Substance Use Disorders: Opioids

By Erica Herren

What is it?

Addiction is a battle that millions of people face on a daily basis. Anyone can become addicted to pretty much anything, but the most common addictions are substances such as alcohol and drugs. There's many substances you can become addicted to and sadly, many of them are legal and very easy to obtain. One of these types of drugs are opioids.

Opioids are highly addictive medications that are used to relieve pain. This includes hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (e.g., Kadian, Avinza), codeine, and more (What are opioids? n.d.). Opioid dependence affects more than 5 million people in the United States alone and is the cause of approximately 17,000 deaths a year.

What are opioids? (n.d.). Retrieved from publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs/opioids/what-are-opioids

What causes addiction to opioids?

Addictions happen for all sorts of reasons. The list of reasons as to why people become addicted to something would be endless. As stated above, opioids are medications that help relieve pain and they're very addictive. It would be very easy for someone to get a prescription for opioids since pain is something that all of us experience at some point in our lives.

When someone takes an opiate such as oxydocone for example, the chemicals travel through the bloodstream and make their way to our brain. These chemicals then trigger biochemical brain processes that reward people with feelings of pleasure, the same biochemical brain processes that eating or having sex will trigger. This could motivate someone to take these pills repeatedly because those feelings of pleasure can be reached even in the absence of pain especially when you take into consideration someone's individual or environmental stresses.

Withdrawal is another factor that contributes to opioid addiction. Even if taken as recommended, a person can become physically addicted to opioids. When the prescription has been completed, withdrawal symptoms can occur and they are not fun to deal with. Sometimes people may continue taking these drugs in order to avoid withdrawing from them. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased tearing
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning (Opiate Withdrawal, n.d.)

Opiate Withdrawal. (n.d.). Retrieved from /ency/article/000949.htm

Opioid Addiction and its Treatment | Dr. Belis Aladag - UCLA Health

Do not give up! Treatment is available!

There is no single approach that is guaranteed to work with all addicts. However, treatment options are available in order to help make the process as easy as possible. Check it out!

Detoxification: This is a medically supervised and controlled withdrawal of opioids. Withdrawal symptoms will be experienced, however they are not life threatening. Further treatment is recommended in order to encourage the continuation of sobriety. This can be done by therapy sessions or even in support groups.

Methadone Maintenance: Some people just cannot stop taking opioids no matter how hard they try. In order to help those addicts who cannot stop live a healthy life, sometimes opioids are dispensed under medical supervision. This way your body can still receive the opioids it needs, but it's more controlled and supervised in order to help keep the addiction under control. For this treatment, addicts are required to specialized clinics for methadone. These clinics also provide educational aid and help for the families of addicts. (Treating an addiction to painkillers, n.d.).

There is no wrong or right treatment for everyone. The only person who can decide to take their life back by getting treatment is YOU!

Treating an addiction to painkillers. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.

Big image

Myths VS Facts

You have to want drug treatment for it to actually work.

False. Who really ever wants to get treatment for something? We just rather have it disappear without having to go through withdrawal or any of the steps. It's normal to not want treatment and it certainly does not mean it'll fail. The road to get to sobriety might not be the prettiest, but it's certainly beautiful once you arrive.

Drug addiction is something that is voluntary.

False. Opioids are handed out as prescription drugs everyday. Tell someone who recently broke their leg that they voluntarily became addicted to their pain relieving medications and they will look at you like you're crazy. Addiction can also be physical and sometimes that is not something that can be controlled especially when someone is experiencing extreme amounts of pain. Want to know what is voluntary though? Treatment!

What to look for in a drug counselor?

A drug counselor should be supportive and understanding, never judgmental. They should also be very patient and willing to listen without ever pointing fingers or shaming their client. Addiction counselors have to go through a number of requirements before obtaining their license such as:

  • 6,000 hours of experience gained by full or part time work
  • A degree in behavioral health, human services or a related field
  • 270 contact hours
  • 300 hours of supervised practical training
  • Pass the IC&RC/ACD written exam

At least an associates degree is needed but in order for one to have their own private practice, a Master's degree is needed.

Details of the requirements can be found here: