Understanding Opioid Addiction

Did you know that on average, 78 Americans die every day from opioid overdose? Opioid addiction is more common than you think. Millions of Americans are prescribed opioids to treat injuries or illnesses, but most are unaware of the long-term effects on their bodies.

Treatment Can Lead to Addiction

Problems with opioid drugs often start with a simple desire to be free from pain. Your doctor might have prescribed an opioid after you've broken a bone, strained your back or had surgery. These strong pain relievers include drugs such as codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl and tramadol.

Of course, there's a difference between using an opioid for short-term pain relief and deliberately abusing an illegal opioid like heroin. But prescription opioids also can lead to abuse and addiction, especially when people take these drugs to cope with chronic pain. Over time, you might need higher doses to get the same relief. It is easy to become dependent on opioids, to the point where you experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking them.

According to the National Institutes of Health, prescription opioid abuse can even lead to heroin use, as people become more dependent on the drugs to relieve pain or get high.The National Institutes of Health is an independent organization that provides health information on behalf of your health plan.

Recognize the Signs

Opioid dependence can happen to anyone. How can you tell if you are addicted?  Are you taking more than is prescribed or having trouble discontinuing use? These are some of the early signs that your medication is becoming a problem. Here are the most common symptoms of opioid withdrawal:

  • Anxiety
  • Hot and cold sweats
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea

As with any drug addiction, the withdrawal symptoms make it harder for you to stop. The physical symptoms can last seven days to a month, while the emotional ones can continue for several months.  

The Good News

There are several options for treating prescription opioid addiction. Are you concerned about becoming dependent on opioids? Talk with your doctor about treatment options. Medically supervised therapies can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and get you on the road to a healthier you.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institutes of Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an independent organization that provides health information on behalf of your health plan.