For the past several decades, prescription opioid use has been on the rise in the United States and much of the world. Opioids, which are analgesics, or pain-relievers, are commonly prescribed by doctors to treat severe and chronic pain. In fact, the medical community doles out prescription opioids at such a high rate that opioid use has become normalized. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculate that there are 58 opioid prescriptions filled for every 100 Americans. Statistics show that 17% of Americans currently have one or more opioid prescriptions filled. These numbers do not include the vast quantities of people who use prescription opioids without a prescription — or who, having become opioid dependent, have switched from prescription opioids to cheaper alternatives such as black tar heroin. Because medical professionals so readily prescribe prescription opioids, many people do not understand the dangers or recognize the risks of substance abuse. But the simple fact is that prescription opioids are deeply implicated in the current national opioid addiction crisis.
Drug overdose has now emerged as the number one leading cause of accidental death in the United States, superseding even automobile crashes. The main cause is opioid overdoses, in 2023 over 110,000 people in the United States dies from an opiate overdose and that translates into an overdose every 11 minutes. In the United States, it is estimated that every 12 minutes someone will die of an opioid overdose. The rate at which prescription opioids are supplied to people is to blame. Research shows that 80% of new heroin users began by using prescription opioids.
While many people are legitimately given opioid prescriptions to treat actual pain, even this population is susceptible to opiate addiction. People who suffer from this affliction are deemed by the medical community to suffer from a condition called opioid use disorder (OUD). People with opioid use disorder use opioids compulsively, suffer from negative emotions when they’re not high on opioids, and find it difficult to control their use. The clearest sign of the presence of opioid use disorder is trying to stop using opioids and repeatedly failing to do so.
This sense of one’s life being beyond one’s control can be a profoundly demoralizing feeling. Unfortunately, because prescription opioids are purchased legally in a pharmacy, they are often understood as a safe drug and many people feel to take action before it is too late.
While it is common for medical professionals to prescribe The American Psychiatric Association uses a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, to diagnose mental health disorders. The official medical term for someone suffering from opiate addiction is opioid use disorder. The criteria for being diagnosed with opioid use disorder consist of eleven symptoms.
While prescription opioid use often begins as a legitimate treatment for chronic pain, these opioid medications, such as Vicodin and Oxycodone, are also freque ntly purchased illegally off the street. People take prescription painkillers recreationally because of the high it provides. When an individual ingests these medications, opioids bind to opioid receptors in the brain and throughout the body. The result is twofold. Firstly, pain signals to the brain are blocked, which is the desired effect when used as prescribed. Secondly, however, opioids flood the brain with dopamine, resulting in extreme feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Dopamine is a chemical that plays a pivotal role in the brain’s reward center responsible for motivation. When dopamine surges from taking prescription opioids, that behavior is reinforced and users are extremely likely to repeat it. What began as a treatment for severe pain or a bit of so-called harmless fun can quickly turn to drug addiction.
Over time, the body begins to develop a tolerance to the high levels of dopamine released. Opioid receptors in the brain also increase. The result is that users require higher doses of prescription opioids in order to achieve the desired effects. This is called tolerance and can quickly lead to physical dependence. When people begin to use higher quantities of prescription opioids or switch over to a more potent type in order to get high, they are likely suffering from opioid use disorder.
The effects of opioid withdrawal can also cause individuals to experience such excruciating suffering that stopping or cutting down can feel out of the question. Long-term use can make this process feel nearly impossible for many. Extremely powerful prescription opioids such as fentanyl cause such intense withdrawal symptoms that it might be difficult for a user to go even a few hours without using them. This can further solidify the user’s drug addiction.
When a person has become so physically and psychologically dependent on prescription opioids that they struggle to quit, they have developed a severe prescription opiate addiction. The consequences of a severe opioid use disorder can wreak havoc on a person’s life. Not only do physical and mental health deteriorate, but the vast majority prioritize drug use to such an extent that they struggle to productively engage in their responsibilities at work or school. Drug abuse damages relationships. Many people turn to street drugs such as heroin because they are cheaper and easier to come by. It doesn’t take long for a person to begin leading a life that they would have thought unthinkable before taking prescription opioids. What all opioid addicts have in common, though, is the deeply demoralizing knowledge that they are unable to quit taking drugs despite recognizing the severity of the damage wrought by them.
Individuals who suffer from opioid use disorder alongside other mental health conditions or conditions are known as “dual-diagnosis” or “comorbid.” These mental health problems vary widely and include bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), among others.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 9.2 million adults in 2018 were diagnosed as dual diagnosis. Addiction and mental health are deeply intertwined. Those with opioid use disorder are at an increased risk of experiencing mental illness. Many individuals with mental disorders are also drawn to abuse prescription opioids as a way of self-medicating, which can lead to dependence and ultimately addiction.
It is essential that treatment programs work individually with dual-diagnosis individuals to treat their underlying mental health conditions if any progress is to be made in addressing their opioid use disorder. People with co-existing conditions are a unique population requiring integrated care.
Anyone who suffers from opioid use disorder knows that it is extremely difficult to quit using on one’s own. Because opioids hijack the reward centers of the brain that control motivation, willpower is rarely sufficient to stop taking opioids. Over the short term, it is sometimes possible for people to refrain from substance abuse. Inevitably, however, drug addiction rears its ugly head again and a return to use is inevitable. For any heavy opioid user, outside help from a treatment center and via support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous is essential for long term recovery.
