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Opioids: Side Effects, Addiction, Overdose & Treatment
Opioids are a hot topic in the news lately. You may have heard about the opioid epidemic and how it’s affecting people across the country. But what exactly are these drugs, and what do you need to know about them?
In this blog post, we’ll answer those questions and more. We’ll also discuss the risks associated with this class of drugs and provide tips for staying safe. Keep reading to learn more.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a type of drug that includes both legal and illegal drugs. Legal ones include prescription opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine. Illegal opioids include drugs like heroin and fentanyl.
Opioids are derived from the poppy plant but there are also synthetic opioids that are created in a lab.
This class of drugs is also called narcotics because of their high addictive potential when misused and abused. Each type of drug under this class has a specific reason for the prescription.
What Do Opioids Look Like?
Opioid medications can come in many different forms. They can be pills, capsules, liquids, or even a dissolvable film that’s placed under the tongue. The form depends on the specific drug and its intended use.
Examples include the following:
What Are Opioids Used For?
These drugs are often used for pain relief. They can be used to manage short-term pain, chronic pain, or post-surgical pain. In some cases, they’re also used to help people with certain medical conditions like cancer manage their pain.
People who have light to medium pain are prescribed oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and other medications. However, people who have moderate to severe pain often need stronger painkillers. These are prescribed after the anesthetics wear off and the person starts to feel pain from the stitches and swollen areas.
Depending on your medical condition, a doctor will determine the best type and dosage for you.
How Do Opioids Work?
After orally ingesting these drugs, it mixes in the blood and travels through the brain. In the brain, it attaches itself to the opioid receptors and blocks the brain from feeling pain. Likewise, they promote euphoric and relaxing feelings through the stimulation of dopamine secretion in the brain.
The euphoric feeling associated with using this drug enables the person to get attached and addicted to this rewarding sensation. Morphine is a good example of this drug. It has excellent pain-relieving action and is even used for acute stages of cancer. However, strict obedience to its prescribed dosage must be followed to avoid an overdose.
How Long Before You Can Feel the Effects of Opioids?
The effects of these drugs depend on the type of drug, how much you took, and your physiology. Generally speaking, most of these drugs will take effect within 30 minutes to an hour.
It’s important to only take the prescribed amount. Do not increase the dosage without consulting a doctor. Doing so can lead to serious health complications, including overdose and death.
How Long Do Opioids Stay In Your System?
If you are taking these drugs, the substance can be detected in your system in a drug test. The exact amount of time it stays in your system depends on the type of drug, how much you took, and your physiology.
In general, these drugs can stay in your system for up to 3 days. However, if you are a chronic user, the substance can be detected in your system for up to 30 to 90 days.
What are the Short and Long-term Effects of Opioids?
People using these substances feel both short and long-term effects. Some of its known common short-term effects include disorientation, difficult bowel movement, lethargy, brain fog, low sex drive, and headache.
Some of its short-term effects are not as dangerous as they can be alleviated and controlled. For instance, difficulty to induce bowel movements can be remedied by drinking lots of liquids or laxatives.
Taking this drug even without any abuse or overdose still poses a high risk of dependence due to the nature of the substance. Consequently, the worst side effects of these drugs are an addiction and slower pumping of the lungs.
In terms of long-term effects, some of them include gradual memory loss, slower brain function, depression, uncontrolled body movements, and impaired verbal communication.
Are Opioids Addictive?
Yes, opioids and habit-forming. It can cause opioid use disorder.
Despite their effective medicinal benefits, these drugs pose great dangers due to their high addictive potential brought about by the euphoric sensation they deliver.
The danger of these drugs is further enhanced by lack of education and when other illicit substances are taken along with them.
Even if you’re taking these drugs with a legitimate prescription, you can still become addicted to the drug. Addiction is one of the most common side effects.
What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms?
If you suddenly cease taking these drugs, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. For a lot of users, these symptoms can be so severe that they feel like they’re going to die. These severe symptoms can push people to keep taking the drug, even if they don’t want to.
Withdrawal symptoms can vary in intensity and may include:
- Muscle aches
What Causes Opioids Overdose? Signs of an Overdose
An opioid overdose occurs when a person takes more of the drug than their body can handle. This can happen accidentally if a person takes more of the drug than they are supposed to, or intentionally if they are trying to get high.
When you take too much, it can slow down your breathing to the point where it stops altogether. This can lead to brain damage and death.
These drugs have caused a tremendous issue in Canada and the United States causing an opioid crisis. This is because of a spike in death count due to unintentional overdose.
This outbreak pushed several pharmacies and medical personnel from cutting the prescription of these pain relievers to patients.
Signs that someone is overdosing on opioids include:
- Slow or shallow breathing
- blue lips or nails
- cold, clammy skin
- loss of consciousness
What Should You Do If Someone Is Overdosing?
If you think someone is overdosing on opioids, it is important to call 911 right away. Overdoses can be reversed if the person is given naloxone, a medication that can counteract the effects of the drug.
Naloxone is available without a prescription in many states. If you live in a state where naloxone is not available without a prescription, you can ask your pharmacist about getting it.
If you have naloxone, follow the instructions on the package or from the 911 operator carefully. You may need to give the person multiple doses of naloxone, so it is important to stay calm while administering the drug.
How Do You Treat Opioid Addiction? Detox & Treatment
There are several medications and treatment programs available today which can help people who developed a dependence on these drugs.
However, the first step toward any treatment program is the acceptance of the need for external help and the willingness to have it.
Like any other treatment program, detoxification is the first stage of treatment. This process involves the flushing out of harmful chemicals inside the body and the abstinence from taking the drug.
Detoxification can cause a few withdrawal symptoms due to the gradual or sudden cessation of taking these drugs.
In terms of medication, the two common medicines for opioid abuse are methadone and buprenorphine. Naloxone can also be prescribed for the medication of this addiction. This medication must be taken after the patient has undergone drug abstinence for 7 to 10 days.
Aside from that, behavioral therapies are included in any treatment program. This is done to hasten the recovery process and reinforce positive behavior in the patient. Some of these therapies include Cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, group counseling, and family counseling.
Final Thoughts: Addressing Opioids Abuse and Addiction
Opioid addiction is a serious problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 130 people die every day from an opioid-related overdose.
If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, it’s important to seek professional help. There are many treatment options available that can help people overcome this disease.