Opioids or Painkillers

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Opioid Use Disorder and Treatments: Frequently Asked Questions

What Drugs Are Considered Opioids or Painkillers?


Opioids are a class of drugs that include both prescription medications and illegal substances. Medically, they are used as painkillers and vary in the intensity of their effects. These medications include Morphine, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Fentanyl. Potential for misuse is high due to the addictive chemical properties of these substances. Non-legal opioids include heroin and illicitly produced Fentanyl.

Why Is the Risk of Overdose High with Opioids and What Is Narcan?


Opioids can slow a person’s breathing down to the point of stopping when taken in high enough doses. The drug Narcan works to quickly counteract the effects of opioid overdose and can be lifesaving if used effectively.

What Are the Signs of Opioid Overdose?


Signs of overdose can vary and may include slowed or noisy/rasping breathing, grayish/blue skin tone, constricted or pinpoint pupils, limp body, unresponsiveness, and loss of consciousness.

What Should I Do if I Think an Overdose Has Happened?


A quick response to overdose can be lifesaving. If you are present in the event an overdose, call 911, give Narcan if available, and stay with the person to try to keep them awake until help arrives.

What is Opioid Use Disorder?


Stimulant use disorder is a chronic medical condition characterized by an inability to control or stop using opioids despite negative consequences, such as problems with health and in areas of typical life.

What are the Signs of Opioid Use Disorder?


Signs may include cravings, loss of control, increased tolerance to opioids, physical dependence/withdrawal symptoms, and continued use despite harmful consequences. The illness can vary from mild to severe.

What Are the Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal?


Opioid withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on factors like the specific opioid used, the duration of use, the dosage, and individual differences. Common withdrawal symptoms within the first 24 hours of stopping include: yawning, insomnia, sweating, agitation, runny nose, and muscle aches.

Other withdrawal symptoms that tend to show up between 1-3 days can be: increased heart rate/blood pressure, stomach distress, dilated pupils, and goosebumps on the skin.

Longer-term withdrawal symptoms can also be common. These may include: marked changes in mood, anxiety, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, and strong physical cravings for opioids.

How is Opioid Use Disorder Diagnosed?


Healthcare professionals typically use criteria outlined in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) for diagnosing. Criteria includes signs and symptoms of disordered opioid use, including physical, psychological, and social behaviors.

What Causes Opioid Use Disorder?


The development of opioid use disorder is influenced by a combination of biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Opioids are highly chemically addictive. It is not a condition of character or about willpower.

Is Opioid Use Disorder Treatable?


Yes, recovery from opioid use disorder is possible. Treatment often involves a combination of evidence-based therapies, medications, and support groups, including peer-support.

What Are the Treatment Options for Opioid Use Disorder?


Treatment options include counseling, (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or “CBT”), other behavioral therapies, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), and support groups. There are also apps, like the Anonymous Health app, that allow you to learn and practice tools and techniques to support your recovery. These kinds of applications, when combined with one-to-one therapy (“computer assisted therapy”), can yield significantly improved success rates relative to therapy alone.

How Does Medication for Opioid Use Disorder work?


The medications Methadone, Naltrexone, and Buprenorphine block opioid receptors in the brain and help to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. They can help stabilize brain chemistry and lessen the euphoric effects of opioids.

How Long Does Treatment Take?


The duration of treatment varies based on a person’s own needs and treatment plan. Some may require short-term interventions, while others may benefit from longer-term support.

What is Harm Reduction and How Does It Apply to Opioid Use?


Harm reduction is the principle of reducing the harmful physical effects of addictive behaviors. Regarding opioids, harm reduction principles involve carrying Narcan, not mixing opioids with other substances, knowing what you are taking, and using clean needles. Harm reduction can serve to keep people alive and healthier while working on long-term recovery.

Can Opioid Use Disorder Be Cured?


Medical professionals consider opioid use disorder to be a chronic condition, but recovery is possible. Many people can discontinue opioid use over time with appropriate treatment and support. Relapse is often a normal part of the recovery journey and doesn’t indicate a lack of progress.

Can Family and Friends Help in the Recovery Process?


Involving family in therapy or peer-support groups can be beneficial, both to educate family and provide support.

What Should I Do If I Suspect Someone I Care About Has Opioid Use Disorder?


Encourage them to seek professional help. Approach the conversation with empathy and understanding, expressing concern for their well-being. Consider carrying Narcan with you in case of overdose.

What Can I Expect from Treatment?


Treatment is individualized based on the specific person’s needs, but you may expect a combination of the following during the treatment process: assessment and evaluation, detoxification, medical monitoring, medication, counseling, education and skills building, relapse prevention and preparedness planning, continued support, and aftercare planning.

How Will I Pay for Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder?


It's important to ask about payment options and verify insurance coverage before starting treatment. Many treatment programs have a navigator who can provide information on available options and help advise on the payment process. Some available options for payment may include: individual health insurance, Medicaid and Medicare, out-of-pocket payment, sliding scale fees, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), and payment plans.

How Often Can I Expect to Meet with My Therapist?


Sessions with your therapist and other members of your treatment team will typically happen more frequently in the beginning of your treatment, usually a few times a week. Then, as recovery progresses, you can expect to meet less, depending on the level of support you need. This will be an ongoing discussion between you and your team.

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