Opioid use and abuse are now matters of concern to the US government. The CDC captures the opioid crisis in its findings that in 2014, over 28,000 people died of opioid overdose, the highest number yet. Furthermore, close to half of all opioid deaths result from a prescription opioid.
What Are Opioids?
When you suffer from aches and pains, a visit to the local drug store is all you need to get pain relievers. If the pain becomes too much, an opiate or opioid prescription from a doctor is required for you to access more powerful drugs.
Opioids are drugs that help with pain relief by acting on the central nervous system. They minimize the intensity of pain signals getting to your brain and affect the parts of your brain that control emotions.
When they get into your body, these substances work by attaching themselves to opioid receptors found in the spine, digestive system, brain, and other body organs to reduce or relieve pain. Eventually, they inhibit the effects of pain stimulus and pain fades away.
Classifications vary depending on the understanding of what is an opioid. There are natural types, semi-synthetic types, and synthetic types.
Opiates is a term originally used to refer to pain relievers. The difference between opiates and opioids is that opiates are natural drugs drawn from the poppy plant while opioids are synthetic or partially synthetic substances made to look like opiates since they have a similar molecular structure.
Uses of Opioids
They serve medical and non-medical functions. In medical applications, the drugs are intended for pain relief. They are prescribed for mild pain, but they help best in situations of acute or chronic pain, for instance post-surgical care and cancer pain.
In cases of chronic pain not linked to cancer, the drugs help in alleviating migraines, fibromyalgia, and headaches. They serve as cough suppressants and control irritable bowel syndrome. They also control shortness of breath and diarrhea.
Effects of Opioids Use
Usage of the drugs causes immediate and long-term effects depending on the amount taken. These include:
- Mental confusion
- Depressed respiration
An overdose is a dangerous or excessive dose of a drug. It may cause injury or impairment of the body. At times, the injury may be fatal and may cause serious health complications. Although opioids often produce unpleasant effects, in some people, they produce excitement in the brain.
Such people will continue taking the drugs, whether they have prescriptions or not, to recreate the euphoric effect. The habit results in overdose, tolerance, and eventually opioid addiction. An overdose occurs when you take a single large dose. It can cause respiratory depression, brain damage, and even death.
Dependence and Addiction to Opioids and Opiates
People usually take these drugs to manage debilitating pain in order to pursue normal life activities. The duration of the treatment is typically short and the amounts are carefully controlled by a doctor, but you may develop a tolerance for the normal dose.
When tolerance sets in, the prescribed amount will no longer offer the comfort you need, and so you will seek to increase the dosage. Eventually, you won’t be able to live without the drugs and you’ll become an addict.
Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
As you continue taking the drugs over an extended period and your body develops dependence, you may decide to stop taking them. If you choose to stop taking the drugs abruptly, you will develop severe complications called withdrawal symptoms. The initial effects of opioid withdrawal include:
- Muscle pains
- Teary eyes
- Runny nose
In the later stages, the following withdrawal symptoms manifest:
- Gastric disturbances such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Dilated pupils
- Excruciating abdominal cramps
- Cold turkey effect characterized by goose bumps and cold flashes
How to Identify and Prevent Opioid Abuse
Abuse of a drug is using it in any other way and for any other reason than the intended one. Using drugs for recreation is another form of misuse. To nip the problem in the bud, doctors and pharmacists should be keen to identify signs of possible non-medical use of the drug by noting the following:
- Patients who move to different doctors as a way of getting multiple batches of the same drug
- Drastic increase in frequency and amount of medication
- Unscheduled refills
To avoid abuse of drugs, you should:
- Strictly follow prescriptions
- Never change, stop, or increase dosage without a doctor’s advice
- Enlighten yourself on possible side effects of the drug
- Never share medication with others
- Dispose of expired or unused medicines as required by the law
- Inform your doctor of any other medications, herbal, and dietary supplements you are taking
To stop the habit, you can enroll in a hospital or facility where you can undergo a detoxification plan. Some medicines help in coping with withdrawal symptoms and could be prescribed for long-term use and gradually reduced as the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms wane.
Sometimes the detox plan and the medication work better when combined, which reduces the recovery time. Beyond managing the addiction, social support helps in overcoming stigma. It provides encouragement to follow through with the rehabilitation program and avoid relapse.
Start Your Journey Out of Opioid Addiction
If you are addicted to opioids, enroll in a reputable health facility for recovery and counseling. Additionally, join a support group that will help you to maintain your commitment to overcoming opioid dependence.
The duration of treatment depends on the intensity of the addiction. Recovery is painful but not life threatening or impossible. Fortunately, you can avoid this complicated problem if you consult closely with your doctor when undergoing treatment for chronic cancer or non-cancer pain.
“What am I trying to Avoid?
What is beyond this pain?
What other pain am I not seeing or looking at? Most will usually find out there is something else underneath what it appears to be.
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Author: Esateys Stuchiner
Esateys (pronounced Ee sáh teez) is an International Life Transformational Speaker, Author, Master Facilitator, Life Coach and Expert in the Human condition. She is a Nationally and Board Certified Nurse Practitioner. For over 30 years, she has practiced, taught and lectured extensively in the allopathic and alternative medicine field.
Esateys is known for her groundbreaking work in the areas of personal empowerment and health restoration using mindset and inner connection as the catalyst for all change.
Esateys describes herself as the ‘Architect of the New You’ and has dedicated her life and professional career to helping her clients create “New Beginnings” by facilitating self empowerment, economic freedom and restored health.
For more information, go to esateys.com.