In 2017, a report from the Drug Enforcement Administration noted the dramatic shift that has taken place in the “drug landscape” of the United States over the last 10 years. Opioid use, coming from prescription drugs, synthetic opioids, and heroin, is reaching epidemic levels all over the country. Although many opioids are prescription drugs, they can create physical dependence, addiction, and harmful health effects. Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them and need addiction treatment programs.
One reason the “opioid epidemic” is so alarming is that opioid use comes with a very high risk of overdose. In the U.S., of all the overdose deaths in a year, opioids were involved in about 70% of them. On average, about 130 people die every day from opioid overdose in the U.S. To lower these numbers, opioid addiction treatment is a must.
The issue of opioid abuse can be difficult and painful for an individual to face, particularly if their use of opioids started in a medical setting, such as from taking medicines as they were prescribed after a surgery.
There are many different kinds of drugs involved in the opioid epidemic. Some are prescribed and some are not. Some are strictly street drugs, some are misused prescriptions, and some are illegally manufactured versions of prescription drugs. Some are even used in medical settings for opioid addiction treatment.
Oxycodone and Hydrocodone
Oxycodone is a prescription opioid pain reliever, with the brand name OxyContin. Hydrocodone, a related medicine, has the brand name Vicodin. Drugs like these have been used for some time to treat moderate to severe pain, such as pain from surgery or an injury, or as part of pain management for health conditions like cancer. The number of prescriptions for opioids that are given by doctors to treat chronic pain has increased dramatically in the last decade, and, as a result, more people have become dependent or addicted and more prescription pills have been available to be used or sold illegally. If you’re struggling, opioid addiction treatment in Spokane, WA, can help.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It has a rapid onset (it takes effect very quickly) and a short high. Because of its high potency, fentanyl is a leading cause of overdose, and it is a major factor in the record numbers of opioid overdose deaths that have occurred recently. When sold on the street, fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs like heroin or ecstasy. In medical settings, it is prescribed to manage breakthrough pain for patients whose pain is not controlled by more common opioid painkillers. It is a prescription drug that is often manufactured illegally.
Heroin is a natural opioid that is created from opium poppies. It can come mixed with many different things, ranging from other drugs like fentanyl to poisons like household cleaners or strychnine.
Subutex and Suboxone are both prescription medications that were created to help people stop using other opioid drugs they were addicted to. They are prescribed in clinical settings as a part of medication-assisted treatment to decrease opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Even though these drugs can play a critical role in helping people stop using illegal opioids, they are “partial” opioids themselves. They can cause a feeling of getting “high,” and they can be addictive. These drugs may also create escalating physical tolerance, where a person must use more of the drug to obtain the same effect — even if the effect they are seeking is simply to feel “normal” or to avoid opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Like other prescription drugs or marijuana, the fact that Suboxone and Subutex are prescription drugs, and that they are prescribed to help with opioid addiction, may make it feel like taking them is safe and harmless.
In general, at Spokane Falls Recovery Center, we have not found that Suboxone or Subutex provide long-term or permanent solutions to opioid addiction. Instead, we see people whose patterns of using Suboxone or Subutex resemble addiction and abuse, and these drugs then require their own treatment measures and commitment to recovery. We choose to use other modalities in our opioid addiction treatment programs to help those in need achieve their goals of recovery.
About Opioid Addiction Treatment and Recovery
Opioid addiction is a nationwide problem, and it is growing. If you are struggling with using opioids, you are certainly not alone. But because of the high risk of dependence, negative health effects, and the risk of overdose, we strongly encourage you to seek treatment for your opioid use. At Spokane Falls Recovery Center, we can determine the care you need and help you take the next step toward recovery.
Signs of Dependence or Addiction
Is your use of opioids, including prescribed opioids, becoming a problem for you? Ask yourself these questions to help you decide.
- If you’re not able to take your prescription opioid on time, or when you’re trying to decrease or stop using it, do you feel anxious, agitated, or physically ill?
- Have you taken your prescription opioids more frequently than prescribed, or used them in other ways that did not follow the label directions (like snorting, smoking, or injecting them to increase the effects)?
- Have you ever been in legal trouble, or trouble at your job, related to your use of heroin or other opioids?
- Are you willing to or have you taken prescription pills that were prescribed to someone else?
- Did you mislead or lie to a medical provider to obtain a prescription, or go to a different doctor to get another prescription?
- Have friends or family expressed concern about your use of prescription drugs or other opioids?
- Do you try to hide your use of prescription opioids?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s an indication that your use of opioids, even opioids that were prescribed to you by a doctor, may be becoming a problem in your life.
Health Effects of Opioid Use
The continued use of opioids, even if they have been prescribed to you, can have serious health effects, including:
- Developing a tolerance and needing to use increased amounts of the drug to achieve the same effects
- Drowsiness and depressed (slowed) breathing
- Severe constipation
- For people who are pregnant: opioid use increases the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight, neonatal abstinence syndrome (which means your baby is born addicted to opiates and suffers severe withdrawal symptoms)
- For older adults: higher risk of accidental misuse or abuse because of taking multiple prescriptions, increasing the risk of drug interactions
- High risk of overdose
For all opioid drugs, withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and severe. It makes detoxing and stopping use on your own very difficult. Symptoms can include:
- Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping
- Cold flashes
- Sore, jumpy muscles
- Flu-like illness
- Agitation and restlessness
- Clouded mental functioning
- Irritability and racing thoughts
Drugs are often prescribed to help people tolerate the symptoms of withdrawal from opioids. As in the case of Suboxone and Subutex, such drugs are often not a permanent solution to opioid withdrawal and can create their own problems. Even so, treatment programs like ours can help you find a way to safely withdraw from using opioids and to manage your withdrawal symptoms.
Seeking Treatment for Opioid Addiction
If using opioids is causing problems in your life, you deserve a way out. Even though withdrawing from opioids is difficult, we applaud your desire to change your behaviors, and we believe that your effort and determination in treatment will yield life-changing results. Contact Spokane Falls Recovery Center to learn about opioid addiction treatment options.