Opioid addiction has become the scourge of society. It destroys individuals, families, and communities.
Opioids are among the most addictive prescription drugs and are also obtained in illegal forms, such as heroin. People wonder, “Why are such terrible substances created? How are opioids made? Why not use something less dangerous?”. There are so many distorted ideas as to what can result in addiction. For those who find themselves caught up in addiction and for the people who love them, the situation can seem hopeless.
However, understanding this type of narcotic dependence is the first step toward recovery. Getting back on the road to a healthy, productive life is very possible. Education and understanding are key. When it comes to addiction and opioid-related disorders, knowledge is definitely power.
WHAT IS OPIOID ADDICTION?
Opioid addiction involves the misuse of this classification of prescription medications, either by the individual for whom they have been prescribed or by others who obtain them without proper medical consent. Opioids are among the most addictive prescription drugs. This type of addiction is defined as a chronic disease that can result in serious health, economic, and social difficulties. The condition is defined predominantly as an overwhelming urge for opioid drugs. This urge takes over even though the drugs are not medically necessary. This type of addiction creates a risk of overdose, which is often fatal.
HOW DOES OPIOID ADDICTION WORK?
Anyone who takes opioid medications can become addicted to them. It doesn’t matter if the medications are prescribed by a doctor or not. When used as directed under a physician’s care, the risk of becoming addicted is greatly decreased.
Addiction begins when a person starts to enjoy the effects of the opioids even when the medications are not necessary to relieve pain. The pleasurable feeling obtained from them becomes desirable to the point of obsession. There isn’t really any type of pain management for opiate addicts. The body comes to depend on the drugs for relaxation and to feel good, and over time it becomes impossible for the body and mind to relax on their own.
How long does opioid addiction last?
That depends on the type, amount, and frequency of opioid used.
The mind is also affected by opioid addiction. This is where the most serious damage takes place. The drugs initiate the release of neurotransmitters in the brain called endorphins. These are known as the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals because they trigger feelings of happiness and well-being. When these endorphins are released, and feelings of pain the body may be experiencing are quieted. This also includes feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, etc. When the opioids wear off, the production of the endorphins decreases and the person is left wanting to regain those good feelings. This leads to more and more opioid use.
Over time, the body builds up a tolerance to the effects of the usual amount of drug used. When this happens, the person will begin to use more and more of the drug in order to continue to experience the “high”. In this way, drug dependence becomes a full-blown addiction.
HOW TO UNDERSTAND OPIOID ADDICTION AND THOSE WHO STRUGGLE WITH IT
For those who have never experienced addiction, trying to have any semblance of understanding of it can be extremely difficult.
There is a stigma attached to substance abuse and addiction, and this can cause serious issues for the addict and their loved ones. This is problematic because coping with addiction and being supportive of the one suffering with it means having a strong, loving support network of family and friends.
It is important to understand that the addict does not want to be an addict. The potency of opioids is very often underestimated. Opiate intoxication is one of the most gripping forms of addiction, and one with an unassuming nature. The issue likely became serious fast, without the individual even realizing a major problem is developing. In most cases, by the time a person realizes there is a problem the opioids have already begun to affect their brain activity and function. At this point, they no longer have control over the addiction. A chemical change has taken place in the brain. Opioid intoxication symptoms are evident. The individual is now in need of professional intervention as well as the support of those closest to them. The addict does not need to be judged or condemned. Most addicts are already judging and condemning themselves more harshly than anyone else possibly could. They need patience, encouragement, and love to overcome the deadly disease.
WHAT ARE OPIOIDS?
Many people ask, where do opioids come from? How are opioids made?
Opioids are a class of narcotics that directly affect specific receptors in the brain in order to bring about euphoric feelings that relieve pain or other unpleasant sensations in the body or the mind. Opioids are used primarily for anesthesia and pain relief in a medical setting, or to relieve pain related to chronic or serious medical issues. Examples of opioid medications include morphine, codeine, Vicodin, OxyContin, Fentanyl, and one of the most potent opioids, heroin.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF OPIOIDS
The different types of opioids include both prescription medications and illegal narcotics such as:
WHERE DO OPIOIDS COME FROM?
Opioids come from two basic sources: a legitimate medical source such as a health care provider or hospital, or from an illegal source.
Illegal sources can include drug dealers or even people who have legal prescriptions for the medications but who share, sell, or trade them with other people. Of course when it comes to opioids like heroin, and possession, distribution, or use is absolutely illegal and extremely dangerous. The most potent opioids are generally the ones obtained illegally.
Exploring a bit deeper, a number of opioids come into the United States illegally. The sources who bring them here or have them transported have only one goal in doing so: to make money by selling the drugs to addicts and to create more addicts in order to make more and more money.
OPIOID RELATED DISORDERS
Opioid-related disorders are directly connected to the abuse of opioid drugs.
Opioid Use Disorder –
This disorder is identified by indicators of opioid addiction and must be treated the same way, along with mental health counseling and/or therapy. This disorder can begin with misuse of prescription opioid medications or illegal drugs obtained without a doctor’s consent.
Opioid Withdrawal –
This disorder occurs when the extensive, prolonged use of opioids stops. Depending on the amount of time it takes for the drug to clear out of the user’s system (known as the drug’s half-life), the withdrawal time can vary in length and severity. Generally, opiate withdrawal day 1 is not too difficult. It will be the days to come that will be especially brutal. In the case of opioids specifically, shorter-acting drugs (the ones which leave the system quickly), will begin to initiate withdrawal symptoms within 6-12 hours following the last use. These symptoms can last from 5-7 days. Longer-acting opioids result in withdrawal symptoms lasting for several days following the last use, and these can last for a number of weeks.
