Opioid Dependence – Signs of Opioid Use Vs. Abuse, Tolerance
- Print VersionIn This Article
- Are Opioid Addictive?
- Understanding Opioid Dependency and Tolerance
- Effects/Side Effects
- Withdrawal and Detoxification
- Treatment for Opioid Addiction
The opioid family of narcotics, which includes codeine as well as extremely potent medications such as oxycodone and morphine, has many legitimate medical uses. Codeine is an efficient pain reliever and cough suppressant, whereas the stronger opioids are usually used for control of severe chronic or acute pain. Most patients who are treated with opioids do not become addicted so long as they follow the recommendations of their healthcare providers regarding proper dosage and use of these medications. However, because of the way opioids affect the brain, these substances do have the potential of becoming addictive. Addiction to opioid narcotics causes severe physical and mental health problems. It also supports a burgeoning and dangerous black market in illegally procured opioid medications.
Are Opioids Addictive?
Opioid narcotics are both physically and psychologically addictive. Since opioids stimulate the parts of the brain that are connected to reward, some users experience a “high” feeling when they take even legitimately prescribed doses of these medications. It is this feeling of euphoria that causes addiction to opioid narcotics, as users attempt to produce the pleasant feeling as often as possible. This type of addiction leads to abuse of opioid medications, including not only overdose but also improper administration, such as grinding painkiller tablets and snorting them rather than swallowing them whole as they are prescribed for medical use. Once an addict can no longer obtain opioid medication through the medical system, he or she becomes compelled to obtain it on the black market.
How addictive are opioids? Four percent of legitimate medical users become addicted to the opioid with which they are treated, but it is not known how many people become addicted after trying opioid narcotics that they obtain on the black market or through other nonmedical sources. In the United States, there are some opioids, such as heroin, that are only available illegally and are intended only for abuse. These illegal opioids can become addictive after the very first use. Family and friends of an individual who attempts to obtain any opioid narcotic through illegal means are advised to call (insert number) or fill out a contact form in order to find out more about how drug rehabilitation treatment can help loved ones who are addicted to opioid.
Understanding Opioid Dependency and Tolerance
As with most addictive substances, abuse and legitimate use of opioid narcotics can lead to both physical and psychological dependence. Opioid dependence is actually different from opioid addiction. A person who is dependent upon opioids, usually after a prolonged period of medical use, can develop a need for increasing amounts of opioid medications. This need is based on actual physical response to the medication. Such physical dependence does not necessarily lead to addiction, and it is managed by controlled withdrawal when the patient’s physical condition has improved to the point that the medication is no longer needed for actual physical symptoms.
Contacting a rehabilitation specialist by calling (insert number) or filling out a contact form is an effective method of helping those who have fallen into psychological dependence. This occurs when a person becomes addicted to the high that opioid narcotics produce. This type of dependence is very dangerous, as those affected by it must ingest dangerously large amounts of the opioid in order to continually obtain the “high” feeling that they crave. Such doses can cause severe ill effects or even death, and the patient who is in the throes of such addiction is rarely able to lead a normal life due to the constant need for opioid narcotics.
Sedatives include a variety of drugs, all of which work by depressing the central nervous system. Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are the most common, but other sedatives include chloral hydrate, glutethimide, methaqualone, and meprobamate.
The effects of opioids may seem very pleasant indeed. However, the side effects of even legitimately administered opioid narcotics can be very unpleasant, and even dangerous.
The feeling of euphoria that an opioid narcotic produces is one of relaxation. It is a pleasant escape from day-to-day reality, in which a user feels that he or she is floating away from the cares of everyday life. “Mellow” is one term that those who experience this feeling use to describe the seeming inner peace that it produces.
However, this euphoria does not last for long. At first, more frequent or stronger opioid doses replicate the effect time and time again. However, the higher dosage needed makes the possibility of side effects proportionately higher. First of all, dysphoria, in which the user becomes restless and develops other unpleasant feelings, can result as tolerance to the euphoric feeling increases. Nausea and vomiting are among the less severe physical side effects of opioid use, whereas repeated abuse or extremely high doses causes sedation or even respiratory arrest.
Coming down from opioid euphoria is a jolt back to a very unpleasant reality, in which the user is confronted with anxiety, tears, diarrhea and, most of all, a craving for another dose of opioid narcotic. Long-term effects of opioid use that create a constant euphoria and withdrawal cycle can include mood swings, lack of interest in daily activities and constipation as well as other disturbances in bodily function.
Withdrawal and Detoxification
Long-term withdrawal from opioid narcotics needs to be managed by addiction professionals to ensure that the patient remains healthy and does not fall back into addiction. Withdrawal symptoms such as muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, as well as cold flashes with goose bumps and restless legs, are commonly experienced when a patient ceases to use opioids.
Detoxification for opioid abuse must be carried out by experienced physicians who specialize in the treatment of addiction. Detoxification often involves the controlled administration of a substitute drug, and the patient should be monitored for side effects during the process.
Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Opioid abuse treatment begins with detoxification and treatment of physical symptoms and bodily damage caused by abuse of opioid narcotics. However, a holistic treatment approach, in which professionals are called upon to deal with the root psychological and social factors that cause addiction, is necessary for the complete and permanent rehabilitation of people who become addicted to opioid narcotics. Please call (insert number) or fill out the contact form so that you can help yourself or your loved one begin healing from the unpleasant physical, psychological and social effects of opioid addiction.