What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include both prescription medications used for pain relief, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and codeine, as well as illegal drugs like heroin. They work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and other parts of the body, reducing the perception of pain and producing feelings of pleasure or euphoria.

Opioids are highly addictive and can lead to physical dependence, tolerance, and overdose if not used as directed by a healthcare professional. They are also associated with a range of adverse effects, including constipation, drowsiness, respiratory depression, and increased risk of overdose.

Common side effects of opioids include:

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Confusion
  • Sedation
  • Respiratory depression

Prescription Opioids

Doctors prescribe prescription opioids to manage pain. Prescription opioids may be prescribed for short-term use, such as after an accident or surgery, or long-term use in treating chronic pain conditions. However, opioids are highly addictive, and even people who take them as prescribed are not immune. Long-term prescription drug use can result in physical dependency which can ultimately lead to addiction.

Commonly abused prescription opioids include:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana)
  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl

Up to one in four patients who receive long-term opioid therapy get addicted to their prescriptions and approximately 5.0 million people aged 12 and older in the U.S. had a prescription opioid use disorder in 2021.

Illicit Opioids

Illicit opioids include heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Heroin is an opioid drug derived from morphine, but it is far more powerful. Illicit fentanyl is fentanyl, usually in powdered form, that has been smuggled into the U.S. or manufactured in clandestine laboratories and sold for recreational use. Fentanyl is estimated to be 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.

Studies have found that between 4-6% of people who abuse prescription opioids eventually switch to heroin and up to 80% of heroin users first misused prescription opioids. The vast majority of opioid overdose deaths today involve illicit opioids like fentanyl.

Signs of Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction is a progressive and devastating condition that can affect the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. As the addiction progresses, symptoms may become more severe, and daily functioning may decline.

Common signs of opioid addiction include:

  • Persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control opioid use
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from opioid use
  • Cravings or strong urges to use opioids
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home due to opioid use
  • Continued use of opioids despite social or interpersonal problems
  • Using opioids in physically hazardous situations, such as while driving
  • Developing a tolerance to opioids, needing larger doses to achieve the same effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to cut down or stop opioid use
  • Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of opioid use
  • Using opioids in larger amounts or for longer periods than intended
  • Continuing to use opioids despite being aware of physical or psychological problems exacerbated by the use

Long-Term Effects of Opioid Abuse

Long-term opioid abuse can have devastating effects on both physical and mental health. Some of the long-term consequences of opioid abuse include:

  • Physical dependence – Physical dependence occurs when the body becomes accustomed to the presence of opioids and requires them to function normally. This dependence can result in withdrawal symptoms when opioid use is reduced or stopped.
  • Tolerance – Over time, individuals may develop tolerance to opioids, meaning they need higher doses to achieve the same effects. This can increase the risk of overdose as individuals may take increasingly large doses in an attempt to overcome tolerance.
  • Chronic pain – While opioids can treat pain, long-term opioid use can sometimes worsen pain sensitivity, a phenomenon known as opioid-induced hyperalgesia. This can result in increased pain despite continued opioid use.
  • Respiratory problems – Opioids can depress the respiratory system, leading to slowed or shallow breathing. Prolonged opioid use increases the risk of respiratory depression, which can be life-threatening.
  • Gastrointestinal issues – Chronic opioid use can cause constipation, which may become severe and chronic. This can lead to complications such as bowel obstruction, perforation, or fecal impaction.
  • Hormonal imbalances – Opioid abuse can disrupt the normal functioning of the endocrine system, leading to hormonal imbalances. This can result in reduced libido, infertility, irregular menstrual cycles, and other reproductive issues.
  • Increased risk of infectious diseases – Injecting opioids intravenously or sharing needles can increase the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C.
  • Mental health disorders – Long-term opioid abuse is associated with an increased risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Social and economic consequences – Opioid abuse can have serious life consequences, including strained relationships, loss of employment, financial difficulties, legal problems, and social isolation.

Opioid Overdose Symptoms

Opioid overdose is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires prompt medical treatment.

Symptoms of opioid overdose are:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Extreme drowsiness or difficulty waking up
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Respiratory depression
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Bluish tint to lips or fingernails
  • Clammy skin
  • Slow heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures

If you suspect someone is overdosing on opioids, call 911 immediately and administer naloxone (an opioid overdose reversal medication) if you have it.

Opioid Detox and Withdrawal

One of the first obstacles people face when trying to overcome opioid addiction is the withdrawal symptoms that appear when they stop using. Opioid withdrawal is usually not life-threatening, but it can be incredibly unpleasant.

Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Yawning
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Restlessness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps

Opioid withdrawal can begin 6-12 hours after taking the last dose. As a result, the first phase of treatment involves medical detox.

During detox, healthcare professionals provide 24-hour supervision and can prescribe medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Medications like buprenorphine (Suboxone) and methadone can reduce withdrawal symptoms and alleviate cravings, providing for a more comfortable and tolerable detoxification process.

Treatment for Opioid Addiction

After detox, individuals transition to a treatment program to receive comprehensive behavioral and mental health treatment. Treatment for opioid addiction typically involves a combination of therapies tailored to the individual’s needs. Some common components of treatment plans include:

  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) – This involves the use of medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone to reduce withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and the risk of relapse. MAT is often combined with counseling and behavioral therapies for optimal results.
  • Behavioral therapy – Counseling and behavioral therapy are essential components of opioid addiction treatment. These evidence-based therapies help individuals understand the root causes of their addiction, develop coping mechanisms to deal with triggers and cravings and learn healthier ways of thinking and behaving.
  • Individual counseling – One-on-one therapy sessions with a qualified counselor or therapist allow individuals to explore personal issues related to their addiction, set goals for recovery, and receive guidance and support throughout the treatment process.
  • Group therapy – Group therapy sessions provide opportunities for individuals in recovery to share their experiences, offer support and encouragement to one another, and learn from each other’s successes and challenges. Group therapy can also help individuals build a sense of community and belonging, which is crucial for long-term recovery.
  • Family therapy – Involving family members in the treatment process can be beneficial for both the individual in recovery and their loved ones. Family therapy helps improve communication, resolve conflicts, and rebuild trust and support systems within the family unit.
  • Holistic therapies – Some treatment programs may incorporate holistic approaches such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, or art therapy to promote overall well-being and address the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of recovery.
  • Aftercare planning – Planning for ongoing support and relapse prevention is crucial for maintaining long-term sobriety. Treatment programs help individuals develop aftercare plans that may include ongoing therapy, support group participation, continued medication management, and lifestyle changes to support recovery.

Your Source for Trusted Opioid Addiction Treatment in Los Angeles, CA

At Invigorate Behavioral Health, we specialize in treating opioid use disorder (OUD) with medically assisted detox and residential treatment. Located in Los Angeles, our clients enjoy a modern treatment facility, a supportive environment, and industry-leading addiction specialists.

In our medically assisted detox program, clients receive comprehensive medical care to safely manage withdrawal symptoms while undergoing detoxification from opioids. Our residential treatment program offers a structured and therapeutic environment where clients participate in a range of evidence-based therapies, including individual counseling, group therapy, family therapy, and holistic approaches. We recognize that each person is unique with their own individual needs which is why each of our clients receives a treatment plan designed for their situation.

If you or a loved one are searching for treatment for opioid addiction in Los Angeles and are ready to take the first steps toward recovery, please contact us today. Our dedicated admissions counselors are available now to verify your insurance, discuss your treatment options with you, and help you get started. Call now.

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