Opioids are classed as analgesic narcotics and act by binding with central nervous receptors to block or interrupt pain signals to the brain. An opioid may also be referred to as endogenous which means that it releases endorphins or pleasure chemicals in the brain. The substance is found in both prescription medications (such as Codeine, Morphine, Oxycodone) and illegal drugs (such as heroin). However, opioid medications are not often prescribed on a long term basis due to the negative side effects associated with the substance such as dependency and addiction.
What Is Opioid Addiction?
Prolonged use of opioid drugs can result in the medication becoming less effective as the body and brain becomes accustomed to the substance. This means that higher dosages or more regular doses become necessary in order to achieve effective pain relieving results which can result in abuse of the drug as well as dependency. Dependency can therefore result from prescription medications as well as drugs for recreational use.
Due to the fact that the substance acts on the central nervous system may also result in psychosomatic pain where the brain believes that pain exists where none actually does. The increased release of endorphins is another reason that opioids are so addictive. In essence, the brain and the body begin to crave the substance when it is no longer available, resulting in mild to severe withdrawal symptoms. Should the dependency interrupt the ability to perform normal tasks or continue with daily life, it is considered to have become an addiction.
What Are The Symptoms Of Opioid Withdrawal?
Opioid withdrawal can result in both physical and psychological symptoms that can vary in severity depending on the period that the drug was in use, the dosage as well as how regularly it was taken. The more severe the dependency on the drug, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms are likely to be.
Symptoms may include:
- Muscle pain
- Hot and cold sweating and goosebumps
- Abdominal pain often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Irritability, anxiety and agitation
- Low energy levels or lethargy
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
- Watery eyes with dilated pupils and runny nose
- Tremors or shaking
These symptoms may not necessarily be fatal but detoxifying from the substance can last an extended period of time. Withdrawal symptoms may be present anywhere from a week to a month. Most commonly, the physical symptoms are more severe in the first or acute phase of withdrawal whereas the psychological symptoms, sleeplessness and lack of energy are more likely in the second phase of withdrawal.
What Treatment Is Available For Opioid Addiction?
Treatment for opioid addiction is most commonly performed on an in-patient basis in a hospital or rehabilitation setting. Medical supervision is recommended for the detoxification phase in order to monitor the patient. Treatment is most successful when combined with therapy and a long term treatment plan in order to reduce the chance of a relapse.
It is important to note that in order to understand what is opioid addiction, the addiction, in and of istelf, cannot be fatal. However, the risk factors associated with the addiction can result in death such as overdose, accidental death, poor health, and other negative side effects.