Your use of opioids or painkillers probably started in a completely innocent manner. Maybe you were suffering with chronic pain or had major surgery.
To help you manage the pain, your doctor may have prescribed an opioid. Your physician (and probably your pharmacist as well) no doubt urged you in no uncertain terms to strictly follow their instructions about dosage and frequency and the like. And odds are you had every intention of following those instructions to the letter.
But at some point—maybe inadvertently or maybe intentionally—you started to use the drug in ways that strayed from your doctor’s carefully considered plan for your pain management. Because of the highly addictive nature of many opioids, you quickly developed a substance use disorder. It may have remained centered on prescription opioids (like hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, fentanyl, and others), or it could have morphed into a reliance on illicit opioids (like heroin). In either case, the situation is serious—and your ongoing well-being is at significant risk.
It is a risk that an alarming number of people in the United States have experienced in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, two out of every three deaths related to a drug overdose in 2018 involved an opioid. That same year, 9.9 million people misused a prescription pain reliever (more than 800,000 more people used heroin). By any measure, that is a significant public health crisis.
Let’s take a closer look at opioids and their impacts—and at what you should do if you find yourself using the drugs in dangerous ways.
Signs and Symptoms of a Substance Use Disorder
A range of symptoms may indicate that you have developed a problem with opioids. Many of those symptoms are physical and may include:
- Strong, persistent cravings that lead to an inability to control opioid use
- Drowsiness and challenges related to sleep
- Recurring flu-like symptoms
- A reduced libido
- Weight loss
Other symptoms of a substance use disorder centered on opioids are more behavioral in nature. Those symptoms may include:
- Degraded personal hygiene habits
- Shifts in exercise habits
- Isolation from friends and family
- Serious financial challenges
- Stealing money or drugs in order to support the habit
Once you are able to acknowledge that you have a problem with an opioid, you may be tempted to simply try to stop taking them on your own. That will be a significant challenge given the extreme cravings mentioned above. But even if you do manage to fend off temptation, you will not have fended off all the impacts of an opioid addiction. There is still the challenge of withdrawal to be faced.
Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal
It would be wonderful if you could simply stop taking a drug and have your body—and your life—return to normal immediately. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, if you think about it a certain way), that is not at all how opioids work. Withdrawal is very real, and it can be very difficult to go through.
Withdrawal symptoms related to opioids may include:
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Anxiety and/or insomnia
- Increased heart rate, body temperature, and/or blood pressure
- Bone and/or muscle pain
- Sweating and/or chills
The severity and duration of these symptoms can vary a great deal and depend on a range of factors, including which drug you have been taking, how much of it, and how often. But the process of withdrawal is seldom easy and often dangerous.
That is why medically monitored detoxification is, generally speaking, your best option for ending your dependence on opioids.
What Treatment Looks Like at Peak View Behavioral Health
As a fully accredited treatment facility, Peak View Behavioral Health offers detox, rehab, and a continuum of care—each personalized for your specific needs and designed to help you begin your recovery journey with support and confidence.
When you seek treatment at Peak View, you can expect:
- A medically monitored detoxification process
- Treatment plans for any co-occurring mental health disorders
- An intensive outpatient program
- A robust, personalized set of relapse prevention strategies
- Personalized discharge planning to ease the transition back to daily life
- In the case of an opioid addiction, treatment approaches consistent with the Hazelden Betty Ford COR-12 Program for Opioid Dependence
“COR-12” is an abbreviation for Comprehensive Opioid Response with the Twelve Steps. The program draws on the principles of 12-Step programs while also providing medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Evidence suggests that MAT increases the likelihood of sustained sobriety because it leads to improved rates of retention in treatment programs. It also leads to improved overall survival rates among those battling substance use disorders. The COR-12 program can literally be a lifesaver for someone who is addicted to opioids.
Remember: It’s Not How You Started. It’s How You Finish.
We began by suggesting how easy it is to start taking opioids for perfectly legitimate reasons only to find yourself misusing them. But as with so many things, the key part of this story is not how you started. It is how you plan to finish.
When you are ready to put opioid use behind you, we are ready to help. You can count on compassionate, evidence-based care grounded in the idea that you are an individual with unique needs—not a cookie-cutter example of who and what an “addict” is. Peak View Behavioral Health can help you get sober and stay sober while also providing treatment for mental health disorders—like anxiety, depression, or trauma-based disorders—that may be contributing to your substance use disorder and lowering your overall quality of life. We can help you reshape your life so that your future looks much brighter than your past experience with opioids.