Opioids, the broader class of drug that includes both naturally-derived opiates and their synthetic counterparts, are highly effective pain relief medications. These drugs originated thousands of years ago when ancient civilizations discovered that liquid obtained from the opium poppy plant could produce feelings of numbness and euphoria. These civilizations often used the plant medicinally or as part of mystical or religious rites. Over time, the drug opium was passed down through generations and became more and more refined as medicine and science advanced. Today, versions of opium include medicinal drugs like morphine, Vicodin, fentanyl and OxyContin as well as street drugs like heroin.
Despite the legitimate use of many opioids for pain relief, these drugs also have a high potential for addiction, which makes their use and prescription controversial. The rates of synthetic opioid addiction have climbed rapidly in the United States in recent years, to the point where health authorities have classified the problem as an epidemic. Opioids include prescription pain medications such as hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin or Percocet), as well as narcotics like fentanyl. In 2016, an estimated 11 million people had misused hydrocodone, oxycodone or fentanyl products in the last year. Between 2010 and 2014, deaths related to opioid overdoses tripled, with rates of opioid-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations steadily increasing as well. In 2018, the CDC released a study that put estimates for fatal fentanyl overdoses higher than those for heroin. It’s clear that these drugs, despite their medical uses, are being abused with very dangerous results.
What is Opioid Addiction?
Your body has specialized neural pathways for processing substances with chemical structures like opioid drugs. In fact, your brain produces its own opioids called endogenous opioids — you may recognize the term “endorphins,” a type of pleasure-causing hormone linked to exercise that is one such endogenous opioid. But endogenous opioids are much weaker than their man-made counterparts, and your brain does not produce nearly as many endogenous opioids as a drug will supply. When you take synthetic opioids, the areas of your brain that are accustomed to processing endogenous opioids become overexcited and flooded with opioid chemicals.
With continued use of synthetic opioids, your endogenous opioids are no longer enough to naturally dull pain or cause excitement and pleasure. You can start to feel depressed or anxious without the help of stronger synthetic opioids, which leads to dependence and in turn addiction. Over time, you can also build up a tolerance to opioids, which means that you need higher doses of the drug to achieve the same high or to avoid withdrawal symptoms. The more your tolerance builds, the more drugs you’ll take at a time, and the higher your risk of a dangerous or fatal overdose.
Signs of Opioid Addiction
Opioid addiction can be easy to hide at first, but as an individual becomes increasingly hooked on these drugs, their behavior will change in very noticeable ways. Someone who is addicted to opioids will begin to do anything they can to access drugs — their priorities will change, their moral compass will go awry and they will stop caring about the things they once loved. It’s important not to ignore the signs of opioid addiction — watch for common signals, such as:
- Drug-seeking behavior such as visiting new doctors for a prescription, or refilling prescriptions without consulting a healthcare provider
- Often seeming high — drowsy, disoriented or euphoric
- Sudden mood swings
- Fuzzy recall or memory loss
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Change in activity patterns or friend groups
- Flu-like withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, fever or vomiting
- Signs of drug paraphernalia like needles, pipes or pill bottles
- Using drug slang or terminology
If you or someone close is exhibiting signs of prescription painkiller or opioid addiction, you should contact The Kimberly Center or an addiction recovery resource in your area as soon as possible. Opioid addiction is very harmful to your health, difficult to manage alone and potentially lethal, so it is necessary to seek the help of a professional healthcare provider to ensure you receive the right kind of treatment.
Treating Opioid Addiction
While opioid addiction has a reputation for being swift and intense, it is always possible to treat an individual affected by opioids. Individualized care and support can help them heal and rediscover their sobriety so they can get back to a fulfilling, drug-free life. With safe detox followed by modern addiction therapies and treatment techniques, recovery from opioid addiction can be successful and long-lasting.
But professional help is vital since these drugs can be dangerous — withdrawal from prescription painkillers and other opioids is known for being a difficult process. From a healthcare standpoint, it is risky to detox from opioids alone, and it increases your chances of relapsing because it is easy to turn back to the drug to help yourself feel better. When you choose to seek professional treatment for your addiction to opioids, you can be sure that your providers will do everything they can to make sure your detox period is safe and as easy as possible. Typically, detoxing from opioids requires the use of a medication to manage withdrawal symptoms. However, if these medications are not administered properly, you can end up dependent on or addicted to them. The staff at The Kimberly Center is dedicated to making sure you do not simply switch one addiction for another. After professionally managed medical detox, we are here to care for our clients so that they can continue along their path to recovery completely substance-free. In our programs, you will learn to replace drug habits with healthy ones, and you will build a support system to help you when addiction becomes hard to resist. We offer a range of services that can be combined to fit your background, lifestyle and schedule, including:
Our treatment methods integrate top-quality techniques including evidence-based and holistic therapies. Our providers are licensed and experienced in guiding and administering each of the services we offer. Our options include individual and group talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy and mindfulness and grounding, among over 15 different services. Our goal is to allow each of our clients to create a treatment plan incorporating the therapies that will work best for their needs and strengths.
Contact The Kimberly Center
The Kimberly Center is proud to provide evidence-based, compassionate addiction treatment for adults in Fort Myers, Florida. We focus on giving you the attention and tools you need to learn to live your life completely substance-free, emphasizing your inner strength and the importance of a strong support system. We welcome men and women who are struggling with addiction to a variety of substances including opioids, alcohol, cocaine, heroin and more. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, don’t hesitate to reach out to us — we can help you find out if you are a good fit for our programs, and connect you with resources for care that is most appropriate for you. To learn more about The Kimberly Center, the services we provide and whether our programs are right for you or your loved one, contact us today at 855-452- 3683.