Finding the Best Opioid Rehab Centers & Programs

Opioids are a class of drugs that are either directly derived from, or are chemically similar to, substances in the opium poppy plant. These drugs act as depressants, though this does not mean that they make users feel depressed. Rather, these drugs reduce the activity of the central nervous system.

Prescription opioids, such as morphine, codeine, OxyContin, Vicodin, and Dilaudid, are powerful painkillers that can alleviate even the worst of pain. Illicit opioids, such as heroin and opium, are used recreationally and are extremely dangerous. All opioids can induce feelings of pleasurable euphoria and relaxation when they are ingested, making them appealing targets for abuse. The high from opioids often includes sleepiness or drowsiness, “nodding” (an awake but dreamlike state), and feelings of warmth. Although prescription opioid pain killers are generally safe when used according to physician recommendations, they can be just as dangerous as illicit opioids when they are abused.

Statistics

Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NS-DUH) indicates that 20 million people across the United States have used an opioid at least once throughout their lives while 2 million people have engaged in previous-year opioid abuse. Heroin accounts for 650,000 cases of past-year use and is also one of the most addictive drugs available. Nearly one-quarter of people who abuse heroin will become addicted to it. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 35 million people worldwide abuse opioids every year.

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Risk Factors for Opioid Abuse

Researchers are still investigating risk factors for opioid abuse; however the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) notes genetic factors as being of primary importance in assessing a person’s risk for opioid abuse. Although environmental influences, such as peer relationships and one’s social environment, affect one’s risk of abusing opioids, researchers have argued that one’s social environment, including the friendships that a person chooses, is ultimately governed by genetically-influenced personality factors. As a result, one’s risk for opioid abuse can be traced ultimately to genetic influences.

Risk Factors:

  • Age (opioid abuse is most commonly observed to begin in the late teens or early 20s)
  • Having easy access to opioids
  • Experiencing social stressors, such as marital difficulties
  • Unemployment or irregular employment
  • Having a family history of drug abuse
  • Personal history of abuse of other drugs
  • Experiencing an injury or illness that requires pain management with opioid medications
  • Limited coping skills
  • Experiencing violence or other traumatic events
  • Personal history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Abuse

As described in the DSM-5, people who struggle with the abuse of opioids often demonstrate the following signs and experience the following symptoms:

  • Taking more opioids, or taking opioids over a longer period of time, then a person initially intends
  • Having a persistent desire, or history of unsuccessful efforts, to reduce opioid use
  • Spending excessive amounts of time obtaining the drug, using the drug, or recovering from use of the drug
  • Experiencing cravings for opioids
  • Failing to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home as a result of opioid abuse
  • Using opioids even when doing so is physically hazardous, such as at work or while driving a car
  • Continuing to use opioids despite being aware of physical or psychological problems that have been caused or worsened by the drugs
  • Experiencing tolerance, which is a need for increasing amounts of the drug in order to experience a high
  • Withdrawal, which is a series of uncomfortable symptoms that arise when a person abstains from using opioids

While the above signs and symptoms can be indicators of substance use disorders in general, the signs and symptoms below tend to be more specific to opioid abuse:

  • Stealing money or medications from others
  • “Doctor shopping,” or visiting multiple physicians in an attempt to acquire multiple prescriptions for opioids
  • Deceptiveness or defensiveness about one’s activities or whereabouts
  • Unexplained decline in performance at school or work
  • Poor hygiene
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Slow reflexes
  • Pupil dilation
  • Weight loss
  • Poor coordination or motor skills
  • Sores, wounds, bruising, or puncture marks from needle use
  • Poor problem-solving skills
  • Unexplained memory difficulties
  • Loss of good judgment
  • Withdrawal from family or friends
  • Changes in one’s social circle
  • Anger or irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia

Effects of Opioid Abuse

If a person abusing opioids does not receive prompt, effective treatment, he or she is likely to suffer a number of negative consequences, including:

  • Strained, damaged, or broken relationships
  • Social isolation
  • Lost of child custody
  • Onset or worsening of mental health symptoms
  • Polysubstance use, addiction, or chemical dependence
  • Developing other mental health problems
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Expulsion, demotion, or being fired from one’s job
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Financial troubles
  • Weakened immune system
  • Contracting infections such as HIV or hepatitis C as a result of risky sexual activity or sharing needles with others
  • Death, either from suicide or overdose
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Opioid abuse has been associated with a number of physical and mental health conditions, including:

  • Viral and bacterial infections
  • Abusing other substances, such as tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, stimulants, and benzodiazepines
  • Depressive disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of opioid withdrawal: When a person who has been abusing opioids abstains from use, he or she is likely to experience a number of uncomfortable symptoms, known as withdrawal, as a result of his or her body’s attempts to readjust to functioning without the drug present. Signs and symptoms of withdrawal can include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Yawning
  • Fever
  • Insomnia

Effects of opioid overdose: When a person ingests more of an opioid then his or her body can safely metabolize or excrete, here she will experience an overdose. Overdoses are extremely dangerous and require immediate professional medical attention. Emergency medical personnel may administer naloxone, a drug that inhibits the effects of opioids and can help an individual survive an overdose. Some of the signs or symptoms of an opioid overdose include:

  • Shallow or slow heartbeat
  • Not responding to external stimuli
  • Bluish tent to lips and extremities
  • Constricted pupils
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Coma

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