Opioids are a class of pain-relieving drugs that include prescription painkillers like OxyContin, codeine and morphine as well as street drugs such as heroin. Majorly used to treat severe pain associated with surgery and diseases such as cancer, opioids affect the areas of the brain that sense pain and are highly addictive. They can create a sense of euphoria in individuals using these due to which they become dependent on the drugs.
Opioids can be abused in a variety of ways. These can be ground and snorted – a dangerous method often resulting in an overdose – or mixed with water and injected or smoked. The situation can get really difficult if a person continues to take painkillers that were prescribed for a medical condition from which he/she has successfully recovered. This, in turn, makes opioid addiction treatment an uphill task.
Initially, most users abuse opioids simply because it feels good – the pain-dulling effects of the drug can create a sense of euphoria in some users. However, the body builds up a tolerance to the effects of opioids over time, forcing users to abuse increasing amounts of the drug to achieve the same effects. Eventually, users begin to experience severe flu-like symptoms when they don’t take the drug, a condition also known as withdrawal. As a result, this makes opioid addiction less about seeking the initial euphoric rush, and more of a way to escape withdrawal effects.
Symptoms of opioid abuse
Opioid abuse can lead to a number of symptoms such as:
- Behavioral changes such as withdrawing from family, friends and activities
- Constricted pupils
- Drowsiness and sluggishness
- Fluctuating weight
- Neglect of hygiene and grooming
- Slurred speech
- Track marks – needle marks and scars from injecting opioids
When a person opts to withdraw from these drugs, it can lead to the development of various withdrawal symptoms depending on the level of addiction. Some of the common withdrawal symptoms that a person might experience are:
- Anxiety and agitation
- Cramping and muscle pain
- Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting
- Craving for the drug
- Muscle ache
Effects of opioid abuse
Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors, proteins found in nerve cells that are located in the brain, spinal cord and digestive system of a human being. As the opioids bind to the cells, they trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s reward system. This dopamine release does two things: it creates a sense of euphoria, and it tells the body to repeat the actions that caused the dopamine release.
The drive to experience the “high” opioids cause can make people engage in risky behaviors. In the case of pain pills, many users grind up the pills to either snort or inject. Since pain pills are designed to slowly release their active ingredients over a period of time, users run the risk of overdose as they receive the entire dosage of the pill in a very short period of time.
Opioids kill chiefly because they can slow breathing to dangerous levels. Also, the lethal amount of opioids can vary widely from person to person. Finally, when opioids are mixed with other drugs – alcohol, tranquilizers, sleeping pills – they can greatly amplify the effects opioids have on breathing, creating an even greater risk of overdose.
Long-term opioid abuse seems to create genuine physiological changes in the body. A study cited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that heroin addiction caused the brain’s white matter to decrease. White matter helps parts of the brain communicate and work with each other. It also plays an active role in decision-making and regulating an individual’s behaviors.
Getting help for opioids addiction
Opioid addiction has taken over and ruined many lives. But, there’s a way out. Mission Recovery is a leading provider of opiate addiction treatment that offers the best opioids detox treatment at its world-class opioids detox centers and utilizes the latest, scientifically backed treatment methods in addition to effective alternative therapies.
Unlike other opiate rehab centers, we don’t merely treat the symptoms of addiction. Mission Recovery treats any underlying mental disorders as well. Truly, Mission Recovery is a well-structured, medically monitored space for anyone recovering from opiate addiction.