According to a new report from the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), researchers estimate that more than 50 million adults (1 in 5) in the United States are dealing with chronic pain that interferes with their daily activities, though figures depend on how the condition is defined and evaluated.
For people who have moderate to severe chronic pain, it significantly reduces their quality of life and causes them to be limited in their daily activities. Pain is the main reason why Americans seek disability benefits due to the cost of suffering. As a result of lost workdays and medical costs, it’s estimated that between $560 and $630 billion is spent annually due to chronic pain.
Although there are many treatment options available for chronic pain, 5 to 8 million Americans are thought to use opioids to manage their pain over the long term.
The startling rise in opioid prescriptions has coincided with an uptick in overdoses and hospital admissions related specifically to heroin abuse, cocaine abuse, oxycodone abuse (OxyContin), hydrocodone abuse (Vicodin), morphine abuse, and methadone abuse.
Together, the prevalence of chronic pain and the rising use of opioids has produced an epidemic that affects millions of people worldwide, causing suffering, incapacity, and risk.
The enormous number of people afflicted with chronic pain also accounts for the equally colossal number of opioid prescriptions given out by doctors, most of which contribute to the steadily growing number of opioid abuse cases.
Sadly, there is a high demand for an opioid treatment program, but not everyone receives the help that they need. That is something Eagle Creek Ranch Recovery is looking to change.
According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, prolonged use of prescription drugs can lead to dependence and turn into an opioid use disorder (OUD).
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that from 2019 to 2020, the number of drug overdose deaths increased by nearly 30%. A staggering 75% of the 91,799 recorded drug overdose-related deaths in 2020 involved the use of an opioid. To give a better perspective of the gravity of the opioid problem, the CDC further states that from 2019 to 2020, opioid-involved death cases had the following statistics:
- In 2020, Idaho experienced 164 deaths and over 4,000 hospital admissions related to opioid overdoses.
- Opioid-involved death rates increased by 38%
- Prescription opioid-involved death rates increased by 17%
- Heroin-involved death rates decreased by 7%
- Synthetic opioid-involved death rates (except for methadone) increased by 56%
Although there appears to be no slowing down to the prevalence of opioid abuse, the CDC continues to fight the opioid overdose epidemic by identifying outbreaks, collecting relevant data, and responding to overdose cases as best as they can.
To this end, the CDC has put into action a 4-year cooperative agreement called the Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) where the CDC funds health departments in 47 states in the US, Washington DC, two territories, and 16 cities and counties all over the world for surveillance and prevention efforts.
Most people who develop a habit of using opioids do so because of a need to deal with one form of chronic pain or another. The problem with this is that even short-term use could lead to the development of heavy dependence on the substance because of its ability to not only stifle pain but also induce sensations of calm and euphoria.
The action of opioids begins when the components of the substance bind with the opioid receptors in the body. This action effectively blocks out pain, which is why people begin to feel relief soon after taking prescription opioids.
Opioids are also known to trigger the release of the neurotransmitter known as dopamine. This neurotransmitter is associated with the reward system of the brain. It is typically released following the completion of a perceived action or task giving a sense of fulfillment. It also gives a sense of calm, well-being, and euphoria.
Pain relief in itself is enough reason for people who suffer from chronic pain to keep on taking opioids. For others, it is the sense of calm and euphoria brought about by dopamine release which makes the substance something to look forward to.
However, what people misunderstand is that opioids only provide temporary relief for their chronic pain, and the more they take, dependency and tolerance build within the reward region of the brain, which is what causes cravings and addiction to happen over time.
How Does Dopamine Affect the Body?
It is easy to understand why the pain relief offered by opioids is easy to get hooked on, but many might wonder what is it in dopamine that creates an even greater dependency on the substance.
For starters, dopamine affects many behavioral and biological functions of the body, including:
- Heart rate
- Blood vessel function
- Kidney function
- Control of nausea and vomiting
- Pain processing
Notice that almost all of these functions are vital to the basic daily functions of the body, except for lactation. Most materials on dopamine would only focus on the euphoric effects it has on a person when taken, but as these behavioral and biological functions show, the effects of dopamine are far more than that.
Even the excess or lack of dopamine is linked to disruptions in a person’s mental health. These disruptions are associated with the following conditions:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Parkinson’s Disease
It’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction to receive an accurate diagnosis.
As with every other case of a substance abuse disorder, those who have a heavy dependence on opioids do their best to hide it, although eventually, the signs and symptoms of chronic opioid use will show.
