While most people can use prescription pain drugs safely, some find themselves wanting or needing more doses.
If the person’s pain and their use of the prescription medication are not addressed, it may lead to unsafe use of opioids. This can lead to an opioid use disorder.
Misusing opioid drugs and the cycle of addiction and withdrawal can change a person’s life forever.
But anyone with this serious medical illness deserves timely, compassionate care. Opioid use disorder is not a personal flaw—it’s a condition that requires treatment.
Here are some situations that suggest you could benefit from treatment:
Feeling overwhelmed by cravings for opioids or resorting to illegal opioid drugs like heroin
Taking more doses of opioids to get the same relief
Taking opioids every day to avoid the unpleasant feelings of withdrawal
Opioid drug use seems like it’s taking over your life
Exactly how you came to develop an opioid use disorder doesn't really matter
At Eappen Clinic, we understand how overwhelming opioid use disorder can be. You can’t go it alone in trying to break free from these highly addictive drugs. We can put you on a path to a better life.
What are opioids?
There are many different prescription medications used for pain, but opioids have been the most common. Most people can use opioids safely when they follow their doctor’s instructions.
However, opioids are highly addictive. They should never be taken more often or in higher doses than what a doctor prescribes.
What’s more concerning is that people who have used opioids for a time might find themselves needing more and more doses to feel relief. This is known as tolerance.
Too often, people who have developed a tolerance turn to illegal drugs they buy on the street—including heroin, which is highly addictive and extremely dangerous.
Opioids have become today’s deadliest prescription drugs because they are addictive and can cause death if a person overdoses. Two of every three drug overdose deaths in 2018 involved an opioid.
What is opioid use disorder?
Opioid addiction is a disorder of the brain. It is important to understand that once you have an opioid use disorder, the biological effects behind it are powerful—so powerful that you may not be able to overcome them on your own.
Opioid use disorder is a problematic pattern of prescription (or illegal) opioid use that in many cases leads to tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. There are several criteria for the disorder, including:
- Unsuccessful efforts to cut down or stop using opioids, even though you want to
- A lot of time spent trying to get the opioid drug, use it, or recover from it
- Using opioids again and again in dangerous settings or situations, such as in the home of a stranger
Repeated use of opioids can cause your brain to change. Then you need to take more and more of the drug to get the same effect (tolerance). Many people with opioid use disorder have to use the drug frequently just to relieve the painful physical symptoms of withdrawal.
No one sets out to become addicted. Having an opioid use disorder is not your fault, and it’s not a sign of personal weakness. Opioid use disorder is a medical condition, and you deserve the highest-quality treatment.
Who gets opioid use disorder?
With around 3 million people in the U.S. meeting criteria for opioid use disorder, this is an illness that doesn’t discriminate. Opioid use disorder affects all ages, races and walks of life. Women tend to receive more prescription opioids for pain than men, but men are more likely to become dependent on opioids or suffer an opioid overdose.
Opioid use disorder has become an increasingly troubling problem for older adults. While heroin overdoses are more common among young adults in their 20s, opioid overdoses overall are more prevalent between ages 40 and 50.
In most cases, it’s likely that the development of an opioid use disorder has been influenced both by your genes and factors in the environment around you. As with other substance use and behavioral health disorders, researchers have discovered that opioid use disorder has a strong genetic component.
Also, if you have a history of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you are more likely to develop an opioid use disorder. The same is true if you experienced abuse or other trauma as a child.
How is opioid use disorder treated?
The good news is that advances in medication treatment have made a long-term recovery from opioid use disorder possible. Some people will begin with “detox,” which is a medically supervised treatment that usually happens in the hospital to safely rid your body of the opioids and reduce the withdrawal.
After that, your recovery journey continues with ongoing treatment. Medication, different types of talk therapy with a counselor and fellowship support groups are recommended.
Medications called “agonists,” which act in a similar way to opioids in the brain but don’t produce the harmful effects of opioids, are now the gold standard of treatment. The best treatment option for you will depend on your life circumstances and any other health challenges you may be facing.
Agonist medications have become a preferred option because it can be prescribed and managed by a physician and you take the medication at home, like any other medication to treat a medical illness. Such medications can improve your chances of staying off opioids long-term and can keep you engaged in the therapy and support that is also essential to your recovery.
Some people benefit from the agonists, which are given to patients in a special clinic. It’s usually taken every day, with patients visiting the clinic often to receive treatment. Methadone also is recommended for pregnant women and adolescents, and for those who have not gotten better with buprenorphine treatment in the past.
For some patients, switching to another medication may be helpful if the first medication is producing unwanted side effects.
Medication can help you break free from opioids, but recovery from opioid use disorder is about more than just being drug-free. Harmful substance use is often a sign of other issues, so we will work with you to create a care path that takes your history and other behavioral health issues into account.
Should I get treatment for my opioid use disorder?
The cravings, tolerance and withdrawal associated with opioid use disorder can be a lot to manage. But medication treatment and personalized therapy will put you on a path to recovery.
Some patients on medication treatment for opioid use disorder may need to stay on the medication for a year or more, but these medications are safe and effective for long-term use.
We will work with you to establish reasonable expectations for your time in treatment. What we do know from research is that detox without any ongoing treatment will not help you overcome opioid use disorder.
Also, we will never consider a return to opioid use as a personal failure. Relapse is common for those managing addiction. If this happens, we will use it as an opportunity to make any necessary changes to your treatment plan. Substance use disorders are chronic illnesses that must be managed over a lifetime, no different from diabetes, asthma or any other chronic condition.
Even if you have relatively mild symptoms of tolerance or withdrawal from opioids, it is likely you will need treatment to break free from using these harmful substances. If you are experiencing cravings that are difficult to shake, or you’re finding you need to take opioids more often to avoid the physical pain of withdrawal, treatment can help bring you back to good health and a drug-free life.
At Eappen Clinic, we’re here to help. We can help you understand opioid use disorder and any underlying conditions. Our compassionate, individualized treatment can lead you to a meaningful life in recovery. Your first appointment with us is a detailed evaluation. At the end of your evaluation, you’ll know the next steps.
Let’s work together on your recovery journey so you can feel well again.