Opioids have been in use across the globe for a long time. That’s actually somewhat of an understatement, because according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “the Sumerians in Mesopotamia were among the first people identified to have cultivated the poppy plant around 3400 B.C. They named it ‘Hul Gil,’ the ‘joy plant.’”
This means humans have been utilizing opioids in some form for thousands of years. And although opioids have been around for much, much longer than even the amount of time the United States has been a country, they have rapidly spread through the states and across the world as well, wreaking havoc on far too many lives.
Currently, Americans and citizens of many other countries are struggling with opioid addiction that has stayed at pandemic levels for several years now, according to a study published in 2020 by the National Institutes of Health.
Opioid Addiction And Misuse Is All Too Common
Overcoming a struggle with a drug or substance is a situation many in America, and all over the world, are familiar with. Despite that, while the struggle is still raging inside someone’s life, they can feel alone, hopeless, and as if they are layering one failure on top of another.
Struggling with an addiction does not mean you are a failure and it does not mean you are alone. Those may be hard things to believe for someone who feels like there isn’t a way forward into recovery, but they are true.
It can also be hard to believe there are others who are struggling in the same way. Being met with such a monumental struggle can sometimes have the side effect of convincing a person only they could have failed like this. That is also not true.
In 2018, 10.3 million people misused prescription opioids, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also, two million people qualified for having an opioid use disorder, meaning addiction or dependence on opioids.
To understand how the addiction works and how to help ourselves and/or loved ones recover, let’s first look at what exactly opioids are.
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What Exactly Is An Opioid?
There are a lot of drugs classified as opioids because one of the core definitions is “a drug that interacts with opioid receptors in the brain/body.” Heroin is an opioid because it’s derived from opium, but when someone is discussing the opioid epidemic they are almost never referring to heroin. They are talking about prescription opioids, rather, drugs like OxyContin® (generic name oxycodone), morphine, and fentanyl.
All of these prescription opioids (and non-prescription versions as well) interact with opioid receptors in our brain and body. Everyone has opioid receptors, they are naturally forming and play specific roles in our bodies throughout life.
Three specific opioid receptors have been located by scientists and researchers, which are named mu, delta, and kappa. All three of them interact with opioids in different ways, with mu specifically producing feelings of pleasure and euphoria when activated by an opioid.
Opioids, whether they’re naturally occurring like the poppy plant which is used to make heroin or fentanyl which is synthesized in a laboratory, have chemical structures that “activate” our opioid receptors. Where the mu receptor is related to pleasure, delta and kappa are related to pain relief.
So, opioids are drugs either grown or designed with specific chemical makeup that interacts with our bodies to produce specific feelings. Sometimes it’s related to pain relief, sometimes it’s related to pleasure, and sometimes it’s both and more.
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How Does Someone Get Addicted To Opioids?
Opioids alter how our brains process information regarding pain and pleasure. That means when someone is taking opioids for pain relief they can become dependent on the drug to feel “normal.” Their body may become used to the drug helping them feel less/no pain so when the drug is not present their brains and body begin to feel “abnormal.”
This is typically known as dependence and it is not the same as addiction. It can lead to some withdrawal symptoms like muscle pain/cramping, loose bowels, and generalized anxiety. Dependence can develop in anyone who is taking opioids because the body will eventually need more and more of the drug to attain the same results.
Depending on how long the drugs are taken, can turn into an addiction. Addiction is defined by the urge to use the drug at all costs, finding it and taking it no matter what it will take. Since the brain and body are changing due to the drug, arriving at a place where someone feels they have to have the drug is a possibility.
What Are The Effective Treatments For Opioid Addiction?
Detoxing from opioids—which means ceasing to take the drug and letting it leave your system completely—can be dangerous. Enrolling in a treatment center for opioid addiction treatment will ensure you or your loved one is medically monitored and stays comfortable.
Certain prescription drugs can be utilized to lessen the feelings of withdrawal and to help manage cravings. Vertava Health of Mississippi can administer these drugs during detox, all depending on the circumstances of the person in recovery.
Prescription drugs like methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine have been shown to increase the likelihood of maintaining long-term recovery from opioid use. Vertava Health of Mississippi can help every person we treat by prescribing these during inpatient recovery, and connect you with a site for ongoing treatment with them if need be.
Recovery Is Tough, But So Are You
Beginning and maintaining recovery can be some of the hardest things to accomplish for those struggling with addiction. But you are strong enough to accomplish them, we know it! Our treatment utilizes your strength and resilience to help you change your life.
Call us today at 844-551-7335 to talk about starting treatment for you or someone you love. Recovering from opioid use is possible. Someone is here every day, at any time, and is ready to talk about making a change. Let’s make today the first day in a journey of recovery.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Causes Opioid Addiction?
There is no one reason opioid addiction forms. Opioids are similar to other substances and drugs in that way because all instances of addiction are a combination of many factors like genetics, exposure to abuse and/or trauma, socio-economic status, and a lot more. Just like everyone’s lives are complex and unique (with some similarities, of course) addiction is this way too. If the question is framed as “What does opioid addiction do to your brain?” then there is a more definitive answer. Because opioids directly affect our nervous system and specifically the areas of our brain that deal with pain and pleasure, when someone becomes addicted to opioids their brains have been altered to rely on the drug to produce certain feelings. Their bodies become convinced they “need” the drug, and when they don’t get it they will feel side effects, which are withdrawal symptoms.
How To Treat Opioid Addiction?
There is no one way to treat any addiction, just like there is no one way to treat other addictions. The treatment has to be developed for the individual so it addresses the unique needs of that person. There are certain prescription medications that can help with the intense feelings of withdrawal during detoxing from opioids, like methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. Each of those is effective at lessening the urges someone will feel for opioids while they are beginning and continuing their treatment. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can be utilized to help someone begin addressing their thoughts, emotions, and actions, and move forward into recovery knowing how each affects the other. It can also help to prepare for situations that may arise where they feel the urge to relapse.
How To Stop Opioid Addiction?
Similar to the answer above, there is no one way. Someone may potentially need to begin their recovery by receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT) using methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. Quitting “cold turkey” can be dangerous due to how the body may react to suddenly having no more opioids in its system. Utilizing ongoing MAT, therapy, and a network of support can help someone who is struggling with addiction realize they are not alone and there is a way forward into long-term recovery.