Opioid Addiction and Treatment: Recovering from Opioid Misuse

You already know the United States is facing an opioid epidemic. U.S. government research now indicates that 115 people die every day from opioid overdose. Provisional counts for 2017 is 72,000 deaths. At Elan Recovery + Wellness, we mourn those lost lives, and we rededicate ourselves every day to turning the tide on this plague. Opioid addiction can affect anyone. We’ve seen bright, promising young people become addicted to opioid painkillers, through no fault of their own. Here’s the scenario: A high school lacrosse player, straight-A student, has ACL surgery. Her doctor prescribes two weeks of oxycodone, and gives no further direction. After just one week (and sometimes after just one dose), she has become dependent on the drug. By the time her prescription runs out, she is addicted. Because she no longer has access to prescription medication, she begins using heroin. It’s cheaper, it’s easier to get. And every use is, potentially, deadly. Common opioids are:

  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Hydrocodone (known also by the brand name Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (known also by the brand names OxyContin and Percocet)

Natural opioids are derived from the poppy plants; some medications are made from these natural derivatives, while others are made of synthetics. When prescribed by a physician, opioids are used primarily to help treat severe acute, chronic, or post-surgical pain. They work by binding to pain receptors, blocking pain messages the body sends to the brain. At the same time, opioids cause a flood of dopamine (a “feel-good” hormone) in the brain’s pleasure centers. Opioids are highly addictive. Dependence occurs when the brain can no longer function without more and more of the drug’s numbing effect, when the person becomes addicted to the pleasure the drug causes, and when they lose the ability to feel pleasure without it.

Opioid Use, Abuse and Withdrawal

Patients using these drugs as prescribed may sometimes be tempted to abuse their prescription, largely because of the euphoric high the drugs produce. Users may develop a mental dependence on these drugs, believing they cannot live a normal life without them. There are a number of other ways opioid drugs can be abused:

  • Taking far more than the dose prescribed to you.
  • Taking them for far longer than has been prescribed.
  • Taking someone else’s prescription.
  • Taking them specifically to get high.

Many people can unknowingly develop a tolerance to and dependence upon these drugs, even when taking them as prescribed, which is why it is critical to understand the effects of opioids. A person who is abusing opiates may display behavioral changes, including anxiety, confusion or forgetfulness. Common adverse effects include muscle pain, tremors, depression, chest pain, fatigue and respiratory depression. Opioid withdrawal can also cause psychological and emotional responses, such as mood swings and sleeplessness. Opioids can cause breathing to slow dramatically, or even stop. The most dangerous effects of opioid abuse are coma, permanent brain damage, and death. It happens dozens of times a day. Please, please don’t let it happen to you or to someone you love.

How Elan Treats Opioid Addiction

Elan partners with a number of highly reputable inpatient detox facilities, as detox is often indicated in the early stages of treatment for opioid addiction. Later, when your body has begun to clear the drugs, the transition to outpatient treatment at Elan will be as seamless as we can make it. At Elan Recovery + Wellness, we use a number of treatment methods to help our guests understand, manage, and emerge from addiction to opioids, as well as any co-occurring mental health conditions:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Addiction education
  • NA meetings
  • Adaptive testing software, which helps us assess your mental health daily
  • Complete evaluation by a psychiatrist
  • If indicated, psychotropic medication to rebalance the brain chemistry
  • Weekly visits with our staff psychiatrist
  • Management of medications by our advanced psychiatric nurse practitioner

Am I an Addict?

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