What are Opioids?

Opioids are a group of highly addictive drugs, some of which are illegal while others can be consumed legally with a prescription from a licensed physician. These types of drugs work by interacting with the opioid receptors in the brain and body, and can be effective in relieving pain when taken for a short period of time. These drugs are widely abused because in addition to relieving pain in the user, they can also bring about feelings of euphoria that are highly desirable. Even with a legitimate prescription, dependency is a risk as it does not take long for an addiction to opioid drugs to develop. In fact, there currently exists an opioid epidemic in the United States as a result of widespread abuse of this class of drugs. The incredible strength of many opioid medications can lead to serious harm, including overdose.

Addiction to opioids has only become more common due to ease with which it can be acquired.

It is not uncommon for users to begin taking an opioid medication after a serious injury, only to find that they cannot stop using after their prescription has run out. Further, adolescents and teens will sometimes take these drugs from their parents or older relatives in order to abuse them recreationally.

Types of Opioids

There exists a number of different opioids on the market today. One of the most widely recognized and abused opioid drugs includes heroin. Heroin, an illegal drug, is produced from opium poppy plants found in parts of Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. It can be consumed through snorting, smoking, or injecting, and can be found in powder form, or as a black, sticky substance referred to as black tar heroin.

While heroin is an illegal substance to use or possess, most other opioids are legal to consume with a valid prescription. Some of the most common opioid prescription medications include morphine, fentanyl, hydrocodone and oxycodone. When prescribed by a doctor, most of these medications are intended to be consumed orally by mouth.

Patients prescribed opioid medications will often receive a great level of monitoring by their physician to ensure the drugs are working effectively to treat their ailment. This supervision also allows the physician to keep an eye out for signs of dependence and addiction.

Effects of Opioids on the Body

When consumed, opioids impact virtually every system in the body including the brain, respiratory system, nervous system, digestive system, and immune system, just to name a few.

Effects on the brain: Opioids are effective in impacting the parts of the brain that control our feelings of sleepiness, often causing users to experience daytime drowsiness. For example, many heroin users report feelings of profound lethargy, causing them to exhibit what is referred to as “nodding off.” When an opioid user is nodding off, they will slip in and out of consciousness without any control. Another major impact of opioid use on the brain is the development of major depression after prolonged use. In fact, research has found that individuals who have used prescription pain medications for more than six months were 50% more likely to experience a depressive episode.

Effects on the Respiratory System: Opioid drugs are particularly dangerous because when taken in high doses, they can lead to respiratory depression. When respiratory depression occurs, the users breathing has slowed to an unnaturally low pace. In some cases, breathing will stop entirely leaving the body and brain with a lack of oxygen to function. Critical organ injury can occur, as can death.

Effects on the Nervous System: While opioid drugs are intended to reduce pain in users, prolonged use can actually result in a condition of increased sensitivity to pain known as hyperalgesia. Use of these drugs can also result in a loss of coordination and slowing of the user’s physical movements.

Effects on the Digestive System: Having opioids in the digestive system can lead to slowed gastrointestinal motility, chronic constipation, small bowel obstruction, and even uncontrolled vomiting.

Effects on the Immune System: Use of opioid drugs can severely diminish the body’s immune system, leaving users at risk for illness and infection.

Risk Factors for Opioid Addiction

Because opioid drugs are so easy to access, individuals from all walks of life are at risk for developing an addiction. In some cases, however, certain characteristics present a greater likelihood for developing an unhealthy dependency. For example, individuals who have a blood relative that has battled an addiction to drugs or alcohol are more likely to develop an addiction themselves. Additionally, those who have a psychiatric disorder are more likely to struggle with addiction. This is because many attempt to self-medicate with drugs in an attempt to stave off negative feelings and emotions.

Another risk factor for addiction to opioid medications is having a labor-intensive job. Those who engage in physical work have a greater risk for injury, meaning they may find themselves requiring a prescription for opioid pain medications.