To make matters worse, an individual suffering from a physical dependence on prescription opioids is bound to experience a variety of complications and difficulties during the withdrawal process that call for supervision under trained medical and addiction professionals. These debilitating symptoms, which drive many people to relapse quite quickly, include anxiety, inability to sleep, muscle aches, heavy sweating, irregular heart rhythms, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea. Medical experts advise that anyone interested in quitting prescription opioids seek out a licensed medical detox facility where a person can get proper care.
The time it takes to withdraw from opioids depends upon several factors, including the severity of physical dependence, overall health, the type of medication used, and frequency of use.
Between 6 and 30 hours after the last dose, physical and psychological symptoms begin to make themselves apparent. When opioid receptors stop getting the doses they’re used to, individuals can experience anxiety, muscle aches, body pains, tiredness, insomnia, and sweating. Many people begin to experience intense drug cravings as well.
After 72 hours, symptoms have usually reached their height. Chills, stomachache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are all common. After the first week, symptoms often begin to die down. However, it is not uncommon for people with opioid use disorder to experience some symptoms of withdrawal for several months after discontinuation.
Enrolling in a medical detox is the best course of action for anyone interested in beginning the withdrawal process. Medical detoxes can provide a safe comfortable environment in which to detox. For individuals with severe addictions, medical professionals at these treatment centers can also prescribe drugs that reduce drug cravings and alleviate some of the symptoms of withdrawal.
Treatment for opioid use disorder usually occurs in a progression of stages that work to meet patients’ evolving needs as they progress toward lasting sobriety. Studies show that individual who spend longer periods of time in treatment programs are statistically less likely to relapse down the line. It is highly recommended that people who have opioid use disorder take the time necessary to recover from their prescription opioid addiction and get the care they need by making use of all treatment options.
Medical detox facilities are recommended for anyone who is opioid-dependent. At these treatment centers, withdrawal symptoms are treated by health care professionals to ensure safe outcomes. Patients can begin their journey of recovery here and work with a case worker to determine the best next course of action.
After detox, addiction professionals recommend enrollment at an inpatient treatment program. These residential programs, often referred to as rehabs, offer patients a safe space to get further treatment for opioid use disorder. They work with support groups and counselors to work on underlying issues. Individuals also begin the process of developing coping mechanisms and strategies to avoid relapse over the long term.
Outpatient treatment programs can be used as a transition from an inpatient treatment program, or they can be used in lieu of one for individuals who require more flexibility. Attending an outpatient treatment program usually involves spending a few hours a day at a treatment center where patients can receive counseling and learn valuable life skills.
When people graduate from a treatment center, it is always a good idea to have a plan in place for long-term treatment. 12-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous and other alternative support groups are the most popular and time-proven methods. These programs offer both a social support system and a program to treat substance abuse on an ongoing basis. It is also common for people to get counseling for mental health and behavioral health problems as part of an aftercare plan. Aftercare is, in some ways, the most important aspect of a treatment program. It is important to remember that opioid use disorder can be continually treated, but it can never be completely cured.
GPS Counseling Center for Addiction Treatment Prescription Opioids Treatment Program is carefully supervised by medical professionals and counselors trained to handle addiction. Our safe, nonjudgmental environment is a perfect place to recover and develop the tools to treat a substance abuse problem. GPS Counseling Center for Addiction Treatment takes an evidence-based approach to each person. Caseworkers work individually with each patient to ensure that their program of recovery takes into account their unique needs and personal circumstances.
At GPS Counseling Center for Addiction Treatment, we understand that achieving sobriety is not merely a matter of quitting prescription opioids. Long-term sobriety requires learning and developing the tools necessary to live healthy and fulfilling lives. To that end, the GPS Counseling Center for Addiction Treatment works to ensure each patient is ready and prepared for life outside of a treatment center.
GPS Counseling Center for Addiction Treatment offers treatment programs for addicts who are ready to make a change. Whether you are beginning outpatient treatment or interested in an aftercare program, we are with you every step of the way. If you are ready to begin the process of obtaining freedom from the pernicious cycle of prescription opioid abuse, contact us today. Long-term sobriety is yours if you want it.
GPS Counseling Center for Addiction Treatment, we extend our commitment to our graduates and alumni by offering 42 additional weeks of aftercare.
This program permits weekly drop-in sessions, fostering long-term recovery and stability for our graduates.
Simultaneously, these sessions provide essential guidance and encouragement to new participants embarking on their journey to recovery.
Family therapy provides education and support so family members of loved ones can better understand the role and impact of substance abuse.
Learning how to support a loved one in treatment and after treatment. Addressing issues such as communication, co-dependency, and recognizing how to set boundaries.
Individual Therapy provides an opportunity to develop and modify relapse prevention plans, identify triggers and develop coping skills.
Sessions are designed to support clients as they work on the identification and resolution of alcohol and or substance-related problems.
Exploring personal barriers, behaviors, and or challenges in the way of recovery. Uncovering the underlying roots of substance abuse addiction.
At GPS Counseling Center for Addiction Treatment Intensive Outpatient Program group therapy is the primary mode of treatment. Group therapy allows participants to step out of the shadows of shame, secrecy, and isolation and develop a level of community among fellow participants.
Participants who take part in group therapy sessions can improve their communication skills and build connections with other people who are also working to recover from addictions.
Group therapy reinforces mindfulness and healthy ways of interacting and relapse prevention. Allowing participants to learn from the experiences and perspectives of other people. Those that are newer to recovery noticeably benefit from those who have been sober longer.