According to the Food and Drug Administration, about 100 million people suffer from pain every year in the United States. Between 9 and 12 million of them have persistent or chronic pain. Because of that, doctors write millions of opioid prescriptions each year. However, more people should ask their doctors, “What are opioids?” before they take these drugs.
What Are Opioids?
As a class of pain relievers, opioids are either synthetic or partially synthetic derivatives of the opium poppy plant. Partially synthetic examples include prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin. Fully synthetic examples include fentanyl and methadone.
Since these drugs come from opium, however, they have similar compound structures as heroin. This makes opioids both beneficial and dangerous for treating pain.
How Do Opioids Work?
Since all opioids have similar chemical structures, they all interact with opioid receptors in the brain and body. These receptors allow cells in the body to send signals to the brain. When opioids bind to them, they muffle the signals and affect how people perceive pain. This action also produces feelings of pleasure.
When Are Opioids Dangerous?
In many cases, opioids are safe for treating pain for a short period. People who receive prescriptions should follow their doctor’s instructions.
The euphoric effects that they produce in high doses, however, make them a target for misuse. Those who abuse opioids take them in high quantities or ways other than their doctors prescribe. They may even take the drugs without a prescription.
That’s when opioids become dangerous. The pleasurable effects that they produce make people want to continue taking them to maintain those feelings. However, ongoing opioid abuse can lead to addiction, overdose, and death. The reason is that high doses slow people’s heart rates and breathing.
Does Addiction Require Special Treatment?
Like for other drug addictions, treatment is available for opioid addiction. It starts with medical detox at a qualified treatment center. However, it must also include rehab to have the best chance of success. For this reason, a combination of medicines and therapies provide the most comprehensive opioid addiction treatment.
Medicines help people through the withdrawal process that occurs during detox. Opioid addiction involves a dependency on the drugs. Since the brain no longer functions properly on its own, withdrawal is its response to stopping opioid use.
Medication therapy can reduce the muscle and joint pains that manifest during opioid withdrawal. It can also curb cravings so that people are more likely to stay sober and complete further treatment.
Behavioral and cognitive therapies during rehab address the underlying issues that lead to opioid abuse and addiction. They can motivate engagement in treatment and encourage changes that support long-lasting recovery.
Recover From Opioid Addiction
Do you or a loved one have an opioid addiction? Soledad House provides opioid and prescription drug addiction treatment. We’ll create a treatment plan for you that consists of several services, such as:
- Women’s addiction treatment
- Extended care
- Relapse prevention
- Sober living
- Family therapy
- Dual diagnosis treatment
Don’t hesitate to ask more about the answer to the question “what are opioids?” Learn more about how we can help you overcome addiction. Dial 866-314-3222 now to start your path to recovery.