Opioid Intoxication –
The effects and severity of opioid intoxication depend on the type/frequency/strength of the opioid(s) used. Opioid intoxication symptoms can range from a period of euphoric feelings to hallucinations to coma. This type of disorder does not occur as long as there is some type of pain management for opiate addicts regulated and overseen by a physician on a regular basis. Opioid intoxication can lead to death due to overdose, injury due to impaired state, accidents, etc.
Opioid related disorders can have lasting effects long after an addict has stopped using the substances. There are medications for addiction, but these medications come with the risk of exchanging one dependence for another.
WHAT IS NARCOTIC DEPENDENCE?
This term refers to the condition which occurs when a person uses drugs to the point that they feel they cannot function on a day-to-day basis without the use of certain narcotics. This can also include feelings of fear of death if the individual does not continue the use of the drugs. Opiate intoxication is one of the most extreme forms of narcotic dependence.
Even more disturbing, it further refers to the changes that take place in the brain as a result of drug use. The neurons of the brain actually adapt to the continued use of opioids and begin to function improperly when the opioid use is stopped. How long does opioid tolerance last? It varies from substance to substance and amount used. This can result in severe physical and psychological problems as the user goes through withdrawals. The potency of opioids in their various forms will have a direct effect on the length and severity of withdrawals. Natural remedies for opiate withdrawal are preferred so as not to exchange one drug dependence for another.
HOW TO SUPPORT AN OPIOID ADDICT IN RECOVERY
A recovering opioid addict has truly been given a second chance at life.
Having a strong, healthy support system in place will make the difference between success and failure. Being a support person for a recovering addict requires patience, firmness, understanding, and love. Many addicts will require someone to attend meetings and appointments with them, at least initially.
If they are considering trying medications for addiction, they may ask for your input and opinion, so you will want to educate yourself about these treatments. They will need someone available at all times who is willing to act as a support contact person in the event the addict has a moment of weakness and is contemplating using again.
Recovery will involve keeping the addict feeling hopeful and encouraged. They need to be constantly reassured that there are people who have faith in them and who believe in them. Drug addiction does not end with the person discontinuing the use of the narcotics. Battling addiction is a lifelong process. The addict must learn to be vigilant, to recognize the triggers that lead them to drug use and how to deal with them.
Those in their life who are supportive of them will be instrumental in their successful recovery. These friends and loved ones will need to know that enabling the recovering addict cannot be tolerated. They will need to know how to tell if someone has relapsed on opiates. Tough love must be the order of each and every day. Enabling means giving in to the whims of an addict, wanting to appease them or allow them certain freedoms that can ultimately lead them back down an undesirable path. There will be time for more enjoyable activities in the future once the addict has become stronger and more self-assured.
ENCOURAGEMENT FOR ADDICTS
As part of a recovering addict’s support system, it will be important to know how to keep them encouraged and hopeful. Your presence in their life and your willingness to help them will mean a great deal. You will be able to encourage the addict in their recovery in a number of ways.
Being non judgmental will be the number one way to show your support. No one can feel encouraged to do anything productive when they feel they are being looked down upon. Listening to them when they are ready to open up and talk things out will also be a great encouragement to them. Make sure they are in a safe, substance-free environment devoid of any temptations that could cause a relapse. Help them to develop and follow healthy eating and exercise habits. Encourage them to learn all they can about natural remedies for opiate withdrawal and to keep those in mind.
Most important of all, be patient. Recovery does not take place overnight. It can be a long and sometimes difficult process. Encouraging the recovering addict every day will be one of the most rewarding things you can ever do, especially when you see the addict living a new and successful life, clean and sober.
LIVING WITH AN ADDICT IN RECOVERY
Living with a recovering addict is more involved than simply being supportive of your loved one in recovery.
Sharing a home with someone who is battling addiction will require patience, understanding, and love, along with a watchful eye and discerning ear. Make no mistake, opiate withdrawal day 1 will be the calm before the storm. Making sure there is nothing in the home that could make a relapse possible will be imperative. There is also the reality of the possibility that a relapse may result in theft of money or items from the home. Keep a positive but realistic attitude. Learn how to tell if someone has relapsed on opiates. Don’t allow people around who were a part of the recovering addict’s life during their active addiction. If this includes other family members, so be it.
The addict’s recovery is the first priority. Knowing that the home is a safe haven will be the main factor in helping them to do everything they need to do.
WHAT IS FAMILY REHAB/FAMILY SUPPORT ADDICTION RECOVERY?
Entire families are often affected by an individual’s addiction. When this happens, family members can seek help through family rehabilitation or family support addiction recovery therapy and counseling. There are a number of services available through these programs, for family members of all ages.
They include help with the following:
Learned Helplessness –
This occurs when an individual is unable to change the negative circumstances in their life, so they give up trying. This results in worsening circumstances for them/their loved ones.
Distorted Reasoning –
When children are consistently exposed to a chaotic family life devoid of proper care from an adult, they grow up without healthy reasoning and decision-making skills.
Family members of any age can experience depression as a result of dealing with issues brought about by a family member who is dealing with drug addiction.
Traumatic Bonding –
Children of addicts can grow up without the ability to form healthy bonds since they have often formed unhealthy bonds with their drug-addicted parents.
Other types of family issues stemming from having an addicted family member include:
- Emotional Constriction
- Survival Guilt
- Relationship Issues
- Cycle of Reenactment
WHAT ARE AL-ANON MEETINGS?
Al-Anon meetings are part of a support program for family members and friends of alcoholics. At Al-Anon meetings, loved ones are able to talk about their experiences and issues that are unique to those living with and dealing with an alcoholic loved one.