How To Take Opioids And Not Get Addicted
An addiction specialist explains when it makes sense to take one of these powerful drugsand for how long.
It might not seem like a big deal to take a pain med prescribed by your doctor. But if the drug falls into the opioid category, you may want to have a deeper conversation with your physician.
Opioid medicationssuch as codeine, oxycodone, and fentanylwork by attaching to opioid receptors in the body and brain to lower the perception of pain. They can be very effective, but also highly addictive.
The longer you take an opioid, the more you may need to get the same pain-killing effect, says Antoine Douaihy, MD, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “They aren’t an appropriate long-term pain management option,” he told Health in a prior interview.
But in recent years, there’s been a “dramatic increase in the acceptance” of opioids to treat conditions like osteoarthritis and back pain, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of scripts written for opioids has nearly quadrupled since 1999. And in the same period, the number of deaths from prescription opioid meds has grown fourfold.
Today we are in the middle of an opioid overdose epidemic. Unfortunately, health care practitioners have contributed to this public health crisis over the past two decades, Dr. Douaihy said. We underestimated the addictive potential of opioid painkillers and theyve been overprescribed.
How Do I Seek Treatment For Opioid Addiction
If you find yourself becoming more dependent on your painkillers and you are having a hard time quitting, the first step is to acknowledge your condition. Without this, it will be hard for you to get the proper assistance you require to get clean.
Its important to speak to a professional about your condition who can recommend ways on how you can safely recover. There are available evidence-based treatments and medically assisted detoxprograms that can help you on a holistic level. You deserve a full, enjoyable life free from substance abuse and all you need to do is to reach out to get there.
We are happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors. Help is available today.
Definitions Of Key Terms
dopamine : A neurotransmitter present in brain regions that regulate movement, emotion, motivation, and the feeling of pleasure.
GABA : A neurotransmitter in the brain whose primary function is to inhibit the firing of neurons.
locus ceruleus : A region of the brain that receives and processes sensory signals from all areas of the body involved in arousal and vigilance.
noradrenaline : A neurotransmitter produced in the brain and peripheral nervous system involved in arousal and regulation of blood pressure, sleep, and mood also called norepinephrine.
nucleus accumbens : A structure in the forebrain that plays an important part in dopamine release and stimulant action one of the brains key pleasure centers.
prefrontal cortex : The frontmost part of the brain involved in higher cognitive functions, including foresight and planning.
ventral tegmental area : The group of dopamine-containing neurons that make up a key part of the brain reward system key targets of these neurons include the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex
What Causes Opioid Addiction
Opioid drugs alter your brain by creating artificial endorphins. Besides blocking pain, these endorphins make you feel good. Too much opioid use can cause your brain to rely on these artificial endorphins. Once your brain does this, it can even stop producing its own endorphins. The longer you use opioids, the more likely this is to happen. You also will need more opioids over time because of drug tolerance.
Drug tolerance is when your body, over time, gets used to the effects of a drug. As this happens, you may need to take a higher dose of the drug to get the same effect. When you take opioids over time, you need a higher dose to get the same pain relief.
If you stop using an opioid for a period of time, your tolerance will begin to fade. If you need to begin taking it again, you most likely will not need your former higher dose. That can be too much for the body to take. If you stop taking a medication, and then resume, talk to your doctor about dosage.
Signs Of Opioid Addiction
Using prescription or illegal opiates for more than a few days can put you at risk of addiction. The first sign of addiction is tolerance, meaning that it takes a larger amount of the drug to produce the same results. Other signs might include symptoms of withdrawal when you stop use of the drug or an obsession with obtaining more of the substance. Also, if you find yourself shopping around for more doctors to prescribe you the painkiller, then you are probably already addicted. Other signs to look for include:
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What Opioid Pain Medicines Are Prescribed For Children And Teens
Opioid pain medicines prescribed for children and teens include:
- hydrocodone with acetaminophen liquid and pills
- oxycodone with acetaminophen liquid and pills
- hydromorphone liquid and pills
- morphine liquid and pills
- oxycodone liquid and pills
- others Ask your health care provider if your child is prescribed an opioid pain medicine that is not on this list.
How To Spot Signs Of Opioid Addiction
Doctors use an 11-point checklist to help determine if a persons opioid use signals a deeper problem. Heres what they look for.
