From prescription painkillers that are prescribed after injury or surgery, to fentanyl and heroin that are used recreationally, they all have something in common: they are all opioid or synthetic opioid drugs. While there are many substances that are addictive, opioid addiction is particularly powerful and carries intense physical withdrawal symptoms as well.
Whether you are struggling with addiction to prescription painkillers, fentanyl or heroin, there is a reason why the addiction is so powerful.
Why Opioids Are So Addictive
When an opioid drug enters the body, it attaches itself to receptors in the brain and nervous system. This connection can create pleasure and can also block pain. The process triggers an intense reaction in the brain that is comparable to reactions for survival-based activities. The brain’s reward system releases more dopamine, enhancing feelings of pleasure, and records the places, people and things that created this pleasure in order to seek more. This entire process creates a growing physical demand for the drug, sending signals that the drug is not only desired but also necessary for survival.
The reward system within the brain is increasingly altered with continued opioid use, creating a powerful physiological need for more of the drug the more it is used. Additionally, a tolerance begins to build up as the brain seeks more drugs more frequently for less of the pleasure reaction each time. As a dependence and eventually addiction is established, there are also more intense physical withdrawal symptoms if the body does not maintain the same or increased dosage of the opioid drug. These powerful physical reactions within the brain and body are why opioids are so addictive. The extreme levels of addiction and increased accessibility to different types of opioids have contributed to a major opioid epidemic.
Addiction Caused by Painkillers
Many who are addicted to opioids began by taking prescription painkillers. Whether they were prescribed for injury, surgery or acute pain due to illness, the original intent was to block pain to help the body heal and improve the person’s quality of life. However, as prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Kadian, codeine and fentanyl are taken regularly, the body can develop the same tolerance as when opioids are used for recreational purposes. The longer the medications are taken, the pain relief becomes less and lasts for a shorter period—an indication that the body is becoming dependent or even addicted to the drug. Subtly, something that was prescribed to help our bodies becomes incredibly harmful to our bodies.
The Road to Fentanyl and Heroin Use
While some people begin using fentanyl and heroin recreationally, others turn to these drugs after using prescription pain medications for a long time. When the pain relief is not enough, some individuals find ways to have other doctors prescribe more medication for them or will purchase the medications illegally on the street. When this is not enough, their powerful cravings and horrible withdrawals push them to find another way to relieve the pain.
Many turn to drugs like fentanyl and heroin, which are even more powerful than prescription painkillers. Unfortunately, they also carry more powerful addictive properties and withdrawal symptoms and can also lead to overdose. This tragic loss of life due to opioid overdose has created the opioid epidemic—a healthcare crisis that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms has cost nearly half a million lives between 1999-2018 in the United States alone. This crisis has also incurred billions of dollars in medical expenses.
The Power of Opioid Withdrawal
Whenever a substance is used extensively, our bodies go through symptoms of withdrawal that range from uncomfortable to complete impairment of basic functions. Common symptoms of opioid withdrawal include irritability, restlessness, anxiety, excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and pain, increased heart rate, insomnia, tremors and more. Medically supervised withdrawal treatment for opioids can help lessen some of these symptoms and offer vital support to get through this difficult time.
Using Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in Recovery
There is no way to prevent all withdrawal symptoms. Addiction takes its toll on the brain and the body, and those changes and symptoms do not just disappear overnight. However, because the symptoms during withdrawal treatment for opioids are so extreme, there are medications that can help ease them somewhat, a process known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Medications such as Vivitrol, Suboxone and naltrexone can be taken to help reduce symptoms during withdrawal treatment for opioids. These medications are available by prescription from doctors and treatment facilities. MAT has helped many people navigate the challenging effects of opioid withdrawal in order to successfully recover from their prescription painkiller, fentanyl or heroin addiction. When combined with counseling, support groups and access to other necessary services, MAT can give you the additional strength you need to recover from opioid addiction.
Now is the time to take back your power—there is no need to become a statistic of the opioid epidemic. Opioid addiction is powerful, and withdrawal can be more than unpleasant, but treatment is possible. Recovery is possible. Whether your story began with prescription medications for pain or using any other type of opioid drug for recreational use, you have the power to take back your life and you can start right now. Call New Life today at (877) 929-2571. Our Maryland outpatient treatment program offers all the services you need under one roof, including detox, intensive and traditional group therapy, support groups, and MAT for withdrawal treatment for opioids. At New Life, we are here to help you recover from the powerful effects of opioid addiction. We are here to help you take back your power. We are here to help you take back your life.