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Recovering From an Opioid Addiction

Opioid Addiction Recovery Starts with Detox

Life can seem bleak when you’re battling an opioid addiction. You may wonder if there’s any way to escape, but the fact is that many people don’t. Right now, our country is facing a serious opioid crisis that has claimed a lot of lives. Going to detox and rehab can help you avoid the same fate.

Most people who are addicted to narcotic drugs don’t understand them. They don’t know the risks involved with abusing them, and they don’t know how to stop. Maybe that’s something you can relate to. You’d like to quit, but perhaps you don’t see how it’s possible. We’d like you to know that it is, as long as you have the right kind of professional support.

The first step is to increase your knowledge. The more you know about these dangerous drugs, the better. It’s important to be educated so that you understand exactly what the risks are.

Opioid Vs. Opiate: What’s the Difference?

People will typically use these words to mean the same thing. However, there are some differences between opioids and opiates.

Opiate drugs are those that are derived naturally from the poppy plant. They may need some processing in order to get to their final state, but they’re natural, nonetheless. Heroin and morphine are examples of opiate drugs.

The word opioid encompasses both the naturally occurring opiates and the drugs that are created in a lab. Vicodin and Oxycodone are two examples, but there are many others. It’s a term that refers to any substance that can bind to the brain’s opioid receptors.

Both the natural and the synthesized versions of these drugs are highly addictive. They can be very dangerous when they’re misused. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to refer to both types of drugs as opioids.

Opioid Use and Abuse Statistics in the United States

It’s startling to look at some of the current opioid statistics in our country. As of 2018:
  • There are more than 115 people who die every day from opioid overdoses.
  • It’s estimated that the total economic burden due to the misuse of prescription painkillers is $78.5 billion a year.
  • This figure includes healthcare costs, addiction treatment, loss of productivity and legal issues.
  • Opioid overdose rates have been steadily increasing with every passing year.
  • By 2015, more than 33,000 people in the U.S. died for this reason.
  • During that same year, about 2 million people suffered from substance abuse disorders related to addictive painkillers.
  • Also during that same year, 591,000 people suffered from a heroin use disorder.
  • Between 21% and 29% of people who are prescribed these drugs for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8% and 12% of people receiving these prescriptions will develop a substance abuse problem.
  • As many as 6% of people who become addicted to narcotics will eventually transition to heroin.
  • Likewise, about 80% of people who are addicted to heroin first used prescription pain pills.
  • Between July 2016 and September 2017, opioid overdoses increased 30% in 45 states.
  • In the Midwest, these overdoses increased by 70% during that time.
  • The number of overdoses in larger cities increased by 54% in 16 states.

The most common reaction to statistics like these is, “We should have seen this coming!” That might be true, but when opioids were first developed, researchers assured the public that they were non-addictive. Of course, this wasn’t true at all, but doctors began prescribing them frequently, even for minor pain.

Today, it’s clear that we have a serious problem on our hands. It’s one that has the power to steal loved ones from their families and cause incredible pain.

Some say that the opioid crisis has gotten out of control, but others believe it can be fought. Now that it’s such a well-known problem, the hope is that real changes can be made to save lives.

The Department of Health and Human Services plans to focus its efforts in five main areas. These are:

  • To improve the access to drug treatment and recovery services for everyone who needs them.
  • To promote the use of medications that can effectively reverse overdoses if and when they occur.
  • To utilize better public health surveillance to strengthen the public’s understanding of the problems at hand.
  • To provide support for the newest research on both pain and addiction.
  • To advance better practices for managing pain in order to avoid over-prescribing these medications.

It’s no secret that many celebrities have had their fair share of struggles with opioid drugs. In fact, many of them have lost their lives because of overdosing on them. It’s hard not to think of people like Prince, Heath Ledger and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The good news is that a lot of stars have won their battles with painkillers.

  • Nicole Richie – She had a history of heroin addiction, but in December 2006, she started abusing Vicodin as well. She was arrested after driving her vehicle the wrong way down a highway in California. Today, she is free from her addiction and focuses on taking care of her daughter.
  • Winona Ryder – In 2001, Wynona was arrested for shoplifting $5,000 worth of items from Saks Fifth Avenue. At that time, police found eight different types of pain pills in her purse. A doctor had prescribed them to her two months prior after she broke her arm. Her addiction was accidental, but it was there, just the same.
  • Matthew Perry – Everyone knows him as Chandler on the television sitcom, Friends, from the 90s. However, his success drove him to one addiction after another. His main drug of choice was Vicodin. He went to rehab in 1997, completely voluntarily.
  • Eminem – It’s probably not surprising that the rapper had a serious drug problem. Many of his songs are filled with drug references. At one point, he was drinking a bottle of rum along with Vicodin and Ecstasy. Once his daughter was born, he had a change of heart and decided to get help to quit using.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis – She is another excellent example of someone who got addicted to opioids accidentally. However, Jamie Lee was an alcoholic before she started abusing them. It was a cosmetic surgery that first introduced her to painkillers, and she used to take them from her mother as well. Today, she is sober and clean. She even sits on the board for the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

Unfortunately, it seems as though painkillers and Hollywood often go hand-in-hand. However, this addiction doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can be at risk, including you if you’re abusing opioids.