It isnt always easy to tell if a person has an addiction to opioids.
But any strange habits or suspicions should be taken seriously, says Jonathan D. Morrow, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan.
If youre using more and more of a drug, yet your daily functioning is getting worse instead of better, thats a sign of addiction, Morrow says. If youre using for a longer time than prescribed, thats a warning sign. If youre using it for reasons other than prescribed for example, because youre depressed or anxious or bored, that puts you at really high risk.
Whether an opioid was obtained legally or not, taking it isnt supposed to be satisfying.
If you use opioids for the intended purpose, you ideally should get no high, Morrow says. You get lots of side effects such as nausea and constipation. Its really not pleasant.
Its once you go beyond the amount you need for pain control that you start getting a high.
Opioids cause the brain to release dopamine, which triggers a desire to repeat the drug-taking experience. Taken for too long or in high amounts, they can be highly addictive.
Morrow spoke about the checklist and how it is applied.
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What Are The Risks Of Opioid Pain Medicines
Someone who takes an opioid pain medicine for a few days might notice side effects like sleepiness, constipation, itching, and stomach upset. When opioids are taken as directed, these side effects may be inconvenient, but are not dangerous.
If opioids are taken for longer, there are other risks, including:
- developing a tolerance
- physical dependence
Someone addicted to opioids will want to get more when the prescription runs out. This can lead to inappropriate or risky behavior, such as lying to a doctor to get a new prescription, buying opioids from a friend, stealing opioids from friends or family, or buying and using street drugs.
Taking too much of an opioid or mixing it with other drugs and/or alcohol can lead to overdose and death.
What Can You Do Today
- Be honest. Lying or underestimating the extent of your dependence wont help you. Talk to your doctor or a professional counselor what youre taking and your symptoms of dependence.
- Find your supports. Tell your friends and family members that you need help. Chances are, there is also a network of resources in the community there to help you. Dont assume that you cant afford or cant benefit from these resources until you try them.
- Prepare for withdrawal. Halting opiate use can sometimes cause extreme withdrawal symptoms. This is why its vital to get the medical treatment you need to help you get the drug out of your system.
- Find peers who relate. Recovery groups remain powerful influences in the lives of those who struggle with opioid use. Never assume that there arent people who cant relate to your own mistakes or choices when it comes to drug use.
If you or someone you know is hooked on prescription painkillers or other opioids, get the help you need today. Help is available, so take the first step towards living a life free of opioids.
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How Did Opioids Become So Widely Available
Many people attribute the start of this problem to the aggressive drug marketing which began in the late 1990s. This was when big pharmaceutical companies released awareness campaigns about the importance of chronic pain treatment and assured the public that the chances of getting addicted from painkillers is very low, especially if there is no history of addiction. Testimonials from doctors and patients somehow established the idea that long-term use of painkillers is safe and not addictive.
As a result of this pronouncement, medical practitioners started prescribing painkillers increasingly. For OxyContin alone, a top selling opioid painkiller, written prescriptions for non-cancer patients increased from 670,000 in 1997 to 6.2 million in 2002! While there were doctors who argued that these were valid prescriptions, it is undeniable that this rate was parallel with the spike in prescription drug abuse.
What Is Drug Dependence
Drug dependence is when the way your body works changes because you have taken a drug for a long time. These changes cause you to have withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can be mild or severe, and may include:
If you have been taking a prescription opioid for a long time, work with your doctor. They can help you avoid withdrawal symptoms by gradually lowering your dose over time until you no longer need the medicine.
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Stress And Drug Craving
That drug abuse patients are more vulnerable to stress than the general population is a clinical truism. In the research arena, numerous studies have documented that physical stressors and psychological stressors can cause animals to reinstate drug use and that stressors can trigger drug craving in addicted humans . The likely explanation for these observations is that opioids raise levels of cortisol, a hormone that plays a primary role in stress responses and cortisol, in turn, raises the level of activity in the mesolimbic reward system . By these mechanisms, stress may contribute to the abusers desire to take drugs in the first place and to his or her subsequent compulsion to keep taking them.
