Opioid addiction is serious, and in many cases it can even be life-threatening—yet often, it starts off fairly innocently. Opioids include some illicit street drugs, but also a number of perfectly legal medications, foremost among them prescription painkillers. It is not uncommon for an individual to use these legal opioids according to a doctor’s orders, only to have addiction spiral out of control and lead them into more dangerous drugs.
But what effects do opioids have? Why exactly are they used in the first place? We’ll answer those questions in this post, and also provide some counsel for those who are currently struggling with opioid addiction.
What Drugs Qualify as Opioids?
- Opioids include drugs that are derived from opium—that is, the poppy plant—as well as drugs that are synthesized in a lab and made to resemble opium’s chemical structure.
- Opioids work by depressing the nervous system; they can mitigate pain while producing a feeling of intense elation or euphoria
- Opioids include both a number of prescription pain medicines as well as illegal drugs, the most common of which is heroin.
Why are Opioids Prescribed?
Because of their impact on the central nervous system—and the effectiveness with which they mask and mitigate pain—opioids can be useful in the treatment of chronic pain. Sometimes, they are used to bring comfort to those who are undergoing cancer treatments. Opioids can even be used as pain management solutions for those who have recently undergone surgery.
What are Some Examples of Legal Opioids?
There are several commonly-prescribed opioids. Some of the main ones, used by doctors in pain management situations, include:
- Morphine. This is a natural opioid, meaning it’s derived from the poppy plant. It is highly addictive.
- Meperidine. This is a synthetic alternative to morphine, and it has largely the same effect.
- Codeine. This is generally regarded as the most commonly used of all prescription opioids. That’s because it is less potent and less dangerous than morphine, yet it can still be highly addictive.
- Hydrocodone. A semisynthetic opioid, meaning it’s made from both natural and artificial ingredients; includes common brands such as Vicodin.
- Oxycodone. Similar to the above, this is a semisynthetic opioid, and encompasses familiar brand names like OxyContin and Percocet.
- Fentanyl. A totally synthetic opioid, this painkiller is most commonly prescribed as a skin patch.
How Do Opioids Impact the Body?
Again, it’s important to stress that most opioid use starts off legitimately. The prescription painkillers listed above really are effective at mitigating pain, and many respected doctors continue prescribing them—though in general, opioid use has become increasingly frowned upon.
The problem is that, over time, their effect on the nervous system can become too pronounced. It can become impossible for the individual to feel any kind of happiness or euphoria without opioids. From there, higher or more frequent doses are needed. It is not uncommon for an addiction to pain pills to later become addiction to harder, more dangerous drugs—even heroin and similar street drugs.
What Effects Does Opioid Addiction Have on the Body?
Opioid addiction can have a number of effects on one’s physical and mental health. Some common symptoms of opioid addiction include:
- Elation or euphoria
- Sedation or drowsiness
- Slowed breathing
- Chronic constipation
- Constricted pupils
When used for prolonged periods of time, opioids can lead to respiratory arrest or cardiac arrest—and in the end, they can prove fatal.
How Does Opioid Addiction Impact Behavior?
In addition to these physical and mental effects, there are also some behavioral symptoms to be aware of. Some of these include:
- Doctor shopping, seeking addition prescriptions for more opioid drugs
- Misusing opioids, or taking them for longer periods of time than needed
- Loss of interest in things that once brought pleasure
- Isolation, or withdrawal from relationships
- Lying, stealing, or acting with secrecy in order to maintain an opioid habit
- Wild mood swings—including bouts of euphoric behavior or periods of feeling “down”
If you witness any of these behaviors, in yourself or in a loved one, it could point to a problem with opioid addiction.
One of the reasons why opioids are so powerfully addictive is that they actually change the nervous system, and rewire the brain. Unfortunately, this also means that opioids can be difficult to “kick,” and the withdrawal symptoms can be extreme.
For this reason, home detox is not recommended. In attempting to stop using opioids, the pain may become too intense—causing you to relapse and potentially to overdose.
Instead, it’s best to seek out medically supervised detox. This will provide you with a safe and supportive environment in which you can rid these harmful drugs from your system, laying the foundation for a full recovery.
How Does Opioid Addiction Treatment Work?
Following detox, clinical intervention can help break addiction’s hold—but be aware that opioid rehab can vary from one individual to the next. Some common components of opioid rehab include:
- One-on-one therapy
- Group therapy
- Life skills coaching
- Relapse prevention plans
- Holistic elements—meditation, nutrition, fitness, etc.
As you seek opioid rehab, it’s important to look for a program that’s tailored to meet your individual needs. A one-size-fits-all approach is seldom a good idea, while personalized treatment can result in lifelong freedom from opioid addiction.
Seeking Recovery from Opioid Addiction
Opioid addiction is tragic, especially since it so often begins as a perfectly legitimate attempt at pain management. The good news it, it does not have to be permanent. Clinical intervention can lead to lasting recovery—and that’s something we take seriously at Experience Recovery.
No matter how your opioid addiction began, there is hope for you to find freedom. It all starts with an individualized treatment plan. Take the first step today. Reach out to Experience Recovery, and ask us about opioid rehab.