Opioid use has risen to the point where it is now epidemic in the United States. While many people think of heroin when they hear the word "opioid," this class of drugs doesn't include just illicit drugs, it includes prescribed drugs as well. Codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone are all powerful pain relievers that are legally prescribed by physicians in the U.S.
Even though these drugs are legal, though, it doesn't mean the risk of becoming addicted isn't there. Getting them from the pharmacy rather than a dealer on a corner may reduce the criminal aspect of the transaction, but the drug is no less dangerous.
As reported by Consumer Reports, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study last year that found that in individuals taking a prescribed opioid for 2 short weeks, one year later, 25 percent of them were now considered long-term users. When the doctor cuts these now-addicted patients off from their legal supply, many then become illegal heroin users or try to buy other people's pills. Seventy-five percent of new heroin users report having abused prescription opioids first.
If you are concerned you or a loved one may have developed an opioid addiction, here are some common characteristics to be aware of.
- Drowsiness or nodding off
- A sense of euphoria
- Increased energy
- Slowed breathing
- Constricted pupils
- Frequent bouts of "the flu," and indication of withdrawal symptoms
- Mood swings
- Financial difficulties
- Trouble performing activities of daily living, such as work, cooking, bathing, caring for children
- Social isolation
- Visiting different physicians and clinics, behavior known as "doctor shopping"
Unfortunately, the longer one uses the drugs, the more dangerous it becomes for the user. Their immune system becomes weakened, leaving their body less able to fight off illnesses and infections. Chronic constipation and a reduction in the effectiveness of the liver and kidneys leaves the opioid addict unable to filter toxins effectively. If they have become intravenous users, they also risk blood and skin infections as well as embolisms, not to mention bloodborne diseases such as Hepatitis-C and HIV, the virus that cause AIDS.
Whether you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, you should know it is very difficult to detox from opiates without professional assistance. The withdrawal symptoms can be fierce, and unfortunately, addiction has cause the brain to undergo major changes that can impede success. Willpower is no longer enough for most people. Contact a drug detox center, like Support Systems Homes, to see what assistance is available for your specific situation.