Opioids are a class of drugs primarily used to treat moderate to severe pain. They are naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Even though they help treat medical conditions, they also have adverse effects. In addition to several possible side effects, addiction to this drug is rife. As a result, opioid overdoses and deaths remain an epidemic in the United States.
Opioids attach to specific sites in the brain known as opioid receptors. This reaction causes a decrease in the body’s perception of pain. Also, opioids can cause an overstimulation of the reward system – also called the pleasure center. This leads to the release of very high amounts of dopamine. Unfortunately, tolerance, dependence, and addiction can develop as a result.
Signs of opioid addiction include the inability to control the use of opioids, intense cravings, drowsiness, new financial problems, and isolating. Furthermore, there is also the risk of overdose and death. Naloxone (Narcan) is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. It, however, needs to be given immediately after an individual overdoses.
Due to the many adverse effects of opioid use disorder, it is essential to obtain proper treatment. Management can be done as an inpatient or outpatient. Regardless of the setting of choice, the first step is withdrawal management. This is also called detoxification (detox). Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the gold standard for opioid addiction.
MAT involves the use of medications with counseling and behavioral therapies. Other than medications and counseling, support from family, friends, and groups is crucial. Also, it is essential to treat underlying mental illness. Self-medication with illicit substances is a common occurrence in people with mental disorders.
The opioid crisis remains a scourge in the United States. Even though it remains a public health crisis, there have been some positive changes in the right direction. This, however, needs to continue with everyone on board. Collectively, we can make a change!