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Spotting signs and symptoms of opioid addiction can be difficult in the early stages of an addiction, however they typically become more apparent over time. One common sign of an addiction that requires opioid addiction treatment is tolerance to the drug of choice. Over time the body will begin to adjust to the dose the user is taking, requiring larger quantities of the drug in order to reach the same high. Those with a severe addiction will require numerous pills throughout the day just to function properly. Another symptom of opioid addiction is continuing to take a prescription medication long after the prescription has ended. While many prescriptions for this class of drug only last a few days, those with a dependency will seek out medication from other sources when their doctor will no longer fill their prescription.

Many individuals suffering from an addiction will begin to engage in risky behaviors in order to use, such as doctor shopping or stealing. Users will visit numerous doctor’s offices or emergency rooms in order to procure a new prescription, or will turn to stealing money or possessions from friends, family, or strangers to fund their addiction.

When someone begins to display these signs and symptoms of addiction, it is crucial that they begin an opioid addiction treatment program as soon as possible.

Opioid Withdrawal

When a recovery patient begins their journey towards health and wellness, the first step they must take in the opioid addiction treatment process is to undergo opioid withdrawal. When an addicted individual does not consume their opioid drug of choice for even just a few hours, they may begin to experience unpleasant opioid withdrawal symptoms as their body attempts to adjust to a drug-free state. Opioid withdrawal symptoms vary in severity and duration based upon the user’s history of drug use and level of addiction.

It is highly recommended that those going through opioid withdrawal as part of their opioid withdrawal treatment do so under the care of addiction specialists. Not only can certain opioid withdrawal symptoms be particularly dangerous, but recovery patients are at their greatest risk for relapse during this time as the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal set in. Some of the most common opioid withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, agitation, inability to sleep, sweats, fever, hypertension, runny nose, muscle aches, and yawning. As withdrawal continues, recovery patients may begin to experience further opioid withdrawal symptoms such as stomach cramps, cravings, diarrhea, depression, and nausea and vomiting.

In some cases, it may be appropriate to administer pharmacological methodologies to assist in the opioid addiction treatment process. Certain medications will help relieve some of the unpleasant opioid withdrawal symptoms, allowing patients to successfully move on to the subsequent stages of their treatment.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

Opioid addiction treatment requires a comprehensive evaluation that looks at the recovery patient’s history of drug use and current health status. This allows medical professionals to implement a course of action that provides the best chance for long-term sobriety. Treating an opioid addiction involves a detoxification period, during which the body is rid of the user’s drug of choice. Though uncomfortable, this step is critical and necessary for treatment. In some cases, medications will be used during the treatment of an opioid addiction. For example, Naltrexone is a medication prescribed to those in opioid addiction treatment, as it effectively blocks the opioid receptors in the brain. This means that the high brought on by consumption of opioid drugs is no longer experienced.

Successful opioid addiction treatment also incorporates extensive therapy. With the support and guidance of a licensed therapist, recovery patients are able to uncover the root cause of their addiction, developing strategies to prevent future use. Group therapy is also highly recommended for those in treatment, as it provides a network of support from others who have also battled addiction.

During recovery, it is important that patients develop a plan for long-term care and prevention, as addiction is a life-long disease. With the proper tools, planning, and support from loved ones through a family program, it is possible to remain sober for the rest of your life.

Opioid Treatment at Bluff

At Bluff, we specialize in providing top quality opioid addiction treatment to a diverse set of patients. No matter your experience with addiction and history of use, you will be met with a dedicated staff of medical professionals committed to helping you succeed in building a healthy, sober life. Our recovery patients are successful thanks to our comprehensive and multi-faceted approach to opioid addiction treatment. We conduct a thorough evaluation of each individual who enters our center, gathering important information on the background, family history, current health status, and more. This process then allows us to prepare a treatment plan that in individualized to meet each patient’s unique needs.

We pride ourselves on creating a peaceful environment in which recovery patients can focus solely on getting better. From stunning nature trails to yoga to equine therapy, we’ve built a treatment center that will rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul.

Get Help Now

If you’ve had enough of your addiction to opioid drugs and want to reclaim your life, call or message us now. We’ve help patients of all different life experiences, ages, and backgrounds overcome their dependency on drugs, and build happy and healthy lives. Our addiction specialists are standing by 24/7 to respond to your inquiry and set you on the right path.


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