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Opioid and Opiate Addiction

Last Updated: May 7, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Seeking help for opioid abuse can seem intimidating, but quality treatment can help reduce the drug’s negative effects. Learn more about opioid addiction treatment.

Opioids and opiates are similar and highly addictive. Treatment is often necessary for people who misuse opioids and opiates because it can be incredibly difficult to detox from these drugs and enter recovery without professional support. Learn about our opioid and opiate addiction treatment programs at The Recovery Village Kansas City.

Opioids vs. Opiates

While opioids and opiates are often referred to interchangeably, there are differences. Opiates are naturally occurring drugs that act on the body’s opioid receptors to relieve pain. Opioids include synthetic substances used to treat pain. Prescription painkillers often fall under the opioid analgesics category.

Naturally-occurring opiates can include:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Codeine

Synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids can include:

  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Methadone
  • Tramadol

Why Are Opioids Addictive?

Opioids are incredibly addictive due to their physiological effects, even when taken as prescription drugs. Opioids block the body’s pain receptors and cause the brain to release large amounts of dopamine, which is extremely pleasurable and makes users want to repeat using opioids.

Repeated opioid use can lead to physical dependence, where the body will not function the same without the drug. A person physically dependent on opioids experiences uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop using them, leading to continued opioid misuse.

Signs of Opioid Abuse

A person who repeatedly abuses opioids may develop opioid use disorder (OUD), the clinical term for opioid addiction. While each person is different, some general signs and symptoms of OUD that suggest a person may be abusing opioids include:

  • Strong cravings for opioids
  • Being unable to cut down on opioid use, despite desiring to
  • Being unable to fulfill work or family duties because of drug use
  • Giving up hobbies or preferred activities in favor of opioid use
  • Using opioids in risky situations, such as driving while under the influence
  • Continuing to use opioids, even when they cause a health problem
  • Developing a tolerance so that larger doses are needed to achieve the desired effects
  • Showing withdrawal side effects when not using opioids

Help is available if you are struggling with opioid addiction. Speak to our Recovery Advocates today to learn more and start admission for yourself or a loved one.

Long-term Effects of Opioid Use

Opioid use can cause several health problems over time, including:

  • Severe constipation that does not improve with medications
  • Ongoing gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea, cramping, vomiting, bloating and stomach bleeding
  • Sleep-disordered breathing, including sleep apnea
  • Increased risk of heart attack and heart failure
  • Extreme dizziness and sedation, which can lead to a risk of injury and fractures from falling
  • Hormonal problems, which can lead to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, irregular menstrual cycles and osteoporosis
  • Reduced immune system functioning, which can lead to an increased risk of pneumonia, especially in the elderly
  • Risk of fatal overdose from respiratory depression

Knowing When It’s Time To Seek Help

Seeking help for an opioid use disorder can seem intimidating, but quality treatment can help reduce the negative effects of opioid abuse. If opioids are causing you significant problems, and you’re unable to cut back, it’s probably time to seek help. For example, you would benefit from treatment if you cannot stop using opioids, despite health problems, relationship conflict and the inability to care for your family.

Begin by discussing your opioid misuse with your doctor. If they diagnose an opioid use disorder, it’s time to contact an addiction treatment center for professional intervention. An opioid use disorder is a legitimate medical condition that requires treatment.

Opioid Addiction Treatment Programs

Treatment often occurs in stages, with patients first receiving higher levels of care (i.e., inpatient rehab) and stepping down to outpatient care as their recovery progresses.

Opioid Detox

Medical detox is often the first step of opioid addiction treatment. A professional medical detox program can provide prescription medications and medical oversight to keep patients safe and comfortable during opioid detox. While medical detox is important, it is often not enough to provide lasting recovery. Continuing rehab treatment after completing opioid withdrawal is essential.

Consulting with a doctor or professional rehab program is important before attempting to detox from opioids. Withdrawal symptoms can be extremely unpleasant, making it difficult to detox without professional support. Some common opioid withdrawal side effects include:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting
  • Cold flashes and goosebumps
  • Extreme cravings
  • Involuntary leg movements

Inpatient Opioid Treatment

Patients live onsite during inpatient treatment and will be away from home for some time. They eat their meals at the facility and have a bedroom for their stay.

Inpatient treatment programs usually offer services, including medication management, medical care, individual and group therapy, support groups and recreation opportunities. Patients in opioid addiction treatment may continue taking medications like buprenorphine to reduce drug cravings. When patients use medications while also undergoing counseling for opioid addiction, they are in MAT (medication-assisted treatment).

Opioid Addiction and Mental Health

There is a strong overlap between opioid misuse and mental health conditions. People with OUD are likely to have a co-occurring mental health disorder, and it’s important to participate in a dual diagnosis treatment program that addresses both conditions. An untreated mental health condition can worsen opioid use disorder and vice versa.

recent study of patients with an OUD found the following mental health problems were common in this population:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Depression
  • Dysthymia
  • Personality disorders

Is Opioid Addiction Treatable?

Opioid addiction is treatable. You can improve your chances of a successful recovery by entering a treatment program and staying connected to the recovery community through support groups, counseling and relapse prevention planning.

Research demonstrates that opioid addiction treatment programs are beneficial. One recent study followed patients for 3.5 years after they completed treatment and showed that 31.7% of patients were abstinent and not taking any medications for opioid addiction after 3.5 years, and 29.4% were taking medications and no longer showed symptoms of opioid dependence. These results suggest that people who engage in treatment can successfully recover from opioid addiction.

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