Understanding Opioid Abuse

Opioid prescription medications have become more popular in the past two decades and due to their addictive potential have caused a major epidemic in the United States known as the Opioid Crisis, a problem which has led to the deaths of nearly 500,000 Americans since 1999 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioid addiction is a serious public health problem in the United States and while both legislative action and drug rehabs in Orange County have stepped in to try and help, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to counteract this opioid misuse.

Before we take a look at how opiate addiction has affected the country and treatment options for those dealing with the problem, let’s first get a better understanding of what opioids and opioid addiction actually is.

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What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drug that affect the nervous system and attach to opioid receptors in the brain to produce pleasurable feelings and pain relief. Many opioid pain relievers are legally prescribed by healthcare providers to help patients with chronic pain management.

Examples of Opioids

Some of the most common forms of opioid drugs include:

  • Oxycodone, brand name OxyContin
  • Hydrocodone, brand name Vicodin
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone
  • Morphine

Along with these prescription medications, heroin is also an opioid as it is derived from the opium plant and is an opiate-based substance.

Opioids have been in the spotlight in recent years as the Opioid Epidemic has become more prominent. Despite how often they are prescribed, opioids have a high potential for addiction, even when prescribed properly and taken as instructed. This can cause people to develop a substance use disorder and, in some cases, a trip to the emergency department.

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What is Opioid Addiction?

Opioid addiction is a chronic disease that causes serious physical and mental health problems, social issues, and can lead to financial turmoil. It is the powerful and uncontrollable urge to use these drugs, even when they are no longer medically required.

This problem occurs when a person begins taking prescription or illicit opioids regularly, abusing them — this causes the body to build up a tolerance to the drug, requiring the user to take more to receive the desired effects. Eventually this becomes a cyclical problem in which the user needs the drugs in order to function properly in their day-to-day lives.

Sadly, this cycle can go further than this. Some of the signs of opioid abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Stealing from family, friends, or businesses
  • Financial difficulties

Let’s better understand how this type of drug addiction develops and what it can lead to.

Opioid Addiction and Dependence

Repeated exposure and use of opioids, like other drugs, can actually change the way the brain works and lead to the development of opioid tolerance. As mentioned above, as a user begins to build up a tolerance to a drug they will begin taking higher doses of the substance in order to achieve the same effects.

Taking opioids in this manner for a period of time produces a dependence on the drug. Building a dependence causes users to not feel normal unless the drug is in their system. Moreover, those who have an opioid dependence will also deal with physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal if they have gone a period of time without being exposed to the substance.

Some of the most common opioid withdrawal symptoms include muscle cramping, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and more.

Opioid Addiction in America

Behind alcohol, opioids are the most serious and problematic drugs of abuse in the United States. In 2019 alone, there were over 50,000 opioid-involved overdose deaths. As mentioned previously, this is mainly fueled by the Opioid Crisis. Prescription pain medication, heroin, and synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, are all culprits behind the emergence of opioids and the effects that they have had on the country.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the economic burden caused by prescription misuse totals $78.5 billion each year. This includes the cost of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment programs, and more.

Let’s take a quick look at some more statistics regarding opioid addiction.

Opioid Addiction Statistics

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a part of the NIH, publish illicit and prescription drug statistics each year to get a pulse on the problem.

  • Up to 29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them
  • About 4 in 5 people who use heroin first got their start from prescription opioids
  • Up to 12% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder
  • Almost 750,000 people used heroin in the past year
  • 1.6 million people had an opioid use disorder in the past year
  • Over 10 million people misused prescription opioids in the past year

Opioid Crisis and Opioid Overdose

The Opioid Crisis is one of the most significant health events to happen to Americans in the past two decades. It has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans and has impacted millions more friends and family members. But how did we get to this point?

The seeds of the Opioid Epidemic were sown in the late 1990s when pharmaceutical companies allegedly used deceptive marketing tactics to have their opioid medications prescribed at higher rates to patients dealing with chronic illnesses. They told the medical community that these medications had little to no risk for addiction and soon healthcare providers began opioid prescribing at greater rates.

The increased prescription of these drugs led to widespread misuse and abuse and it soon became clear that these drugs did have addictive potential as opioid overdoses began to increase. By 2017, over 47,000 Americans died as a result of opioid overdoses and the crisis began to evolve.

With so many people addicted to opioid prescription medications, they began looking for cheaper, easier-to-obtain alternatives, leading to many to begin heroin use to mimic these prescription drugs. Moreover, synthetic opioids like fentanyl, began to be mixed into other drugs by illicit drug manufacturers to increase addictiveness and maximize profits. Unfortunately, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are incredibly dangerous, even a miniscule amount of the substance is enough to cause problematic side effects like overdose.

The Opioid Crisis is a very complex issue and there is no quick-fix solution. While there have been legislative measures taken on both federal and state levels, there is still much more work to be done to spread awareness, reduce opiate use, and help those suffering get the treatment they need.

Renaissance Recovery and Opioid Addiction Treatment

Opioid addiction is a serious problem and those who are struggling with an opioid use disorder will have their best shot at overcoming this issue if they receive professional help from an opiate addiction treatment center, like those at Renaissance Recovery.

Treatment at an opioid treatment program will consist of many things including medication-assisted treatment and administration of various opioid addiction medications like naloxone, naltrexone and buprenorphine. These will be used in conjunction with various forms of talk therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance abuse problem of any kind, Renaissance Recovery is here to help you. We have a California substance abuse treatment center in place to help those dealing with any form of addiction. If you are looking to get help for an alcohol addiction or drug abuse problem, don’t put it off any longer.

Call our admissions team today to learn more about an individualized addiction treatment plan and how Renaissance can help you!

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