Common Opioid Side Effects

Regardless of what opioids you’re taking, you’re likely to encounter some serious side effects. For those who are addicted, the effects of the drugs are usually not enough to make them stop.

Some of the more common side effects of opioids include:
  • Becoming sedated
  • Bouts of constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Respiratory depression

In those who use these drugs long-term, constipation may become a much more serious problem. It can lead to people developing a bowel blockage, which is an emergency situation. It’s also possible to develop liver damage and brain damage as well.

Why do People Use These Drugs to Get High?

When you take an opioid drug, you experience a sensation of euphoria. That sensation is actually the release of excess dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is the chemical your brain produces when you experience something that makes you happy. It releases it all day long when you are enjoying a good meal or spending time with your loved ones.

Opioid Detox Information

When people are using opioid drugs to get high, they are usually taking larger doses. They may even chew the pills instead of just swallowing them. Some people may grind them up into a powder and then snort them or mix them with water to inject them. Any of these methods will result in a high because of the surge of dopamine in the brain.

That feeling is very desirable, which is what makes people go back to using the drugs over and over. At first, they may only be doing it because it makes them feel good. However, it doesn’t take long before they’re unable to stop.

What’s the Risk of an Addict Turning to Heroin?

One of the main risk factors for heroin addiction is prior prescription painkiller abuse. In fact, NIDA reports that between 2002 and 2012, “…the incidence of heroin initiation was 19 times higher among those who reported prior nonmedical pain reliever use than among those who did not.”

In one study, it was found that 86% of the participants had used opioids recreationally prior to using heroin. This is a shift from the 1960s when many painkiller addicts actually started by using heroin first.

It’s easy to see why people would gravitate to heroin after being addicted to prescription opioids. The epidemic we’re facing as a country has made pain pills very difficult to get. Doctor shopping isn’t as possible as it once was because many states have stricter laws in place today. A lot of pharmacies use computer systems that can indicate when a patient has multiple prescriptions for the same drug. In addition, doctors are less willing to prescribe these medications because of the risk of addiction.

Because of these changes, and because heroin is cheaper, it’s often easier to simply make the switch. Here is an excellent example of one woman who felt this way. For her, choosing heroin just made sense.

What’s the Difference Between Opioid Abuse and Addiction?

It’s so easy to get confused when you’re talking about opioid abuse and addiction. The two terms are often used to mean the same thing, but they’re actually not. There is a big difference between abuse and addiction.

When you’re abusing a substance, it means that you’re misusing it in some way. Some examples of this include:
  • Taking a prescription painkiller that wasn’t prescribed for you.
  • Mixing your pain pills with alcohol to intensify the effects.
  • Taking a drug solely for the purpose of getting high.
  • Taking a prescription drug in any way that’s different from what the doctor’s instructions are.
  • Using any opioid drug that isn’t legal, such as heroin.

What’s missing from all of these descriptions is the compulsion to use. That is what you experience when you cross over from abuse to addiction.

An addict feels as though they have to have the drug. They may eventually even believe that they need them to survive. They think about using all the time, and it becomes a part of their identities. Someone who is an addict is abusing substances, but the opposite might not necessarily be true.

We’ve discussed the role of dopamine in your brain when you use a narcotic drug. However, it’s important to note how continually using them will change the chemistry of the brain.

When you first started using, you enjoyed the flood of dopamine into your brain. As time goes on, your brain starts to rely on the drugs to take over that job. That means that other activities that used to result in the increase of dopamine levels no longer do. Your brain will lose the ability to produce it if you’re not using.

This is what will result in an addiction. You may notice that when you’re not using, you no longer feel like yourself. You feel you need opioid drugs or else you won’t feel normal. That is one of the first signs of addiction.

Perhaps you’ve been using opioids recreationally or medicinally for quite some time. However, you truly feel that you can manage you use of them. This belief is actually pretty common. Most addicts feel in complete control, which is what causes them to remain in denial.

