Despite a slight downturn in opioid-related deaths in recent years, the massive misuse of prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetically produced opioids such as fentanyl remains a serious issue in the United States. More than 46,000 people died from an opioid overdose in 2018, according to a report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That’s more than 125 people every day.
Physicians commonly prescribe opioids to control pain after surgery. Opioids are very effective, binding to receptors in the brain and central nervous system to block the transmission of pain signals. While effective in treating pain, however, opioids are also very addictive, both psychologically and physically, and users continue to crave them even after they are no longer needed as originally prescribed.
When someone becomes addicted to opioids, they often resort to drastic behavior to acquire drugs – seeing multiple doctors to get more prescriptions, borrowing or stealing pills from family members or friends, forging prescriptions, or seeking out drug dealers who sell illegal opioids.
In addition to serious health implications, an opioid addiction can have a far-reaching psychological and social impact on individuals as well as their family, friends and colleagues. Among the effects of opioid addiction:
The use of opium, the natural source of opiates, can be traced all the way back to 3400 B.C. Opioids, believed to be introduced in the U.S. in 1775, were used as a pain reliever to treat injured soldiers during the Civil War in the 1860s. It wasn’t until 1914 that the American government began to regulate their recreational use.
The current opioid crisis can be traced to the early 1990s, when oxycodone was combined with a time-release ingredient to create OxyContin, the first opiate to provide extended relief from chronic pain. Designed to be released in the body over a 12-hour period, is was prescribed freely by physicians. But it proved to be highly addictive, and users quickly found they could crush or dissolve the pills and get an immediate high.
The second wave of the opioid crisis hit in 2010, when efforts were made to cut back on prescription opioids and users turned to heroin, which was cheaper and more readily available. The use of heroin – and subsequent heroin-related deaths – rose rapidly. In 2013, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl created the third wave of the opioid epidemic. In 2016 alone, there were more than 20,000 deaths attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, which was mainly attributed to the increase in illicitly produced drugs.
Natural opioids, called opiates, are derived from the opium poppy plant, while synthetic opioids are manufactured in a laboratory. Both are very effective at blocking pain signals. They also affect the part of the brain that experiences pleasure or reward, flooding it with dopamine and sparking strong cravings and feelings of euphoria.
All opioids are highly addictive, and sustained use creates physical and psychological dependence. Over time, users develop a tolerance to opioids as their addiction grows. When they stop taking opioids, even for a short period, they may experience severe withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, dilated pupils, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramping.
Other signs of an opioid addiction include:
The longer someone takes opioids, the greater their danger of an overdose as they often take larger doses more frequently in an effort to experience the same effects.
Hope Canyon is a fully accredited treatment facility for opioid addiction and we provide a full continuum of care. After a comprehensive assessment, our clinicians, therapists and counselors devise a highly personalized rehab program to help you beat your addiction and achieve a successful, long-lasting recovery.
Medical drug detox normally takes about five to seven days before withdrawal symptoms begin to dissipate, and our medical team keeps you as safe and comfortable as possible with around-the-clock care throughout the process. We administer medicines such as buprenorphine or methadone to help ease your withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.
As you progress through drug rehab, our holistic, evidence-based therapies explore the root causes of your substance abuse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, one of the more effective therapies for addiction treatment, helps us identify your addiction “triggers.” We show you how to replace your detrimental behavior with healthy alternatives, teaching you life skills and coping mechanisms that give you better outlets when faced with triggering experiences or situations.