient treatment if you can live independently. You will likely have several therapy options at these levels of care, including individual therapy and group therapy.
In outpatient substance abuse treatment, you can attend therapies and interventions during the day while living independently at night. Outpatient treatment differs from inpatient treatment in that it involves 24-hour care and residential services. Three levels of treatment are available depending on how much time you spend each week in treatment.
Within the outpatient treatment umbrella, there is partial hospitalization (PHP), intensive outpatient treatment (IOP), and outpatient treatment (OP). Partial hospitalization involves more than 20 hours of treatment services each week, while intensive outpatient treatment involves nine or more hours of treatment per week. If you receive outpatient treatment (OT), it will involve fewer than nine hours a week.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
A combination of medications and other therapies used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can treat substance use disorders. You could be prescribed various medications during an addiction treatment program to manage uncomfortable symptoms and medical problems that accompany addiction.
Medication may be taken for nausea, insomnia, anxiety, depression, or other issues. Still, the medications used in MAT are approved for treating drug addiction and dependence, including buprenorphine, methadone, naltrexone, and others.
Frequently Asked Questions about Opioid Addiction
Want to learn more about opioid addiction? Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about opioid addiction:
Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Right for Me?
Psychotherapy is generally the gold standard for treating substance use problems. Even with consequences, cravings and compulsions make it challenging to resist using drugs. Using psychotherapy, we can identify underlying issues and develop long-term recovery strategies.
Traditionally, addiction treatment begins with a detox phase. You stop taking the drug and experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Some drugs, like stimulants, can cause uncomfortable psychological symptoms, opioids can make you feel very ill, and depressants can cause life-threatening physical symptoms during withdrawal.
Often, withdrawal requires medical treatment to ensure safety. However, some people struggle to get through withdrawal, even with treatment. Attempting treatment and relapsing during withdrawal or after reaching sobriety many times can result in chronic relapse. In such cases, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help give you more support while you develop the tools to cope with stress and triggers without using opioids.
What Are the Short-Term and Long-Term Risks of Opioid Addiction?
In the short-term, opioid addiction can cause significant physical and psychological issues. Some of the most prevalent short-term effects of opioid addiction include the following:
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Reduced coordination and difficulty breathing
- Slowed thinking and reaction times
- Nausea, vomiting, and constipation
- Anxiety and depression
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Increased risk of overdose
Long-term opioid addiction can lead to a variety of physical and psychological problems, including:
- Organ damage, including brain, liver, and kidneys
- Increased risk of infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis
- Frequent episodes of confusion and memory loss
- Psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety
- Increased risk of suicide
- Increased risk of accidents due to impaired judgment and coordination
How Quickly Can I Get Admitted Into an Opioid Addiction Facility?
There are many barriers to addiction treatment, including your readiness to change. When someone decides to seek treatment, they will begin their treatment journey as soon as possible. Many variables go into the time between when you decide to seek treatment and your first day of recovery, including travel. However, TruPath’s goal is to get you into treatment within 24 hours of your call.
How Quickly Can You Get Addicted to Opioids?
How quickly someone can become addicted to opioids depends on various factors. Someone with a history of substance abuse or addiction is more likely to become addicted faster than someone who has not previously used drugs or alcohol. Additionally, if someone is using opioids to self-medicate for an underlying mental health issue, they may be at greater risk for addiction.
In general, the more frequently someone uses opioids, the greater their chances of becoming addicted. The route of administration is also a factor—intravenous use can lead to a quicker onset of addiction. Those who use opioids with other drugs, especially alcohol, can also become addicted faster.
American Psychiatric Association. (2017, January). What Is Addiction? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction
CDC. (2022, May 11). U.S. overdose deaths in 2021 increased half as much as in 2020 – but are still up 15%. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2022/202205.htm
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Prescription opioid use is a risk factor for heroin use. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-heroin-abuse/prescription-opioid-use-risk-factor-heroin-use
SAMHSA. (2019, November 22). Buprenorphine. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/buprenorphine