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The Symptoms, Causes and Treatments of Opioid Addiction

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Opioid addiction has been a growing problem in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 2 million people suffer from opioid addiction, with an average of 91 deaths per day due to related causes such as overdose or suicide. In recent years, there have been increased efforts to combat this epidemic, but many people are still unaware of their options for treatment. Keep reading if you want to know more about opioids, the symptoms of opioid addiction, how it can be treated and what you should do if someone is addicted to opioids.

1. What are opioids and what do they do to the body ?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include both prescription painkillers and illicit street drugs like heroin, morphine, codeine. They work by binding to receptors in our brain called opioid receptors which block the transmission of pain messages to the body’s nerve cells helping us feel less discomfort or even none at all. Opioid medications such as oxycodone (Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone and fentanyl act on these same types of opioid receptors. This is what makes them so addictive; when you take an opioid medication your brain will begin producing dopamine in response to calming this feeling of discomfort, which can make you crave it more.

2. Symptoms and causes of opioid addiction

The symptoms of opioid addiction are different for everyone and may not be immediately noticeable, but some common signs to look out for include: 

  • Impaired judgment or perception
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Inability to think or talk coherently
  • Persistent nausea. 

During the first few months of using opiates,  a person’s tolerance will rise quickly. Therefore, an individual’s intake might have increased dramatically without them realizing it. Some people experience withdrawal when abruptly discontinuing opiates as well. The withdrawal process can begin within four hours of the last  dose.

The causes of opioid addiction are not known for sure, many different factors are thought to play a role including: genetics; family history of addiction or mental disorders. Some people may have made the decision to use these substances due to their strong feelings and emotions that they were unable to deal with in other ways such as anxiety, depression or boredom.

4. Treatments for opioid addiction

Opioid addiction can be treated in many ways and the type of treatment will depend on a person’s age, medical history and severity. 

There are two main treatments for opioid addiction which include: medication-assisted therapy (MAT) with either buprenorphine or methadone and behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy to reduce negative thoughts/beliefs that may lead to relapse. 

MAT is especially helpful because it replaces the dopamine response you get from opioids but without  highly addictive illicit substances like heroin.. Whereas, behavioral therapies help people learn how to cope with daily life stressors so they don’t turn back to their old harmful habits when faced with difficult situations.

5. How you can help someone who is addicted to opioids

If you know someone is addicted to opioids, it’s important that they have the support of their family and friends. You can help by staying in touch with them if possible; listening without judgment or criticism when they are open to discussing how addiction has affected their life; and supporting supporting whatever treatment option is right for them whether it’s buprenorphine-assisted therapy (BET), methadone-assisted treatment (MAT) or behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Final takeaways

The symptoms, causes and treatments of opioid addiction are complex because it can be difficult to tell the difference between normal pain relief from an injury or surgery versus a substance abuse disorder. 

If you have any questions about your own use for opioids, click here, we will help guide you towards treatment options that work best for your unique situation. We know how hard it is to break free from this cycle, so please contact Rehab.com if you need help!

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