If you’re starting to doubt that you have control, it’s important to find out for sure. You need to find out if you’re an opioid addict in need of treatment as soon as you can. You can do this in a few different ways.

For many people, it’s helpful to talk with a professional and explain their situation. Many addiction treatment programs offer free phone assessments for this reason. This would allow you to speak with an expert and get a recommendation regarding your next steps.

You may also want to consider taking an opioid addiction quiz. Our quiz has twenty questions that will go into detail about why you use, and how it’s impacted your life. You’ll have access to your results right away.

You could also begin by looking at some of the more common signs of opioid addiction. You could be an addict if you have experienced any of the following:

  • Moderate to severe constipation
  • Problems with your coordination
  • Difficulties making good decisions
  • Problems with managing your responsibilities
  • A lower level of motivation
  • A change in your sleeping patterns
  • Anxiety or depression

If you find yourself obsessing over using these drugs, there is a good chance you’re addicted. Maybe you always look forward to the next time you get to use. Or, it’s possible that you use your painkillers during dangerous times, such as when you’re driving. These are all signs that you may be an addict.

What Happens if You Simply Stop Taking Opioids Cold Turkey?

The vast majority of people who are addicted to painkillers will try to stop using them cold turkey. This means that they will just quit abruptly, without trying to wean off them, or get any form of treatment. This method is extremely dangerous, and it may put your life at risk.

One user admits that quitting opioids cold turkey made her want to die. She states, “It feels like the worst flu you ever had, the sickest you’ve ever been, times suicidal thoughts and complete and total confidence that you are never, ever, ever going to feel better. It feels like the day your wife left and your kitten died and there were no more rainbows anywhere and never will be again.”

For her, quitting opioids meant that she turned to other drugs to cope. She started smoking pot and drinking alcohol as a result. She states that she stayed drunk and high for a month and a half. Sadly, this is the reality for many addicts. Those that don’t go this route will eventually relapse, which can have fatal consequences.

Many opioid overdoses are the result of people who relapsed and took doses that were too high when they did. Due to changing tolerance levels, they weren’t aware that their bodies could no longer handle that much. When people don’t get immediate medical attention in these situations, their overdoses can be fatal.

The Benefits of Professional Detox and Rehab

The risk of relapsing and overdosing is why there is such a need for professional treatment. When you go through a detox and rehab program, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance of being successful.

There are so many benefits to getting professional treatment for your opioid addiction. They include:
  • Being able to come off the drugs safely to avoid any complications.
  • Getting help to reduce the severity of withdrawal.
  • Having the opportunity to talk with other addicts and get and give support.
  • Working closely with a therapist who can help you determine the cause of your addiction.
  • Re-learning what it means to live your life without being dependent on drugs.

Recovering from opioid dependence is definitely a process. However, it’s one that will be extremely rewarding for you.

You will need to go through opioid detox as your very first step in your recovery. It’s crucial to address your physical addiction to these drugs in the beginning. Your body is going to react when you stop taking them, and you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms. With the right treatment, you can potentially avoid any complications and reduce the severity of your symptoms.

When you go to a pain medication detox, you’ll receive a detailed and personalized treatment plan. Your doctor will take all of your needs into account and create a plan that will work the best for you. This approach will provide you with a high level of support as you recover.

Typical Withdrawal Symptoms

Everyone is different, and so, opioid withdrawal symptoms will vary from person to person. However, it’s important to know what you may be at risk for when you stop taking them.

Some of the most common opioid withdrawal symptoms include:
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Cramping in the muscles
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Agitation or irritability
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Cravings for the drugs

It’s important to note that depression symptoms can become so severe that they can lead to suicidal ideation or behaviors. There have also been instances when people have experienced seizures or heart issues when they didn’t have a medical history of either of these in the past.

Detoxing helps to lessen the severity of these symptoms, and it shortens the duration of withdrawal as well. In addition, it also protects you in the event of a medical complication that requires immediate care.

There are a few different ways that your doctor may treat you as you go through the detoxification process. If you’re addicted to prescription opioids, they may begin by tapering your dosage down. This should be done slowly, over time. A medical taper can help to improve your withdrawal symptoms, and you may not even have some of them.

Once you’re off the drugs, you may begin medication assisted treatment. This is frequently referred to as MAT, and it’s helped a lot of addicts stop using opioids. MAT involves giving you medications to replace the drugs you’re currently taking.

Some of these medications are weaker opioids themselves. They work by binding to the receptors and blocking the effects of any additional painkillers. Others, such as Vivitrol, aren’t narcotics, yet they have the same effects.

