Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin as well as legal prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine. Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and other tissues. This action blocks pain signals and produces a sense of euphoria.
While opioids can be effective for treating pain, they also carry a high risk for abuse and addiction. In fact, opioids are some of the most addictive substances available. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 2.1 million people in the United States suffer from opioid addiction.
The dangers of opioid abuse include:
- Respiratory depression– Opioids can slow down your breathing, which can lead to death. You’re especially at risk for respiratory depression if you take opioids with other drugs or alcohol.
- Overdose– Taking too much of an opioid can lead to overdose, which can be fatal. There were more than 47,000 overdose deaths involving opioids in the United States in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even celebrities like actor Heath Ledger and singer Prince have died from overdoses.
- Infectious diseases– People who inject opioids are at risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne illnesses. This is because needles can transmit these diseases from one person to another. When opioids are taken by mouth, they can also lead to infections in the heart valves and lungs.
- Gastrointestinal problems– Opioids can cause constipation, which can lead to bowel obstruction. This can be a very serious condition that requires surgery to correct. If left untreated, bowel obstruction can be fatal. Chronic constipation can also lead to hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
- Birth defects– If you’re pregnant and abusing opioids, your baby is at risk for being born with birth defects. These defects can include heart problems, brain damage, and skeletal abnormalities. You’re also at risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.
What’s more, opioid abuse can lead to social problems such as job loss, financial difficulties, and relationship problems. If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, get help right away. There are many treatments available and some of these include:
- Detoxification– This is the first step in treatment and it involves getting rid of all traces of opioids from your body. Detox can be done on an outpatient or inpatient basis, depending on the severity of your addiction. There are centers and programs that offer opiate detox in Boise and other areas in the US.
- Counseling and behavioral therapies– These treatments can help you identify the root cause of your addiction and develop coping mechanisms to deal with triggers and cravings.
- Medications– There are several medications that can be used to treat opioid addiction, including methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. These drugs can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Aside from medication-assisted treatment, there are other treatments such as acupuncture and yoga that can be used to help you recover from opioid addiction.
If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction, don’t hesitate to get help. There are many treatment options available and recovery is possible.