What Are Opioids?
How Do Opioids Work?
Common Types of Opioids
What Opioid Medications Do
Doctors normally prescribe opioids because they’re amazing pain relievers and do a great job relaxing muscles. Doctors will usually use them to help people struggling with moderate to severe pain.4
When Opioid Medications Are Dangerous
Opioid medications become dangerous when people don’t follow directions or misuse them. High doses of opioids can lead to severe or fatal side effects, leading to opioid dependence.5
Opioid Complications and Side Effects
When a person has complications after taking too high of a dosage, they might face several different kinds of side effects:6
- Chemical dependence or addiction
- Respiratory depression
Safe Opioid Prescription
Opioid Misuse and Addiction
Opioids impact a person’s ability to regulate breathing. This can lead to a person having slow or irregular breathing, or stalled breathing altogether. People who take opioids with other drugs or take too high of a dosage are most at risk for overdose.
How to Prevent an Overdose
The best way to prevent an overdose is by following your doctor’s instructions very carefully. Don’t mix opioids with other substances such as alcohol or marijuana. Make sure to stop opioid use when your doctor tells you to. If you begin to struggle with symptoms of an opioid overdose, seek medical attention immediately.
How to Recognize an Overdose
Look for these signs to see if someone is overdosing:7
- Pale skin or face
- Limp body
- Purple or blue nails and lips
- Excessive vomiting
- Slow/irregular heartbeat or breaths
Signs of Opioid Abuse
Some common signs of opioid abuse are:8
- Flu-like symptoms
- Extreme drowsiness
- Unable to stop or manage opioid use
- Uncontrollable weight loss
- Decrease in libido
- Isolation from loved ones
- Stealing items from loved ones for money
- Financial issues
How to Avoid Addiction to Opioids
The best way to avoid opioid use disorder is by consulting with your doctor about your prescription, not taking more than prescribed, and listening to the directions carefully.
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
Due to the severe withdrawal effects, doctors will generally prescribe medication to assist with the recovery process. This will help wean people off the drug while reducing side effects.
Methadone is known as an essential medicine for opioid use disorder treatment.9 Methadone is a very mild opioid that can help people transition away from heroin or fentanyl.
Buprenorphine is just as important as methadone in the recovery process. These are used to help people in the recovery process.
Naltrexone is just as effective as buprenorphine, but it requires a detox period. Because of this, doctors will sometimes choose buprenorphine over naltrexone. However, it’s still highly effective. All three of the medications have become essential in fighting the opioid epidemic.9
Counseling And Behavioral Therapies
People who struggle with opioid use disorder will typically undergo therapy to develop coping mechanisms to manage stress and cravings.
Contingency management gives people rewards for staying sober and working a recovery program. This uses positive reinforcement to encourage sobriety. One interesting form of this would be gamification (using tasks and rewards like they were a game).10
Motivational interviewing is a style of therapy that focuses on goal-setting and motivating change. Doctors will honor personal autonomy and empower them to overcome their addiction.11
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on identifying negative patterns of thinking. Once identified, the therapist will help the individual work through those to enable change. CBT focuses on developing healthy habits to cope with stress and change thinking habits.
Family therapy can be essential when a disorder has negatively impacted immediate family members. During family therapy, the doctor will see individuals from the family and see them as a group to better identify potential triggers. Also, this is a time to work through potential trauma and hurts within the family.
12-Step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous can help a person develop a supportive community outside of treatment. These meetings use the 12-Steps to live recovery in their everyday life. These groups can be highly beneficial to people that don’t have a good support system at home. Commonly, 12-Step groups are used alongside therapy.
Opioid Misuse Prevention
What You Can Do to Prevent Opioid Misuse
You can do several things to prevent opioid misuse and addiction for both yourself and others. You can work with your doctor, store them properly, and monitor your use of other substances.
Work With Your Doctor
Always try options that don’t include opioids. They should be a last resort to manage your pain. Make sure to create a specific plan with your doctor and understand all the potential concerns. If you decide to begin an opioid prescription, check in with your doctor regularly.12
Take And Store Opioids Properly
Make sure only to take the proper dosage — never take more. Keep your doctor informed of any side effects you’re experiencing. Also, it’s important that you store your opioids in a safe environment where kids or other people in your house can’t access them. And lastly, never share your prescription.12
Be Aware of Potential Interactions with Other Drugs
Finally, make sure to track what other substances you take alongside your prescriptions. Alcohol and opioids don’t mix well together and can easily lead to overdose. If you or a friend are struggling with opioid abuse, reach out to a medical professional for help.