Opioid addiction affects millions of Americans and their families. No one is exempt from this public health issue – it impacts people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and professions. Even though there hasn’t been as much attention toward America’s opioid problem as of recently, it remains an issue.
In fact, some states are seeing higher opioid fatalities since the start of the pandemic. It’s too soon to have definitive data on the pandemic’s effects, but experts warn of rising overdoses, increases in relapse and a greater need for self-medication to deal with the anxiety, grief, isolation and changes taking place.
Opioid Addiction Affects Millions of Americans
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, opioid addiction was already affecting millions of Americans. Opioids are now responsible for more accidental deaths than any other cause in the U.S. Roughly 115 people die every day due to opioid-related causes, and about 7,000 people are treated daily for opioid-related complications.
There are both legal and illegal opioids that can be abused, and both are dangerous. Examples of opioids include:
How Easy are Opioids to Get?
Opioids are relatively easy to obtain, though not as much as they once were. Nevertheless, prescription opioids are administered quite often in the medical scene to treat pain. They might be prescribed following an injury or illness, or after a surgery or medical procedure. The problem is that once a person starts using these drugs, they can become habit forming.
Those who run out of opioids and can no longer obtain them from their doctors often turn to illegal drugs to provide a similar effect. Illegal drugs can be easier and cheaper to get than prescription drugs as they’re widely available from drug dealers, gang members and other addicts. This is how heroin got to be another epidemic – the drug is a cheap, powerful and accessible alternative to prescription painkillers.
Who’s Most Likely to Develop an Opioid Addiction?
Anyone can develop an addiction to opioids, which is why it’s important to follow the doctor’s orders. As long as opioids are used as directed and for a short time, they are usually safe. It’s when people start misusing the drugs that the problems occur, such as using more than the recommended dose or mixing the pills with alcohol or other drugs.
If a person is dealing with other problems in their life, this can also increase the risk for dependency. Opioids make people feel good, so they can be an easy escape for those suffering from anxiety, depression or PTSD. This is why we tend to see higher rates of opioid addiction among veterans, members of the LGBTQ community and college students.
What Makes Opioids So Addictive?
So what makes opioids so addictive in the first place?
Opioids produce rewarding effects in the brain and body. Chemicals are released in the brain to create pleasurable and intense sensations. Consider that opioids release 5 to 10 times the amount of dopamine released from natural activities like eating a good meal or exercising.
Once the effects of the opioids wear off, people tend to want these feelings back. A couple of hours ago, they were feeling great – out of pain, happy and relaxed. But now, the symptoms return and the person doesn’t feel as good, so they start thinking about the next time they get to feel this way. And this is how the cycle of addiction starts.
When a person starts taking opioids repeatedly over time, their body slows its production of feel-good chemicals in the brain. This means that the natural activities of eating and sex no longer provide the same pleasure as they used to. This is when tolerance happens and it causes users to need more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects.
Doctors are more aware of the dangers of opioids, which is why it’s a lot harder to increase doses or renew prescriptions. Unfortunately, some people are already hooked by the time their prescription runs out so they may look to other sources to satisfy their cravings to avoid withdrawal.
Known Risk Factors for Opioid Addiction
Although addiction can happen to anyone, there are some groups of people that are at a higher risk for substance use disorders. If you or a loved one is at a higher risk, it’s especially important to take opioids as directed and properly discard unused medications from the home.
Known risk factors include:
- Family history of substance abuse
- Personal history of substance abuse
- Stressful circumstances
- History of mental illness
- History of trauma
- Risk-taking or thrill-taking behavior
How to Treat an Opioid Addiction
If you’re ready to seek help for an opioid addiction, rest assured that there are many treatment options available. Acceptance Recovery Center offers an outpatient program in Scottsdale, AZ that accommodates most schedules. This way, you can maintain much of your normal schedule while getting professional help for your opioid addiction.
In addition, we offer a full continuum of care that includes detox, trauma resolution and relapse prevention. Our clients can start and complete their treatment journeys with us while receiving individualized services. We are comfortable treating even the most severe opioid conditions using evidence-based therapies and alternative therapies like yoga, outdoor therapy, animal assisted therapy and process groups.
To learn more about our treatment solutions, contact Acceptance Recovery Center today. We can help determine the level of care you need to conquer your opioid addiction.