Opioid Use Disorder
The Impact of Opioid Addiction and Serious Non-Addicted Abuse
Each year, millions of Americans misuse an opioid medication or take an opioid street drug. All of these people have increased chances of developing serious problems as a result of their actions. In addition, almost one-third of them already have diagnosable symptoms of a condition called opioid use disorder, or OUD. Left untreated, OUD can lead to major health problems. In a worst-case scenario, affected people can also die from opioid-related causes. For these reasons, prompt treatment of OUD is a top priority.
Addiction specialists are well-aware of the need to treat opioid use disorder. Today, the gold standard for anyone with this condition is medication-assisted treatment, or MAT. Research shows that MAT can not only help you recover from OUD. It can also help you avoid the many negative consequences associated with untreated opioid addiction.
Types of Opioids Commonly Encountered
Opioids are a large and diverse family of prescription medications and illegal drugs. All of these substances have their roots in chemicals that naturally occur in the opium poppy plant. Some opioids are made directly from these chemicals. Others are semi-synthetic and contain some manmade ingredients. In addition, some opioids are made entirely from such lab-based ingredients.
The list of the most well-known prescription opioids includes medications such as:
The most well-known opioid street drugs are heroin and opium.
How Do Opioids Affect the User?
When you take an opioid, it enters your bloodstream. From there, it travels to sites built into your nervous system called opioid receptors. These receptors are found in locations that include your:
- Spinal cord
The presence of opioids activates them and triggers two important effects. The first of these effects is the blocking of pain signals that would normally travel to the brain. This pain blockage helps explain opioids’ usefulness as medications. When other, less powerful medications fail to halt moderate or severe pain, prescription opioids often provide a benefit.
The second main effect of opioids is activation of the brain’s reward system or pleasure center. This activation leads to a pleasurable sensation known as euphoria. It is the production of euphoria that helps account for opioids’ status as addictive substances.
Why? Euphoria is defined by a level of pleasure that goes far beyond everyday pleasurable feelings. For any given group of people who take opioids, some will become drawn to this extreme sensation. Regardless of other considerations, they will start misusing the substance in question.
Short- and Long-Term Side Effects of Opioids
When you take an opioid, both short- and long-term side effects can occur. The short-term effects of these substances include pain relief and euphoria. They also include things such as:
- A confused mental state
- A slowdown in your normal breathing rate
- Constipated bowels
- Nausea with or without vomiting
One of the most notable longer-term effects of opioids is physical dependence. Physically dependent people have undergone brain changes that make them reliant on opioids. If they stop taking a given drug or medication, they will experience symptoms of withdrawal. You can become dependent after just one to two months of opioid use. This is true even if you follow all dosing instructions provided by your doctor.
Physical opioid dependence is not the equivalent of addiction. However, dependent people have elevated addiction risks. What distinguishes physical dependence from addiction? If you are affected by addiction, you have both a physical and psychological need to keep taking opioids. In addition, you will compulsively seek out more opioids to use.
There are also other potential long-term side effects of opioid use. Things you may experience include infections in your heart or lung tissue. They also include chronic pain in your muscles.
What Are the Risk Factors for Opioid Misuse?
Opioid misuse can be defined in multiple ways. If you have a prescription for an opioid medication, misuse occurs when you do any of the following:
- Take larger amounts of that medication than prescribed
- Use your medication more often than prescribed
- Consume your medication for recreational purposes, not proper treatment
- Take your medication after your prescription expires
- Do anything to speed up the effects of your medication
Anyone who takes an opioid medication without a prescription also misuses that medication. In addition, misuse occurs whenever you take an illegal opioid drug.
Not everyone is equally at-risk for opioid misuse. In fact, a large number of factors can increase the odds that you will run into problems. The list of these factors includes:
- A prior history of other kinds of substance problems
- Previous participation in substance treatment
- Having a family history of serious drug or alcohol problems
- Taking opioids at an early age
- Involvement in risky or impulsive behavior
- Being a heavy smoker
- Maintaining a friendship circle of people involved in substance abuse
- Regular exposure to high levels of stress
- Low income
- A previous diagnosis of severe anxiety or depression
Women also have additional, gender-related risks for opioid misuse. Those risks include higher rates of exposure to chronic pain. They also include the ways in which opioids are prescribed to women. For example, women receive these medications more often than men. They are also prescribed higher average doses. In addition, women receive prescriptions for longer durations of permitted use.
What Is an Opioid Use Disorder?
The official definition of opioid use disorder comes from the American Psychiatric Association. According to that definition, OUD includes either of two problems. The first of these problems is opioid addiction. The second is damaging, non-addicted abuse of opioids. You may be affected only by addiction or non-addicted abuse. However, you may have symptoms of both issues at the same time.
What Are Signs of An Opioid Use Disorder?
