Our country is dealing with a national crisis: every day in the U.S., more than 130 people die from an opioid overdose. These dangerous narcotics have claimed thousands of lives, and rates of abuse and addiction are on the rise.
People who are prescribed opioids often have serious health conditions or injuries that require pain management. Unfortunately, many people who take opioids to treat their pain become dependent on these medications. Once a person is dependent on opioids, their body requires the drug to function. This can lead to addiction, withdrawal, and overdose.
Many people may want to stop taking opioids but are concerned about how to adequately manage their pain. Luckily, rehab centers like The Bluffs have addiction treatment programs that emphasize therapeutic pain management.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of drugs that impact the reward center of the brain. Opioids like oxycodone and heroin cause people to feel relaxed and euphoric. These drugs also reduce the pain that people may experience with surgery or conditions like cancer.
Prescription opioids include drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, tramadol, and fentanyl. The illegal street drug heroin is also an opioid. Prescription opioids and heroin are closely related, as they can cause similar effects.
While opioid analgesics can be effective in treating pain, they also come with a high risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose. Many people who become addicted to prescription pills end up moving on to the cheaper and more available alternative — heroin. Being dependent on prescription pills is the most common risk factor for heroin use.
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How Does A Person Get Addicted To Opioids?
Opioids can cause physical dependence, as well as tolerance. When a person has an opioid tolerance, they need increasing amounts of the drug to get the same effects. If a person begins taking higher or more frequent doses of the drug, they are abusing the medication.
Often times, prescription drug abuse causes people to run out of their medication early. If they are unable to obtain their next dose, their body enters withdrawal. Opioid withdrawal can cause painful physical and psychological symptoms, including vomiting, sweating, and severe anxiety.
People who are unable to find more painkillers may turn to heroin to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Nearly 80 percent of people addicted to heroin first abused prescription opioids
What Caused The Opioid Epidemic?
Many scientists believe that the over-prescribing of opioids is to blame for the current epidemic. In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies told healthcare providers that people would not become addicted to opioid medications. This caused providers to begin prescribing these medications more freely.
Over time, millions of people became dependent on drugs. This led to widespread abuse of prescription opioids, as well as a significant rise in heroin abuse. Additionally, synthetic opioids like fentanyl have also come on the scene. This drug is 100 times more potent than heroin, and many people have lost their lives as a result of synthetic opioid abuse.
When a person takes opioids, their pain is reduced or relieved. They may also experience a strong sense of well-being (feeling “high”). This is due to the way opioids interact with chemical messengers in the brain, such as dopamine. The rush from opioids is strong but short-lived, and people may quickly crave another dose.
Addressing The Opioid Crisis
In 2017, more than 2 million people in the U.S. suffered from an opioid use disorder. That same year, nearly 48,000 people died as a result of an opioid overdose.
The opioid epidemic is now recognized as a public health crisis. Congress has doubled the funding for research that aims to stop the epidemic in its tracks. Scientists have already concluded that the two most important ways to address the opioid crisis are to improve treatments for abuse and addiction and enhance pain management techniques.
In other words, it’s vital that all people have access to evidence-based addiction treatment programs. At The Bluffs, we provide personalized treatment to those suffering from opioid abuse.
Our approach includes medical detoxification and a blend of data-driven therapies. Our facility treats co-occurring mental health conditions, and also provides medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to reduce the risk of withdrawal and relapse.
Pain Management And Opioid Alternatives
At the root of the opioid epidemic is the problem of pain. More than 25 million Americans suffer from daily chronic pain, and scientists at the National Institutes of Health are working to understand new ways of treating this condition.
Their theories include studying how pain develops into chronic pain, and examining how chronic pain increases a person’s risk of opioid addiction. They have also identified several effective ways to manage pain without opioids, including:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce inflammation as well as pain in the body. These include over-the-counter medications like Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil (ibuprofen).
Scientists have also found that antidepressants and anti-seizure medications can help to address chronic pain. Sometimes, these medications even work better than opioids, as they have fewer side effects and health risks.
Yoga, Tai Chi, And Other Exercises
Gentle and relaxing forms of movement have been shown to reduce pain and stress in the body. By addressing tension, these forms of exercise can also alleviate pain. Exercises like yoga also have the added benefit of increasing mental wellness. People may experience a boost in their memory, as well as their mood.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This goal-directed approach to talk therapy involves working with a licensed therapist to address physical and emotional pain triggers. With CBT, patients can reap benefits in their bodies, minds, and relationships.
In recent years, alternative therapies like acupuncture and massage have become more popular in the U.S. These ancient forms of medicine can reduce pain, swelling, and stress that is stored in the body.
Many people also benefit from a regular meditation practice, which includes mindfulness-based therapies. By centering oneself in the present moment, people become aware of their reaction to pain. This can lead to new ways of understanding and reducing pain.
Finding Treatment For Opioid Addiction
With education and action, we can beat the opioid epidemic. If you or someone you love is suffering from abuse and addiction, you are not in this battle alone. Inpatient rehab centers like The Bluffs offer customized treatment that empowers people to stop abusing opioids and find new ways of treating pain.
At The Bluffs, we provide on-site medical detox, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and a unique range of therapies. Our compassionate staff works with each patient individually, by using therapies like mindfulness, stress management, and motivational interviewing.
To learn more about pain management and the opioid epidemic, reach out to a treatment specialist today.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Know Your Options
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Prescription Pain Medications (Opioids)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Opioid Overdose Crisis
- U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus — Fighting the opioid crisis: NIH HEAL initiative takes on addiction and pain management
- U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus — Opioid Misuse and Addiction
- U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health — Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic: Balancing Societal and Individual Benefits and Risks of Prescription Opioid Use.