Opioids are classified as naturally occurring or synthetic drugs (prescribed or otherwise) that act on the nerve cells in the brain to dull feelings of pain. Opioids of all types are commonly prescribed by doctors to fight post-surgery pain or combat chronic pain and other issues. Opioid drugs are used so commonly because they are effective pain management tools, but the addictive properties and ease of availability can make opioids very dangerous.
Opioids fall into two different categories: natural (oxycodone, codeine, and morphine) and synthetic (methadone, fentanyl, and Suboxone). While both types of opioids are effective against many types of pain, they often have serious side effects including confusion, constipation, drowsiness, or euphoria. The feeling of “high” produced by opioids does indeed block pain but also can lead to overdose, addiction, or even death.
Although their addictive properties are widely recognized, opioids are still commonly prescribed. This has led to a nationwide opioid epidemic where as many as 1 in 5 patients prescribed opioids end up abusing them.
Over the last 20 years, the United States has seen a 2200% increase in reported opioid-related deaths. Emergency room visits for suspected opioid overdoses rose nearly 30% in just one year in 2017 alone. In November 2017, these startling statistics led to the opioid addiction crisis being declared a national health emergency.
Many telltale signs of opioid addiction are similar to other types of addiction, but there are still several unique characteristics. One hallmark of opioid use is how quickly physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms can develop compared to other substances.
In many cases, due to the extremely addictive nature of opioids, users can develop a physical dependence on opioids in as little as 4-8 weeks. Opioids produce very high levels of “positive reinforcement”, which in turn leads to an increased chance of addiction or physical dependence.
Opioid use disorder is marked by one or more of the following symptoms occurring in one year:
If you or someone you know are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you may have an opioid addiction. Should these symptoms occur, it is important to reach out to a professional addiction treatment center immediately. Getting help for substance use disorders can be the difference between life and death.
According to the American Medical Association (AMA), nearly 20% of people who are prescribed opioids develop an opioid addiction. The relative ease of access to addictive opioids has fueled the opioid addiction crisis. Addiction will drive individuals to go to great lengths to maintain access, such as switching pharmacies or doctors to prevent their addiction from coming to light.
When a doctor does catch on to addictive tendencies, those who suffer from opioid addiction will often seek out “harder” substances, such as heroin. It has been reported that upwards of 50% of heroin users began their drug use with prescription opioid medication.
As is the case with many addictions, genetics do play a role in the likelihood of developing an opioid addiction. Doctors need to seek out a comprehensive family medical history before treatment and patients must disclose an honest assessment before consulting with a doctor for pain management. While opioids do provide a high level of pain management, there may be alternatives for those with a history of opioid addiction.
Types of opioids are broken down into two different categories: natural and synthetic. Natural opioids occur in nature as extractions from poppy plants. They are often prescribed by doctors for their pain mitigation effect. The two most commonly prescribed and abused natural opioids are codeine and morphine.
Morphine: Morphine is used to treat different levels of pain and its longevity/ease of access has made it the most commonly prescribed natural opioid in the United States. It is usually administered through an intravenous drip that can be controlled by the patient or is prescribed in the form of extended-release tablets.
Codeine: Codeine is the second most commonly used naturally occurring opioid and it is often prescribed for the treatment of moderate pain. Most cough syrups also contain some amount of codeine.
Synthetic opioids have similar characteristics as natural opioids but are produced in a lab. Synthetic opioid drugs are used to act on the same types of neurotransmitters as natural opioids and can have a similar effect. While synthetic opioids do have their place in the medical community, they have also become some of the most widely abused substances worldwide. The synthetic opioids found to most commonly cause addiction are opioids are fentanyl, dihydrocodeine, and methadone.
Fentanyl: Fentanyl is one of the most commonly used medications for anesthesia. Outside of its intended medical use, fentanyl is often abused because it produces a quick high, and is easily combined with heroin or cocaine.
Dihydrocodeine: Dihydrocodeine is a commonly prescribed synthetic pain medication but it is especially dangerous because it is twice as strong as naturally occurring codeine. It is used in many different forms including syrups, pills, and even injectable liquids.
Methadone: Like most other opioids, methadone is most commonly used to treat pain, but it can also be used to mitigate withdrawal symptoms from other substances.
Opioid abuse has increased significantly in the last decade, but this has also led to an increase in quality addiction care options. The national attention given to the opioid addiction crisis has spurred great advances in addiction care. Here at Free by the Sea, we are ready to help answer your questions and get you or your loved one on the road to recovery.
We offer many different types of opioid addiction treatment, including medication-assisted treatment as well as inpatient or outpatient care options. One of the most commonly utilized paths for opioid addiction treatment is a combination of medication (often methadone or Suboxone) plus a therapeutic approach.
Here you will find some of the most commonly utilized approaches to opioid treatment. Free by the Sea offers or can facilitate both of these.
MAT refers to the use of specific medications (usually methadone or Suboxone) to treat changes in brain function that can arise from extended opioid abuse. These medications can help mitigate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for opioids.
These medications are generally only available in specific clinics. These substances are effective in this capacity because they do not produce the same high as other opioids but can help with physical dependency.
MAT is generally combined with commonly practiced therapeutic modalities such as individual therapy or group counseling, 12 step programs, or inpatient treatment. Specific therapy strategies, such as CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) have proven useful in avoiding the risk of relapse while undergoing treatment.
Medically supervised detoxification involves pairing the administration of detoxifying drugs (such as methadone) with professional medical observation. This type of detoxification is specifically tailored to patients experiencing moderate to severe physical withdrawal symptoms. Physical withdrawal symptoms, such as extreme sweating, aches and pains, and anxiety are one of the most difficult parts of the detoxification process, thus it is important to have medical supervision to avoid relapse.
At Free by the Sea, we work to help make detox process as effective, safe, and as painless as possible. We offer assistance to our clients, making sure they find the right detox facility as they begin their journey to recovery from addiction.
Once detox is complete, individuals can continue overcoming opioid addiction through counseling and therapy. We utilize over a dozen different types of therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy. Through our counseling services, we help to ensure a treatment approach tailored to the individual. Ongoing psychiatric care is essential to the recovery process and we are committed to providing the best.
The first step in any recovery journey is seeking expert help. At Free by the Sea, we are committed to providing top-of-the-line care with an unmatched level of personal touch. Whether you are seeking simple advice, or need a more hands-on detoxification process, we are ready and willing to help.
At Free by the Sea, we have an incredibly professional staff, first-class amenities, and caring doctors to meet you where you are. Our staff works hard to provide an amazing treatment program that will help you or your loved one gain the skills and resources needed on the road to recovery. If you or someone you love are in need of our world-class options, contact us today to learn how we can help you!
Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director. He attended the University of Ghana Medical School where he became a Medical Doctor in 1977. From 1978 through 1984, he was a medical officer in the Ghana Navy and provided a variety of services from general medicine to surgeries. He received his Certificate in General Psychology from the American Board of Psychology and Neurology in 2002.