When diagnosing OUD, doctors look for 11 specific problems. These potential issues are:
- Loss of control over the level or frequency of your opioid use
- Not being able to quit using opioids or cut back on them
- Having opioid-related problems in your work, home or school life
- Experiencing recurring cravings for opioids
- Repeatedly taking opioids in high-risk or dangerous situations
- Needing to take increasing amounts of opioids to feel their effects
- Keeping up a level of opioid use that you know causes you harm
- Maintaining a level of use that leads to damaged relationships
- Making opioid use a central part of your daily routine
- Abandoning other leisure activities so you can use opioids
- Developing withdrawal symptoms if your opioid use stops or drops quickly
Some of these symptoms are addiction-related. Others indicate non-addicted abuse. You must have two or more total symptoms to receive an OUD diagnosis. Those symptoms may point to addiction, non-addicted abuse or both problems at once. In addition, your symptoms must occur during a 365-day window of time.
Is Detox Needed for Opioid Addiction?
Detox is an abbreviated term for detoxification. When you detox from a substance, you stop taking it and give it time to leave your system. You could attempt to do this on your own. However, if you do so, you increase your chances of experiencing some very serious problems, including:
- Untreated and potentially severe opioid withdrawal
- Significant or unexpected withdrawal complications
- A relapse back into active opioid misuse
Enrollment in a supervised medical detox program will help you avoid each of these problems. In this kind of program, you receive treatment that reduces the severity of opioid withdrawal. You also receive medical oversight that protects your health. In addition, supervised detox helps limit your risks for an opioid relapse.
Medical detox is recommended for essentially all people affected by opioid addiction. A properly designed program will help limit the effects of withdrawal symptoms such as:
- A rapid heartbeat
- Aches in your muscles and bones
- Spasming muscles
- An anxious mental state
- High sweat and mucus output
- Cramping in your abdomen
Your detox team will also monitor your overall health and treat any complications you may experience. In addition, during your time in detox, you get help preparing for the next step in recovery: substance treatment.
Medication-Assisted Options for Opioid Use Disorder
Today, medication-assisted options are the accepted standard of care for opioid use disorder. MAT gets its name because all patients enrolled in treatment receive some form of medication. At the same time, they receive additional help through participation is psychotherapy.
The medications currently approved for use in opioid MAT programs are methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Methadone and buprenorphine are primarily used during the withdrawal process. Both of these medications are opioids themselves. In MAT, they replace the substance acting as the source of your addiction.
Types of Medication Assisted Treatment
You do not get a drug effect from this substitution. Instead, either methadone or buprenorphine will help reduce your withdrawal symptoms to tolerable levels. In turn, this reduction makes the task of completing withdrawal easier to achieve.
Naltrexone is only used when detox has cleared opioids from your system. This medication is a powerful anti-opioid. It works by effectively blockading your opioid receptors. When this happens, any additional opioids you take will not reach your brain. As a result, you will not experience the euphoria normally associated with these substances.
Multiple therapy options can be included in a MAT recovery plan. Common choices include:
- Contingency management
- Community reinforcement
- Family behavior therapy
- 12-step facilitation therapy
- Motivational enhancement therapy
Well-chosen therapy services will make it easier for you to take an active role in your recovery. They will also make it easier for you to follow your treatment plan. In addition, therapy can help you resolve underlying family issues that contribute to your addiction risks. It can also help you add a mutual support group to your recovery plan.
How Can I Find Treatment for an Opioid Use Disorder?
How can you find facilities that treat OUD? A good place to start is your doctor’s office. Most primary care physicians know how to help you get the process started. You can also speak directly to an addiction specialist in your area. Today, most OUD treatment centers advertise on the Internet. This means that you have an additional resource for finding needed treatment.
However, caution is strongly advised when doing web searches for rehab programs. Not all programs provide the same level of experience or expertise. It is crucial that you know what to look for when trying to spot reputable providers.
Features to Look for In Opioid Treatment Facilities
What specific features should you look for in qualified providers? For starters, effective programs center their approach on the MAT model. Medication-assisted treatment is evidence-based. This means that it has undergo extensive study and review. When you receive it, you know that it has already proven to be effective for large numbers of people.
Your MAT plan should also be customized. This ensures that the treatment you receive meet your specific needs. In addition, your plan should be flexible. As you make progress in your recovery, it adapts to fit your current situation.
There are a variety of other things to look for in any facility you are considering. That includes:
- Proper facility certification
- Experienced doctors, therapists and support staff
- A comfortable treatment environment
- Inpatient and outpatient recovery options
The facility you chose may also offer luxury amenities that help enhance your overall treatment benefits.
Long-Term Recovery from Opioid Use Disorder Is Possible at The Discovery House
Opioid use disorder is a serious condition that requires effective treatment. You have increased risks for this condition if you misuse an opioid. That is true whether the substance in question is a medication or a street drug.
Medication-assisted treatment is today’s standard for OUD recovery. This treatment helps you safely complete opioid detox. It also forms the core of active opioid rehab. MAT includes both medication and therapy. The specific options that are suitable for you depend upon the details of your situation. In all cases, the goal of OUD treatment is both short- and long-term sobriety.
Holistic Wellness through Treatment at TDH
At The Discovery House, we specialize in luxury, evidence-based care for opioid use disorder. No matter how serious your OUD symptoms, we provide options that fits your needs. All of our customized recovery plans take a holistic perspective on your well-being.
We seek not only to treat the symptoms of addiction. In addition, we provide a full slate of secondary treatments that address other essential aspects of your health and wellness. For more information on our comprehensive approach, just call us today.