As there are different types of opioids, the time and severity of the manifestation could vary. There are, however, some generally common symptoms that occur in people who are abusing opioids. These include:
- Severe or drastic weight loss
- Lack of hygiene
- Scabs, sores, or puncture wounds for those who use take the substance intravenously (track marks)
- Compromised motor skills and coordination
- Stomach problems
- Persistent nausea
- Pupil constriction
- Slowed thinking
- Impaired judgment
- Severely impaired problem-solving skills
- Depersonalization (feeling detached from one’s surroundings)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
- Sudden outbursts
- Respiratory depression (difficulty breathing)
- Muscle spasms
- Memory loss
- Unexplained itching
- Profuse sweating
A professional opioid treatment program is essential for achieving recovery. Without it, major consequences often occur including overdose and death.
The CDC and various other institutions have invested countless hours into trying to determine an actionable cause for addiction of all types, including that of opioids. As there are as many potential influential factors as there are opioid abusers, it is difficult to pin down which particular one is most likely to push a person down the road of opioid dependence, although there are two factors that stand out as the most likely factors to become powerful influencers of opioid addiction.
People who belong to a family with members that have a history of substance abuse have been documented as having a higher likelihood of also developing a substance abuse issue themselves.
As the family is a very strong influencer of many traits and characteristics, having one or two family members or close relatives who are into opioids is believed to be quite likely to also influence other family members to get into the habit.
This is particularly true if the family member or relative also happens to be careless about the opioids they use, making it easy for other people to gain access to it. It is not uncommon for family members who have substance abuse issues to steal substances from one another.
Living in a neighborhood or area where substance abuse is a perennial problem is also seen as having a heavy influence on the development of a substance abuse issue in a person. While there are many success stories of people who became successful despite having lived in areas believed to festering with drug abuse, the reality of it is that more people tend to also fall into the habit themselves.
This is typically the case in neighborhoods known to be areas where the distribution and even manufacture of illegal substances are high. In many instances, people in the area developed the habit of being coerced to do so by local gang members who sell the substance.
As opioids are known to be highly addictive, those who started out needing to use opioids to deal with chronic pain eventually end up becoming immensely dependent on them. This is why many are advocating the use of natural and non-addictive alternatives to dealing with pain if only to prevent people from developing an addiction to painkillers and opioids.
There are also cases where people who suffer from depression and anxiety take to using opioids for the temporary euphoric and calming effect it has on the body. The irony of this is that chronic use of opioids will cause a chemical imbalance in the body that results in depression and many other behavioral and emotional conditions.
Opioid addiction is one of the most difficult addictions to treat for many as dependence on the substance will drastically alter the person’s behavior and outlook in life, particularly to a life without the addictive effects of opioids. There are also many cases where a person would begin treatment but is unable to see it through due to the severity of the withdrawal symptoms combined with the overwhelming craving to use opioids once more.
This is why an opioid treatment program for prescription drug addiction includes intensive therapy combined with long-term support.
As with all substance abuse disorder treatments, everything begins with getting the person to stop taking the substance. In the case of substances that have a profound effect on the mind and body, such as opioids, this part of the recovery process needs to be done in a medical facility staffed by clinical personnel who know how to deal with the particulars of opioid withdrawal.
This is because it is not uncommon for people with an opioid habit to require medical attention to deal with the withdrawal symptoms and potential complications felt during medical detoxification.
There are many instances where the sudden stop in the use of substances, such as opioids, results in a shock to the system. This could lead to complications that could be anything from mildly debilitating to life-threatening. For instances like this, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is typically employed to not only mitigate the severe withdrawal symptoms but also decrease the chances of life-threatening complications.
The use of MAT has also been documented as being highly effective in dealing with addiction types known to have high rates of relapses, such as opioid addiction. The medications used in MAT are known to quell the massive urges that people in recovery suffer from, giving them better chances at staying sober.
For recovery to be truly successful, it should be lasting. This is our goal at Eagle Creek Ranch Recovery. We don’t go for short-duration programs with the possibility of an equally short period of being sober. At our opioid treatment program, we believe in helping people achieve long-term sobriety that lets them enjoy a full, productive, and healthy life.
Here at Eagle Creek Recovery, sobriety is not a temporary promise, it’s a reality that’s available to you and your loved ones. Contact our admissions today to start your journey to recovery in our opioid treatment program.
Kendall Maloof is the clinical director at Eagle Creek Ranch Recovery. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has held multiple leadership roles before settling here at Eagle Creek. Kendall received her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 2016. Her career in mental and behavioral health began in 2014 when she took up internships in both the nonprofit and for profit sectors. She interned at multiple reputable companies, such as The Living Success Center and 449 Recovery in California.
In 2019, Kendall became the clinical director of Sunsets Recovery for Woman, a dual diagnosis program in southern California. Kendall is a natural leader. She has an incredible ability to problem solve and stay calm in any situation. Kendall never fails to show up when she is needed, and her calm demeanor makes her team and clients feel at ease. Eagle Creek Ranch Recovery is proud to have Kendall as our clinical director.