In recent years, opioid overdose has risen to become one of the most common causes of death among Americans. But just what are opioids? How do they get introduced to a person? And, if you are using them, how can you tell if a habit has formed, or if an overdose is happening?
One of the great dangers of opioids is the fact that while the drugs themselves are widespread, knowledge about them is not. That is what we are here to try and amend today. By providing you information about opioid drugs, we here at Epiphany Wellness hope to curb that danger.
Table of Contents
What are Opioids?
The term “opioids” is a bit of a misnomer, as it is terribly imprecise. Inside your body there are a series of receptors in your nervous system called “opioid receptors”. These receptors receive signals, specifically signals related to pain and stress. Obviously, no one is overdosing on these receptors, or even the signals from the receptors. So, what “opioids” are people overdosing on?
The answer to that is opioid drugs, usually opioid painkillers to be precise. An opioid drug is a type of drug that acts on the opioid receptors, usually by inhibiting their ability to receive signals.
Why do People Get Addicted to Opioids?
Because opioid drugs temporarily disable the receptors in your body which receive signals of pain and stress, you can imagine that a person might get overly familiar with that feeling.
In fact, it is quite easy to get dependent upon it. Part of the reason for this is that opioid drugs do not simply disable the receptors and prevent them from receiving those signals. Where do you suppose the signals go when they are not received? They are not phone calls that your receptors are rejecting. They are letters piling up in your receptors’ mailbox.
And when the drugs wear off and the receptors finally check their mailbox, everything gets received at once. All the pain that was built up, all the stress, it starts as a trickle while the drugs get digested out of your system, and then becomes a deluge that is hard to handle.
How Does a Person Get Addicted to Opioids?
So, we know the chemical reaction that causes a person to become addicted to opioid drugs. But what circumstances lead them to start using the substance in the first place? And, moreover, how does someone go to using opioids to being dependent upon them?
To begin with, an overwhelming majority of opioid users start with a prescription. This is because most opioids are prescription painkillers, usually prescribed to a person for dental pain, pain after surgery, or pain following a broken bone.
Whether you are going in to get a root canal, recovering from an appendectomy, or healing a broken bone while still working, opioid painkillers will certainly do the job of making the process less painful. It has been argued by many within the medical field, however, that they produce so many addictions because they are too effective and end up being habit forming as a result.
In short, pain leads to painkillers. Painkillers leads to dependency upon them for comfort. And dependency is the backbone of addiction, reshaping one’s life to fit the drugs’ needs.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction?
We are going to talk about these signs from the outside going in. That means if you are looking to see if your loved one has an opioid addiction that they are hiding from you, we will start by talking about the signs that they have some skeleton in their closet.
But some people are so unfamiliar with addiction that they are not even sure if they are addicted themselves. Those are the internal factors, which are just as important as external ones.
Changes in Mood Overtime
Everyone has good days and bad days. Most people have some sort of neurodivergence or another. Mood changes throughout the day are no indicator of anything besides that a person is a human being. But the mood changes caused by addiction aren’t the kind that happen in a day.
Opioid drugs cause mood changes that happen in the long run. That means that mental illness such as anxiety and depression may develop, and a person will be quicker to anger.
In particular, they will start to treat everything that isn’t their opioids as an obstacle between them and the opioids which they crave so badly.
Sweating and Fatigue
As the body becomes more and more reliant on opioids to stay functional, other body processes will be impaired. It won’t start that bad. Everything will just be slower and heavier for the addict.
But over time, every single process in the body just being a little too difficult means that a person is sweating and tired all the time. Waking up and going to sleep will become more difficult, leading to disrupted energy levels and, again, issues with a stable mood.
Loss of Appetite, Sensitivity to Pain and Temperature
While opioid drugs only directly impact the opioid receptors, they can create issues with the rest of the nervous system as well. This will result in an inability to properly feel the normal signals that one relies upon. That includes hunger, which is there whether you feel it or not, or temperature, which can result in flashes of heat and cold no matter the actual temperature.
When the addict has not used for a while, their pain receptors will be more sensitive as they work overtime to process all of the “back messages”, so to speak.
You might be reading all of this and thinking, “Opioid addiction sounds like a terrible burden.”
Well, that is a correct assessment. And though it is a burden that nobody should handle alone, it is also a burden that anyone can overcome if they put the work in for it. The best place to start with that is a detox center, as they can adjust their care plan to look after exactly what you or a relative with an addiction needs.