The Difficulty of Breaking an Opioid Addiction

According to the CDC, 91 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose. Over half a million people died from opioids between 2000 and 2015. This data shows that opioid-related deaths have quadrupled since 1999. Presently, opioid deaths are considered an epidemic throughout the United States. Even within the last couple weeks, Florida governor Rick Scott declared a public emergency over the opioid crisis.

What are opioids?

Opioids are drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. They come in tablets, capsules, or liquid form. They are used mainly for medical purposes but they are abused by people addicted to them. Heroin is one of the most well-known and abused opioids. However, prescription opioids are equally dangerous and addicting. In 2014 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that more than 4 million Americans were currently abusing prescription opioids. These prescription opioids include morphine, fentanyl, codeine, methadone, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.

What are the effects of opioids on the body?

“Opioids exert their effects through receptors,” says Dr. Wilson Compton, Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health. These receptors trigger a chemical reaction that affects the opioid user. The chemical effect of opioids occurs in the brain and throughout the entire body. As time goes by, the body adjusts to this effect and reaction when opioids are regularly used. As the body adjusts, the opioid user needs more of the drug in order to get the same effects. Tolerance keeps building and the user takes increasingly larger amounts of the drug making an overdose much more likely.

The use of opioids causes a rush of pleasure, relaxation, and pain relief for the user. These feelings become intensely desirable and lead users down the road to addiction. This happens because things that cause pleasure are things the body wants to repeat which creates a habit and addiction.

Why is an opioid addiction so difficult to break?

Extended use of opioids changes the brain chemistry of the user and creates a dependency and necessity for the drug. This chemical dependency tricks the brain into believing that the opioids are needed for survival. Which makes the addiction extremely hard to break.

Usually, when people stop using the drug, withdrawal occurs within 12 hours and becomes unbearable. The behaviors from withdrawal are what makes the addiction so hard to break. Users in withdrawal have a lack of motivation, constant discomfort, and hopelessness. These behaviors lead to a resistance of treatment, extreme irritability, and sensationalizing the drug to the point that they start using it again.

In withdrawal, addicts feel the physical pull of the drug the hardest during the first week. Since opiates leave the body fairly quickly, it’s really the psychological pull of the drug that makes recovery difficult.  The psychological pull is harder to break because the brain remembers the change in feelings produced by the drugs. In order to avoid using opiates again, the addict must learn to manage the psychological pull by rebalancing and rewiring of the brain. This rewiring can take months and while the first 90 days are the hardest, anything can trigger the psychological pull of the drug at any time. Treatment is the only place addicts can learn the tools that help prevent this pull.

How to get help?

The best way for an opiate addict to break the addiction is to enter a treatment center. An opioid addiction is too hard for someone to kick on their own and inpatient treatment provides the extra discipline and help the addict will need. While addicts need help treating the physical effects from the drugs, treating the psychological effects of the drugs is the key to their recovery.

Meridian Treatment Solutions believes that the patient should be treated from the inside out and place focus on the mental aspects of recovery. Treatment at Meridian includes activities such as meditation, yoga, group therapy, and individual counseling to help each patient identify the reason they have become addicted and help them overcome that obstacle. The mind, body, and soul must be healed in order for the patient to avoid temptation and channel their stress and anxieties into positive means rather than their previous drug of choice. When patients leave Meridian Treatment Solutions, they will be able to say that they didn’t waste a second of their time and that they have learned how to live a sober life.

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