During MAT, you will be required to participate in therapy. You may also be required to have non-medical detox treatments. You will most likely meet with a nutritionist to go over your diet and make some needed changes. They may also add an exercise regimen to your daily routine. Both of these will allow your body to process toxins more efficiently, which will lead to you feeling better faster.

Should You go to an Inpatient Detox?

It’s best to commit to an inpatient detox if you’re trying to recover from an opioid addiction. These drugs are very powerful, and you may not be able to stay off them if you’re living at home.

Going to an inpatient detoxification program will also provide you with the professional support you need. You’ll be monitored medically during your stay, and in the event of an emergency, you can receive immediate care.

It might seem like an inconvenience for you to commit to an inpatient stay. However, please know that it’s for your own safety.

The Opioid Detox Timeline

Different opioids have varying half-lives, so it’s really difficult to say when your withdrawal symptoms will begin once you stop taking them. However, if your drug or medication is very fast acting, you may expect withdrawal to start very quickly after your last dose. It’s possible that you’ve even tried to quit using on your own before, so you have an idea of how long it takes for symptoms to start.

When you go through withdrawal, your symptoms don’t always go away very quickly. You may expect the opioid withdrawal timeline to look something like this:
  • Within 6 to 12 hours: The symptoms for short-acting opioids begin.
  • Within 30 hours: The symptoms for long-acting opioids begin
  • Within the first 72 hours: Your withdrawal symptoms will peak
  • Within the first two weeks: Your symptoms will start to diminish, but you may experience rebound symptoms.
  • At the 1-month mark and beyond: You may experience lessening symptoms, but you may still have harder days when you have cravings and other withdrawal symptoms from time to time.

Opioid withdrawal can be very difficult to handle, and many people give up before their symptoms even peak. As a result, they go back to using, and they can be at a greater risk for overdosing if this occurs. This is one of the reasons why detox is the best option if you want to stop taking them.

Going to Rehab for More Addiction Treatment and Therapy

You will most likely remain in detox for about a week to ten days. Afterwards, it’s important to continue on to a rehab program to get additional help.

An opioid rehab center will be able to offer you many forms of therapy. You’ll have the opportunity to work directly with a therapist, and you’ll also have group therapy sessions. Both will become the building blocks for your recovery.

Keep in mind that after you’ve detoxed, you’ll probably be feeling a lot better. You may feel as though you have a new lease on life, and even be committed to staying clean. It’s a wonderful feeling, but it can give you a false sense of confidence.

It’s not enough for you to work on only the physical aspect of your addiction. You also need to work on the psychological aspect. That is what you will accomplish when you go to an opioids rehab.

Your therapist’s job is to help you determine what caused your addiction. Many times, people assume that the root cause was their pain, but there is often more to it than that. It’s very common for people to use opioid drugs as a way to self-medicate mental pain as well.

You could be suffering from a mental health issue that has gone undiagnosed for years. This is called having a co-occurring disorder. About half of all people with addictions battle mental illnesses. If they’re not treated during rehab, these individuals are very likely to relapse in the future.

Support Groups and Other Methods of Recovering From Opioid Dependence

There are other ways that you can recover from your addiction as well. However, you should know that experts believe that going through detox and rehab is the best method. If you’re not ready to take that step, you may want to try:
  • Working with a therapist on an outpatient basis.
  • Talking with your doctor about how you can get off the drugs.
  • Opting for an intensive outpatient treatment program (IOP) rather than an inpatient one.
  • Attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting near you.
  • Finding an addiction recovery support group online.

The Importance of Abuse-Deterrent Opioid Formulations

More and more pharmaceutical companies are coming up with abuse-deterrent opioid formulations. This is a wonderful step forward in the fight against this epidemic.

Medications with AD properties would still allow patients to get the drugs they need for their pain. However, it’s harder for them to abuse them. Some examples of them include:
  • OxyContin – This drug is crush/extraction resistant.
  • Targiniq ER – This medication is Oxycodone/hydrochloride with naloxone.
  • Embeda – This medication is morphine with naltrexone.
  • Hysingla ER – This medication is hydrocodone that is crush/extraction resistant.
  • Morphabond – This drug is morphine that is crush/extraction resistant.

Of course, there is more work to be done to reduce the number people who are addicted to opioids. It is our hope that the changes being made now will make a significant difference in the near future.

Amytal Addiction Treatment

How to Get Help Today

If you have an opioid addiction, here at Northpoint Washington, we can help you. We know how much you’re suffering, and we know you might be afraid to get help. Please know that you don’t have to go through this difficult time by yourself. Getting the right kind of treatment can make such a difference.

Do you have more questions about opioid addiction, detox or treatment? Please contact us right away for additional help.

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