Many people take opioids on a daily basis for the treatment of chronic pain. When taken as directed under proper medical supervision, opioid therapy is generally safe and effective. Most people taking medically-prescribed opioids do not become addicted. However, this isn’t true for everyone. Genetics determine roughly half of a person’s risk of drug addiction. It’s definitely possible for anyone to develop an addiction to medically-prescribed opioids. Roughly one-quarter of patients taking opioids for chronic pain will develop some level of addiction to them.
There is a critical distinction between physical dependence and addiction. They are not the same thing. Anyone who takes an opioid for any length of time exceeding a few weeks or so will develop a physical dependence on it. This is because opioids cause changes in the brain to occur. If you’re taking an opioid regularly, then you are also physically dependent on it. As long as you continue to take your prescribed dose, you will not notice any withdrawal symptoms. If you suddenly quit, withdrawal symptoms will set in some 12-18 hours after your last dose. However, this is not the same as addiction.
Are You Addicted To Painkillers?
Addiction occurs when a person develops an emotional or psychological dependence on the opioid. This can happen to anyone. The chances of it happening to any particular individual cannot be predicted ahead of time. Doctors are trained to watch out for the warning signs of addiction, but they don’t always recognize them in time to prevent a full-blown opioid addiction from occurring.
Are you addicted or just physically dependent? The answer to that question determines whether or not you need drug treatment. If you’re taking your medication as directed, and it’s helping you, then you likely need no further intervention. However, if you have developed an addiction to your opioid medication, even though it’s legally prescribed to you, then you need help. You’re no different than a heroin addict in that regard. Are you addicted? Here are some ways to tell.
- Have you tried to stop and been unable to do so?
- Have you increased your dose without your doctor’s knowledge?
- Are you preoccupied with obtaining and using your opioid?
- Do you run out of medication long before your refill is due?
- Have you purchased your opioid illegally on the black market?
If even one of these applies to you, then you are almost certainly addicted. You should seek help. If you do not, you will likely lose control over your life. The fact that your drug is prescribed to you makes no difference. You are still addicted. Treatment centers deal with prescription drug addiction all the time. Many of these people also started out with legal prescriptions.
Treatment for Prescription Opioid Dependence
There are two basic types of drug treatment: inpatient, or residential, and outpatient. There are also detox centers. These serve to help you through the withdrawal process while still allowing you to live at home. Detox must be combined with some sort of treatment in order to be effective in the long term.
Residential Drug Treatment
Inpatient drug treatment means that you will live at a facility for a certain period of time, generally 30 to 90 days. It takes this long just to get through the withdrawal process and for therapy and counseling to begin to be effective. It takes time for an addict to learn why they began to abuse drugs to begin with. Without this knowledge, the risk of relapse is very high. Drug treatment centers also provide their clients with lots of tools to help them cope with their addiction after they leave the center. Most have aftercare programs. It’s important for the client to take advantage of aftercare services. They will give them the best chance for ongoing sobriety.
Many residential centers are also affiliated with sober living homes. These homes are residential, too. You will live there for up to a year with others who are also trying to stay sober. You will be allowed to leave the facility for work and other activities. It’s a wonderfully supportive environment for a recovering addict. By staying at a sober living home after you leave drug treatment, you will increase your odds of staying clean considerably.
Outpatient Drug Treatment
This type of treatment is best suited for lower-level addictions that have not progressed that far. If you’ve tried to stop your drug in the past and failed, or if you’ve been abusing your drug for years, then inpatient treatment is probably better for you. Outpatient treatment allows the client to still work or attend school. They will live at home. They attend treatment on an outpatient basis, during certain daytime or evening hours. Outpatient treatment is ideal for someone with a low-level drug addiction who cannot afford to leave their jobs or homes for a long period of time.
Drug-based therapies for opioid addiction include methadone and Suboxone. Methadone is a synthetic opioid. It works on the same brain receptors as prescription opioids do. It’s long-acting, so only one daily dose is needed. It’s highly effective at eliminating withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. When properly dosed, methadone produces little euphoria. Methadone is addictive. It also has the distinct disadvantage of being dispensed only from certain licensed clinics. You will be required to go the clinic daily, sometimes at inconvenient hours, to receive your dose. This can be highly disruptive to your daily routine, especially if there is no clinic close to you. In addition, not all states allow them.
Suboxone is prescribed by specially licensed doctors. You can find one near you by looking online or calling a drug abuse hotline. You will get a prescription for a month’s worth of medication at a time. It can be filled at any pharmacy that stocks it. You take your dose in the privacy of your home with zero effect on your daily routine.
If you’re wanting to seek help, but you’re not sure where to turn, you can call us for assistance. We are here 24 hours a day at (866) 840-6411. A counselor will be able to help you find the right treatment option for you.