Opioid Addiction

We have all at some point felt the need to consider taking pain relief medication. Whether it is a headache, accident, illness, or injury, at some point or another pain medication is eventually prescribed. This medication more often than not belongs to a family of drugs known as opioids.

Opioids allow the release of endorphins, which leads to an artificial state of pleasure in the body. In many cases this feeling of pleasure becomes so enjoyable it leads to opioid abuse, and addiction. Common opioids include codeine, oxycodone, morphine, and fentanyl. All of these opioids have a risk of addiction, and opioid addiction is currently a major contributing factor of death due to overdose in the United States.

Contributing factors to opioid addiction include the frequency of usage, number of days the user needed the particular drug, dosage amount, how the drug was taken, which opioid was taken, and underlying medical conditions.

In fact, the method that opioids are consumed can increase the risk of addiction. For instance, if you were to crush an opioid pill so it can be snorted nasally that actually makes the medication more addictive.

Let’s look at long-term effects when taking opioids repeatedly. What happens is your body slows its production of endorphins, due to the repeated triggers of endorphin release from the opioid. At this point a tolerance level to the opioid has been developed, and the need for higher dosage could occur. Suddenly these cravings from your body is the stepping stone to severe opioid addiction/dependence.

Long-term opioid rehab methods involve substitution with an oral opioid “agonist” such as methadone or buprenorphine. In the US methadone is commonly used to promote opioid detox but the use of methadone must be supervised by a physician under a licensed treatment program. Typical dosage of buprenorphine is an 8 or 16-mg tablet once per day. Generally, an opioid agonist like methadone is used then gradually tapered off. non-agonist medications that are available include Alpha-2-adrenergic agents, hypnotics and analgesics.

Opioid detoxification treatment can be implemented over several time frames. Ultra-rapid under sedation rapid 3-6 days, short-term (1-3 weeks) or over several months.

Ultimately the ideal agent and opioid rehab treatment time should relieve withdrawal symptoms and allow for negligible side effects and abuse potential.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms include muscle aches, nausea cramping, anxiety, opiate cravings, and hypertension. Oddly enough a new emerging opioid rehab solution to withdrawal symptoms involving Cannabidiol (CBD) has shown to reduce opioid cravings and anxiety among heroin users. Led by Dr. Yasmin Hurd of Ican School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York city, Hurd will soon start human imaging studies to see how CBD affects withdrawal symptoms.

Moving forward, opioid addiction is a huge player in drug overdose deaths across the world. Currently 100 Americans die of drug overdose every day. More research is needed into alternatives that can lead to shorter opioid rehab periods, without the user falling back into addiction. Opioids are currently responsible for more deaths than any other medication or drug.