Opioid Addiction and Dependence — What You Should Know

Opioids are a group of chemicals naturally produced in the opium poppy plant that affect the brain, typically used to alleviate pain. This drug group includes the illegal narcotic heroin, as well as synthetic opioids like fentanyl and prescription pain medications. They are commonly referred to as narcotics, but they are not the same as over-the-counter medications in terms of pain relief. This type of drug is commonly prescribed for pain relief, making it easier to obtain by anyone, including teens, who are particularly prone to addiction and dependence.

According to studies, one out of every eight teenagers tried opioids recreationally in high school, and 80 percent of heroin users began by misusing prescription opioids. Prescription drug abuse is becoming a major public health issue, especially in the Los Angeles area. There are many reasons why this is the case, one being that teens are often given pain prescriptions. Opioids are typically safe for teens when used for a short period of time and as instructed by a doctor. However, they are sometimes overused because they generate euphoria. Parents should take steps to ensure that their teenagers get the pain relief they need when they need it, while reducing the risk of them becoming addicted to it.

In Los Angeles, there are several treatment alternatives for teen opioid addiction, including the Key Transitions Teen PHP and Teen IOP. These teen treatment programs are one of the best ways to overcome opioid dependence in teens, while figuring out the root causes, and helping build knowledge and life skills to avoid drug addiction in the future. Their adolescent opiate addiction treatment in Los Angeles uses proven custom-tailored techniques that are beneficial for teens struggling with addiction.

Understand the difference between opioid addiction vs. opioid dependence

There is often confusion about how someone can be physically dependent on opioids, but not addicted to them. Since opioids can be a dangerous drug, knowing the difference between the two is essential.

Opioid mental and physical addiction or abuse

Opioid addiction, commonly known as opioid use disorder (OUD), is a relapsing, chronic illness that affects both the body and the mind. It is rarely a standalone disorder. Many people who are addicted to opioids also have a mental health issue. People with opioid addiction tend to have a history of depression, childhood abuse, impulsivity, and sensation-seeking.

The misuse of opioids can have physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms. The inability to stop using opioids is the most obvious one. Another sign is using more than their doctor has prescribed. Besides that, below are some of the signs to keep an eye out for:

  • Often avoids responsibilities
  • Trouble breathing
  • Gets irritable easily and experiences mood swings frequently
  • Low motivation, leading to anxiety attacks and depression
  • Changes in appetite, like eating more or less than usual
  • Loses interest in things they used to like and missing special events
  • Gets more nervous and experience agitation
  • Overly energetic and talking nonsense
  • Not caring about hygiene

Opioid addiction is hard to combat because it brings pleasure, and it may feel like something that an addict cannot live without. Doctors define it as an insatiable desire to keep using the drug, despite the severe consequences. In short, opioids are highly addictive because they intensely engage the brain’s reward centers.

Opioid mental and physical dependence

Physical dependence occurs when the body requires a specific amount of a substance, such as a prescription opioid, to avoid withdrawal symptoms. This is most common when a patient takes medicine for a long time (six months or more) to deal with the discomfort of a medical condition. The body develops a tolerance to the medication and becomes reliant on it to keep things running smoothly. Usually, when someone is prescribed medicine, a doctor monitors the patient to make sure that they stop taking the prescription safely, without experiencing withdrawal symptoms or a desire to continue taking it.

A person with physical dependence might have physical withdrawal symptoms. They might experience the following:

  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea
  • Shaking, pain, and fatigue
  • Sleeping difficulties, leading to insomnia
  • Feeling depressed

Drug tolerance and dependency are common side effects of long-term opioid use, but it does not necessarily mean that they are addicted to it. However, it is essential to know the signs and dangers of addiction, so the patient and the doctor can create a strategy to prevent that from happening.

People who are opioid dependent might also experience a withdrawal mechanism, that is, a combination of symptoms that can occur when a person suddenly stops taking the drug, which can have fatal consequences.

Types of Opioids: Synthetic And Semi-Synthetic Opioids

Opioids are psychotropic substances that attach to the opioid receptors in the body. These receptors are located in the central and peripheral neurological systems, as well as the gastrointestinal tract. Opioids can have positive and negative effects, although many teenagers are unaware of the differences between illegal and legally prescribed opioids for pain management. There are different types of opioids that everyone should know about:

  • ●       Semi-synthetic opioids, synthesized from natural opiates in laboratories. This includes oxycodone, hydromorphone, heroin, and hydrocodone. They are codeine or morphine derivatives.
  • Synthetic opioids are a class of newer chemicals that experts know to be opiates or agree that have opiate-like effects. They are man-made medications that can also be used for pain relief.

Doctors prescribe opioids to treat a variety of ailments, including post-surgery pain. However, they have addictive characteristics as well as severe health consequences, making them deadly when misused. This is why it is essential to understand how opioids affect the brain and body.

Creation of Opioids

Opioids belong to a class of drugs derived from the opium poppy plant. Some prescription opioids are manufactured directly from the plant, while others are created in laboratories utilizing the same chemical structure. They are commonly used as pain relievers because they include substances that relax the body. This makes them one of the most popular drugs in the market.

How Opioids Affect The Brain

When the opioid receptors in the brain are stimulated, dopamine is created and released in large quantities, resulting in pleasurable emotions. One of the most common misconceptions is that opioid users simply use them to feel ecstatic. This might explain why some people begin by experimenting with heroin or similar drugs. Continued drug use alters the structure and function of the brain, which leads to addiction. Ultimately, the brain gradually loses its ability to function on its own.

Summary on when to use the terms

Figuring out the differences between substance abuse, substance abuse disorder, and substance dependence might be difficult. These terms are often mixed up. In 2013, the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was published by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2013, altering the  definition of addiction once again.

Substance use disorders are now classified as mild, moderate, or severe by the American Psychological Association. The labels “abuse” and “dependency” are not used to describe the degree of addiction. This move was prompted in part by the ambiguity surrounding the term dependence. The goal was to classify addiction as a drug use disorder, which makes it easier to identify those who need help but don’t know where to turn.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

Every year, many teens involved in opioid addiction and dependence are rushed to emergency rooms because they are in dire need of help. This is why it is essential to have them take part in an opioid addiction treatment as soon as possible. Fortunately, adolescent opiate addiction treatment programs offer exactly what they need. Their  program provides integrated, multidisciplinary clinical treatment to adolescents, and teens will attend group meetings and individual counseling. This is based out of their Los Angeles office.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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