The American Psychiatric Association defines opioid addiction as a continuous preoccupation to take more opioids despite negative professional and social consequences due to their behaviors.

Addiction and drug dependence have physical, behavioral, and cognitive components.

The earlier these destructive habits are recognized, the sooner that the progression of the disease can be stopped. Opioids present a high risk for fatal overdose.

Opioids should only be used as prescribed under close medical supervision.

Discontinuing recreational opioid use is often a matter of life and death. In 2016, opioid overdose deaths were five times higher than they were in 2016. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids were involved in 42,249 deaths in 2016.”

Who’s at Risk for Opioid Addiction?

Some people are genetically predisposed to drug addiction. However, even individuals without a family history of substance misuse are at risk for developing opioid dependence.

The more frequently you use opioids, the more tolerant you become. At a certain point, a level of physical dependence is inevitable. Long-term opioid use is known to cause dramatic changes to hormone levels. Hormone levels have a direct impact on mental health.

Chronic opioid use can lead to a malfunction in the adrenal gland and its production of the primary stress hormone cortisol. This can result in a cascading effect on other influential hormones. Symptoms of hormonal fluctuation due to chronic opioid use include depression, fatigue, changes in mood or personality, and muscle weakness.

Signs of Opioid Addiction

Cognitive and behavioral signs of opioid addiction include chronic fatigue, difficulty staying awake during regular waking hours, poor memory, agitation, and irritability.

The person may lose interest in interests and activities to which they normally devoted a lot of time. They may stop hanging out with long-time friends. As the opioid addiction progresses, the person may make new friends that have easier access to opioids. They may begin to fall behind at work and not care, or miss out on important family events, neglect their children, or become apathetic.

Using and Family Intervention Encourage Rehab

An intervention with family and friends may be the only way to “wake them up” from the haze of drug addiction. Severely opioid-dependent individuals get good at convincing themselves that their behavior is normal, and can easily ignore many obvious signs of the damage they’re causing.

A strategic family gathering can bring awareness to the impact that their choices have had on the ones they love. An intervention should be done in a non-accusatory manner. Take turns sharing how their behavior has affected the family, all the while keeping in mind that the decision to stop using is their own. Avoid pressuring them. Guide them with love.

Medical Detox for Opioid Dependence

Most inpatient rehabilitation programs require that opioid-dependent patients go through medical detox before being admitted. This ensures that the person is medically stable and in a frame of mind that’s conducive to getting the most out of therapy.

Medical detox has several advantages compared to getting clean at home. Patients are under medical supervision and have their vitals, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration monitored at all times.

Post-acute withdrawals from chronic opioid use can be severe. The first three days are often characterized by muscle aches, insomnia, anxiety, sweats, high blood pressure, fever, and agitation. Days four through seven include more intense drug cravings, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and depression.

In medical detox, patients have access to medications to help alleviate symptoms of nausea, vomiting, cramps, anxiety, and depression. The administration of IV fluids can help keep them hydrated. This is especially helpful during bouts of nausea when it’s difficult to keep fluids down.

Ongoing Opioid Maintenance Therapy

Opioid replacement therapy can make a dramatic impact in reducing the severity of opioid withdrawals. Short-acting, potent opioids are replaced with longer-lasting, less powerful opioids. Opioids like methadone and buprenorphine have a slow-onset and produce less severe withdrawals upon cessation of use.

Buprenorphine produces what’s known as a “ceiling effect” that prevents users from experiencing the “high” associated with large doses of opioids. Suboxone is a combination medication of buprenorphine and naloxone. Naloxone is a powerful opioid antagonist that remains dormant unless it’s injected. Opioid abusers will often crush tablets, dissolve them in liquid, and inject them. Naloxone rapidly reverses the effects of opioids when injected.

Methadone maintenance programs are common across the United States. Participants take one daily dose of oral methadone to mitigate drug cravings. Many patients continue taking methadone indefinitely.

Inpatient Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Following the completion of medical detox, patients have the option of entering an inpatient treatment facility. Inpatient programs are typically four weeks long. Participants live onsite and take part in several groups and individual counseling sessions a day.

Inpatient therapy provides recovering opioid abusers with a safe place to focus on recovery free from the temptation to use. At home, it can be tempting to engage in drug-seeking behaviors. Often, the stress of daily life, work, chores, and family obligations can be overwhelming and drive the patient to use.

Inpatient programs minimize stress while maximizing productive drug recovery time. The goal is to prepare patients for a return to healthy living while reflecting on the impact that their addictive behaviors have had of their life.

Wilderness Recovery Programs for Juveniles

Wilderness recovery programs are an option for younger patients. Participants venture into nature with survival guides and trained counselors. They learn self-reliance and build confidence while having time to reflect, face challenges, and grow.

Outpatient Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Following inpatient therapy, patients are typically encouraged to transition to an intensive outpatient program, or IOP. Most drug and alcohol outpatient programs meet two to three times a week. Outpatient groups provide a support system and a level of accountability for alcohol and drug recovery.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an opioid misuse disorder, Stonewall Institute Treatment Center is more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Call us today at 602-535 6468 or send an email to for more information about the road to recovery.