Treatment For Opiate Addiction
There are many treatment options to choose from, but research suggests the most effective form of treatment for Opiate addiction is inpatient detox followed by inpatient rehab. Inpatient rehab centers have specialized programs for individuals suffering from this type of substance use disorder. These programs help patients dig deep within themselves to uncover the root cause of their drug use. Knowing what caused patients to use drugs or alcohol in the first place will help prevent future triggers while in recovery.
Many individuals quickly find that the rewards of progressing through a treatment program far outweigh the high they formerly gained from drug use.
Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelors and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffreys desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffreys mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.
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Why Do People Become Addicted To Opioids
Opioids can make your brain and body believe the drug is necessary for survival. As you learn to tolerate the dose youâve been prescribed, you may find that you need even more medication to relieve the pain or achieve well-being, which can lead to dependency. Addiction takes hold of our brains in several ways â and is far more complex and less forgiving than many people realize.
How To Get Treatment For Heroin And Opioid Addiction
According to a statistic by SAMHSA, âthe number of people aged 12 or older who received treatment for heroin use during their most recent treatment in the past year hasrisen from 277,000 people in 2002 to 526,000 people in 2013.â Some people arenât fortunate enough to seek help, because many people suffering from an addiction donât recognize a problem in the first place.
We are here to help, if you or a loved one is struggling with a drug addiction with heroin and other opioids. Contact Us today if you have questions about opioid addiction. Sometimes the phone can weigh a ton when you need help, but call now to speak to one of our caring professionals and get on the road to recovery. You donât want to become another drug statisticâ¦
For More Information Related to Heroin and Opioid Addiction Statistics Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From DrugRehab.org:
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What You Need To Know About Opiate Addiction
Some opiates create over 100 times more endorphins than the body would naturally. Imagine the impact this has on the brain and relevant nerve cells. When the brain shuts down endorphin production because of opiate use, the addictive nature becomes clear: there is no other way to compensate for the lost endorphins except to take more and more of the opiate in question.
This is the vicious cycle of opiate addiction.
What happens when an opiate addict stop taking the drugs they have been abusing? Withdrawal symptoms occur almost immediately and can include: stress, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, depression, restlessness, lack of sleep and other debilitating effects. Because of the potentially serious nature of withdrawal and the likelihood of the user returning to the opiate in question during this time, it is crucial that professional help is sought for the opiate addict.
If you believe you or someone you love may be addicted to opiates, please call our call center 24 hours a day .
Medications For Opioid Addiction Include:
- Available as dissolving tablet, cheek film, extended-release injection, or 6-month implant under the skin.
- Can be prescribed by a doctor for use outside of a clinic.
- Can only be used in a certified opioid treatment program setting.
- Can be prescribed by any clinician who can legally prescribe medication.
- Only used for people who have not used opioids for at least 710 days.
Talk with a doctor to find out what types of treatments are available in your area and what options are best for you and/or your loved one. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease be sure to ask your doctor about the risk of relapse and overdose.
If you notice that someone may be struggling with opioid addiction:
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Warning Signs And Symptoms That Indicate The Use And Abuse Of Opiates Including Observable Behavioral And Physical Symptoms
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Opiates, which are also commonly called opioids, are a group of drugs that are primarily used to treat pain. They get their name from the opium poppy, from which they are derived. The terms opiates and opioids are used to describe both natural and synthetic medications.
A Widespread Ignorance About Opioids
If you are a person who was not exposed to a drug environment or had no prior relationship with a drug user, its understandable to be unaware that the painkiller that your doctor just prescribed you for that broken leg is the same opioid you hear in the news all the time. Chances are, youll just take them as prescribed and if you still feel pain, you may think taking extra is totally harmless.
But what happens when your prescription runs out? You find yourself stretching the truth about your levels of pain with your doctor, and eventually they refuse your next medication refill. Unfortunately, by this time youve developed a physical dependence on opioids and unless you get access to more medication, you are about to experience the most painful and torturous detox and withdrawal period you could possibly imagine. At this point, many turn to doctor shopping or resort to street drugs simply to avoid the pain of withdrawal.
This makes it much harder because in order to control this crisis, it would take a massive amount of effort from various sectors including the government, the medical community and the public to raise awareness about what these drugs can do.
In 2017, a survey revealed that the awareness on opioid addiction in the US rose to 43% which is significantly higher than the 33% rate in 2016. While this is remarkable development, that still means that more than half of Americans are not aware that this is an ongoing threat.
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