Opioid Addiction Can Hurt The Ones You Love
Opioid addiction has reached crisis proportions. It’s a public scourge that reaches into every corner of the United States. No town, no matter how small, is safe from a problem that’s made addiction a common occurrence. Just under 2 million Americans suffer from full-fledged opioid addiction, an epidemic that’s been affected by a decades-long reliance on opioids. Prescriptions increased from 76 million in 1991 to 207 million in 2013.
If you’re trying to help someone who’s struggling with opioid addiction, you aren’t alone. Unprecedented numbers of Americans are searching for answers to a sweeping social problem with lethal consequences. Treatment and recovery can be difficult and painful, but there are a number of treatment options available. The important thing is to get your friend or family member help before it’s too late.
Speak Softly but Directly
Drug addiction and treatment professionals say it’s important to let someone you’re worried about know you’re there to support them. But it’s vital they know your concern comes from a place of compassion, not as a judgment or accusation. “Express to the person you think something is wrong and that you’d like them to have it checked out, like any other health condition,” said addictions expert Dr. Tim Kelly in an October 8 story published in USA Today.
It’s also important to remember that people don’t become addicted on purpose, or because they want to be an addict. An individual may have been prescribed an opiate over a long period of time, or perhaps experimented with a substance, fully intending to stop, only to become dependent. In some cases, this happens quickly. The person you thought you knew gradually changes as aspects of their personality, such as their sense of humor or creativity, gradually withdraw and, eventually, become lost altogether.
Signs of Addiction and Withdrawal
There are a number of symptoms that point to opioid addiction, though they’re not always easy to distinguish. If you suspect someone may be addicted, watch for indications of elation or euphoric behavior; drowsiness or an appearance of sedation; slowed respiration; periodic loss of consciousness; confusion; constipation; slurred speech; and anxiety.
Someone who’s used opioids for an extended period of time may develop a tolerance and physical dependence, meaning the addict needs to take more and more of the drug to get high. As with other kinds of drugs, an individual who suddenly stops using will develop withdrawal symptoms, which may include irritability, vomiting, tremors and loss of appetite, to name a few.
As with alcohol, there is no “cure” for addiction to opioids. Addicts can manage their condition and, as such, are considered to be in a perpetual state of recovery. Treatment is ongoing and combines medication, recovery meetings and individual counseling. An addict’s chances for maintaining sobriety are known to be greater when he or she continues with this combined therapeutic approach; it’s far more successful than abstinence.
There’s an element of irony to opioid treatment. People trying to stay clean are often given an opiate, such as methadone, to help control the discomfort of withdrawal. In recent years, therapists have turned to a new drug called naltrexone, or Vivitrol, which blocks the effects of opioids, although it hasn’t been studied as closely or used as widely as methadone.
Research Before Rehabbing
If you’re helping someone find a rehabilitation center, be sure to research your options carefully. Some facilities don’t have a psychiatrist or physician on hand 24 hours a day, while others may only provide therapy a day or two a week. Putting an addict in the hands of a poorly resourced center staffed by inexperienced staff can do more harm than good, particularly given the high rate of relapse.