Companion Benefit Alternatives

Opioid Addiction

Did you know that on average, 78 Americans die every day from opioid overdose? Opioid addiction is more common than you might think. Millions of Americans are prescribed opiates to treat injuries or illnesses, but most of them are unaware of the long-term effects on their bodies.    

Is it really all in your head?

The key to understanding opioid addiction begins with your brain. How does the addiction occur and why is it so prevalent? If you have ever fractured a bone or had surgery, you probably took an opiate for pain. With as many as 100 million people suffering from chronic pain, opioids have become the treatment of choice. It’s what happens to your brain while taking the medication that really holds the answer.   

Many people are unaware that the human body produces opioids. If you are ever severely injured, naturally occurring opioids will provide pain relief until you can seek medical attention. Endorphins are a naturally occurring type of opioid. You probably have heard of the term “exercise euphoria,” which occurs when endorphins are released by the brain. It’s that great feeling you get after working out. Natural opioids trigger receptors in your brain that mimic pleasure and act as a pain reliever. Once your brain gets used to the ingested opiates, your body slows down the production of natural ones.   

Unfortunately, the brain doesn’t automatically begin creating opioids once you stop your medication. The human body will take some time to start producing opioids again. It will be a while before your body can create enough natural opioids to make you feel better.

Recognize the signs

Anyone can become dependent on opioids. How can you tell if you are addicted?  Are you taking more than is prescribed or having trouble discontinuing use? These may be early signs that your opioid use is becoming a problem. Here are the most common symptoms of opioid addiction:  
  • Anxiety
  • Hot and cold sweats
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
As with any drug addiction, withdrawal symptoms make it harder for you to stop. The physical symptoms can last from seven days to a month, while the emotional symptoms can continue for several months. 

Treatment

There are several options for treating prescription opioid addiction. Now that you know the signs, talk with your doctor about treatment options. Medically supervised therapies can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and get you on the road to a healthier you. 

Getting Help

If you or someone you know has a problem with opioid addiction, help is available. You can start by: 
  • Talking to your doctor. Make an appointment and ask for help.
  • Educating yourself about the problem and treatment options.
  • Joining a support group. To find one in your area, visit: