Should I Go To Rehab For Opioid Addiction?
The opioid epidemic has been a huge health problem in the United States until today. Although doctors widely prescribe opioids to treat pain, the drugs tend to be abused a lot.
Aside from its strong pain-killing effects, opioids can produce feelings of euphoria, or what people like to call “highs.” These are what you can get addicted to, and once you crave those feelings a lot, you would begin misusing opioids.
Eventually, opioids would change your brain chemistry. When your usual doses have no effects anymore, you would have to take much higher doses to get high. Eventually, this cycle would lead to deadly overdoses – which is what the opioid crisis is all about.
But before we go into the details about opioid addiction, let’s first take a look at what opioids are.
What exactly are opioids?
Opioids are drugs made from extracts of the opium poppy plant. Humans have been propagating the plant for a long while, even in ancient times.
The most well-known opioid is morphine, which is a popular painkiller. Morphine has been used to treat pain for centuries, and it’s still in use now.
These days, there are lots of other opioids used to treat pain. Two of the most common ones are hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (Percocet). There are also synthetic opioids like fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic), which are completely man-made.
Other kinds of opioids are:
- Meperidine (Demerol)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
- Methadone (Methadose, Dolophine)
- Buprenorphine (Subuxone, Subutex)
Also, illegal drug manufacturers make counterfeit versions of opioids to sell on the streets. These drugs are a lot more dangerous since no one knows their exact chemical compositions. They may even have ingredients that are obvious poisons.
Now let’s take a look at how opioids become addictive.
Why are opioids addictive?
Opioids act on the nervous system and slow down automatic bodily processes like brain activity and breathing. In turn, you would feel relaxed, calm, and sleepy. These are what contribute to the feelings of euphoria or the “high.”
If you continue wanting to get high, your brain would soon get used to this effect. This is known as tolerance. Once you become tolerant, you would no longer feel any effects unless you take a higher dose.
Over time, tolerance will build, and you would need much higher doses to get high. If this cycle continues, you risk suffering from a fatal overdose.
Now let’s see why opioid overdoses become deadly.
Why is overdosing on opioids fatal?
Since one effect of opioids is slowing down breathing, taking too much of them can cause your breathing to stop completely. In other words, opioid overdose literally takes your breath away.
When opioids stop your breathing, death can be immediate. But in most cases, it takes several hours, so there is a huge window to call for medical help.
Also, even if you happen to suffer from non-fatal overdose symptoms, you could still face catastrophic organ failures. The slow breathing results in a lack of oxygen for the body; that’s why your organs would suffer.
Are there ways to prevent opioid addiction?
As Benjamin Franklin once said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the same way, you can prevent opioid addiction from holding your life hostage. Here are a few ways:
- Take opioids only when your doctor prescribes them to you. Also, strictly follow what is on the prescription.
- Do not increase your dose by yourself. Talk to your doctor first if you feel the need for a higher dose.
- If your pain gets worse, do not take more opioids. Tell your doctor about it instead.
- Do not keep unused opioid pills lying around. Dispose of them properly.
If I do get addicted to opioids, should I go to rehab?
By now, you’re aware of the many dangers of opioid addiction. So, if you are suffering from this addiction, your best hope is to seek professional help. Going to a rehab facility is always a good idea so your recovery would be smoother and faster. The rehab professionals will work alongside you to make sure you can take control of your life again.
What if I just quit taking opioids myself?
This is not a good idea. While it may make sense to just quit cold turkey, you would suffer from lots of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if you do.
Think of smokers who try to quit suddenly. Nearly all of them fail because the withdrawal symptoms create a strong “itch” to get another cigarette. What’s worse is after withdrawal, the cravings for smoking are even stronger than before.
The same principle applies to opioid addiction. Quitting cold turkey does more harm than good.
Knowing this, your best bet is still to ask for help from rehab professionals.
Will the rehab process be painful?
Rehab professionals design recovery programs to cause the least pain and discomfort as possible. However, it doesn’t mean that the process would be 100% effortless.
In opioid addiction recovery, one important part of it is managing the withdrawal symptoms. So, once you’re instructed to gradually decrease your intake of opioids, you would still feel some hints of withdrawal. They would be uncomfortable, but the rehab professionals will make sure that you can manage the symptoms well.
During your recovery process, rehab professionals will work closely with you. You can talk to them about how you feel along the way. If any of the procedures cause you pain or discomfort, you can tell them and they will adjust accordingly.
The rest of the rehab process involves behavioral therapies. These will help you form new habits to replace destructive drug-seeking behaviors.
For example, rehab professionals may help you take on a new hobby. Also, they would give you counseling to help you understand the root causes of the addiction. They would also teach you healthy coping strategies, so when you get stressed, you won’t have the urge to take opioids again.