Opioid Addiction is a serious problem that unfortunately continues to grow in the United States, causing an increase in overdose and even death every year. In 2010, q reported 60% of overdose deaths were caused by prescription medication, and of these 30 to 40% were related to opioids (16,651 in the US)*. These numbers continue to grow in New York and throughout the US every year. Here is everything you need to know about Opioid addiction.
What are Opioids?
Opioids are a form of medication meant to be used to relieve severe pain caused by injury, surgery, and chronic conditions like cancer. Some common and well-known opioid medications are hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and methadone. All of these prescriptions are common in the medical field and completely safe if used correctly. Heroin is another opiate you may know of, but as you probably also know, is highly illegal.
What is the Difference Between Opiate Addiction and Dependence?
It is important to know the difference between addiction and dependence when it comes to opioids. While they may sound like the same thing, the two terms are not interchangeable.
Opiate dependence simply means that habitual use of the drug has created an adaptation in the body to it, where if the use of the drug were eliminated, reduced, or prolonged, withdrawal symptoms would begin.
Opiate addiction is a severe chronic, and neurological disease that happens as a result of opiate use. Typically, opiate dependence is the first stage of addiction, and only becomes classified as opiate addiction when the user experiences psychological, environmental, and physical changes as a result of their craving and increased use of the opioid.
What Are the Signs of Addiction?
Being able to see the signs and symptoms of an Opioid Addiction is vital in determining when a user needs to seek help. Be on the lookout for the following behaviors:
- Small or Dilated Pupils – frequent use of opiates will cause pupil dilation that will not change as they are supposed to when introduced to different lights.
- Wears Long Sleeves – Some opiates, like heroin, are injected. If the person in question is injecting, they may have track marks on their arms that they are trying to hide with long sleeves and layers.
- Excessive Lethargy and Exhaustion – Opiates are depressants, so if the user is often lethargic, sleeping more frequently, or nods off at unusual or inappropriate times, it could be a red flag.
- Borrows Money without Explanation – Opiate addiction is a very expensive condition. Once their own savings have been exhausted, it is not uncommon for addicts to start borrowing or stealing money to continue to fuel their addiction.
- Missing Prescriptions in the Home – Especially in the difficult times of withdrawal, users will start trying to commandeer medication from friends and family’s medicine cabinets in hopes of recreating the high that they crave.
- New Social Group Dynamics – It is not uncommon for users to start running in circles with fellow addicts or opiate dependents.
- Sudden Changes in Behavior – This can include irritability and agitation caused by their exhaustion and withdrawal symptoms, as well as a lack of care for personal hygiene. Addicts will also begin showing up late or skipping social functions they would normally attend, and will become less accountable over all.
How Do You Treat Opioid Addiction?
There are several methods of treatment for Opioid addiction, and typically the methods used will vary from psychiatrist to psychiatrist. At Amanda Itzkoff, MD, I use talk therapy, detoxification support, behavioral modification therapy, relapse prevention treatment, and recovery and withdrawal medications like Buprenorphine and Suboxone. To learn more about my addiction therapy and treatment plans, click here.
What Happens During an Opioid Addiction Withdrawal/Detox?
Symptoms of withdrawal or detox from Opioids can be any number of the following:
- Flu-Like Symptoms including; stomach and body aches, a runny nose and insomnia
When Should You Seek Help?
You should seek help immediately if you or someone you know is struggling with opioids. There are many trained doctors that can help you recover and overcome your addiction.
Questions You Might Be Wondering:
Will I get in trouble if I tell a doctor I’ve been using illegal drugs? – The short answer is NO! Psychiatric care is completely confidential and private. The goal is to treat the illness of addiction, not cause new stressors.
Isn’t addiction just weakness or a character flaw? NO! It is a complicated medical problem that requires specialized attention to treat. Many factors contribute to addiction and addiction does not discriminate.
Do you have questions about Opioid dependency that were not answered in this article? Do you believe someone close to you may be experiencing signs of addiction to opiates? Send me your questions via email or call to setup an appointment immediately, at 917.609.4990.
To a Healthy, Drug-Free Life,
Dr. Amanda Itzkoff