Three million Americans and 16 million people worldwide suffer from opioid use disorder, a chronic disease that has devastating health, social, and economic consequences.
In both 2017 and 2018, drug overdoses – including prescription opioids – claimed the lives of more than 70,000 Americans, a two-fold increase in a decade (140,000 lives combined). In 2019, these deaths reached a record high of 71,000. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (similar compounds), have seen the sharpest increase in overdoses.
If you or a loved one are struggling more than ever right now with opioid abuse, you are not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it’s had on mental and economic health, along with the widespread uncertainty it’s created, have exacerbated this epidemic. As of August 2020, more than 40 states in the U.S. reported an increase in opioid-related deaths, in addition to other mental health and substance abuse issues.
If you’re unsure how to seek support or treatment during COVID-19 – or perhaps you’re unsure of whether you do, in fact, have an opioid addiction to begin with – we’re here to help.
In this blog post, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions around opioid abuse disorder, and provide our advice on how to seek treatment and recovery during COVID-19. It’s important to note that, despite the pandemic, rehab and recovery centers are open and remain committed to supporting individuals struggling with addiction. There are also many digital solutions available, depending on the extent of your addiction and where you are in your recovery journey. For immediate assistance in the North Carolina area, you can reach Crest View Recovery Center 24/7 and we’ll work with you to determine the best path forward.
What are opioids?
Opioids are a specific category of drugs designed to reduce pain. Many people often use the terms “opiate” and “opioid” interchangeably – and they do in fact have the same effect on the body – but the key difference is that opioids are synthetic (chemically made in a lab), while opiates are produced naturally from the opium poppy plant.
Opioids include the illegal drug heroin, as well as fentanyl, and prescribed medications including oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.
There are several ways that opioids are taken (i.e. orally, nasally, intravenously, intramuscularly, among others), depending on the specific painkiller, the dose you are prescribed, and your unique circumstances. Stronger pain drugs, like morphine and fentanyl, should be administered only under medical supervision.
What is opioid use disorder?
The Providers Clinical Support System defines opioid abuse disorder – also more simply known as opioid addiction – as “a problematic pattern of opioid use that leads to serious impairment or distress.” Opioids alter your brain to create artificial endorphins that block pain and result in a euphoric, tranquil effect when consumed in excess (i.e. more than the prescribed dose). When taken regularly, an individual can develop an intense desire for and reliance on that “carefree” feeling. This can lead to tolerance and the need for higher doses, which then results in patterns of abuse and eventually addiction.
How do I determine if I – or someone I know – has an opioid addiction?
Compulsive drug-seeking behavior like theft, lying to get money, or seeing multiple doctors for prescriptions are strong indicators of addiction. Additionally, if you or someone you know resorts to heroin – which is easy to access and cheaper – this is a possible sign of addiction.
Withdrawal symptoms are another indicator. These symptoms range from mild to severe, depending on how long an individual has been regularly consuming the drug. Some common withdrawal symptoms include hypertension, high fever, nausea, chills, and depression, among many, many others.
What happens during an opioid overdose? What should I do if someone I know has overdosed?
Based on our experience as well as guidance from the CDC, signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose include:
- Pinpoint (small) pupils
- Respiratory suppression
- Loss of consciousness
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Limp body
- Pale, blue, or cold skin
We recently dedicated an entire blog post to drug overdose and how to recognize, prevent, and treat it. Regardless of whether you or a loved one have an addiction, we encourage all people to educate themselves and be prepared for such a scenario.
Can I recover from opioid use disorder by myself during COVID-19?
In the midst of today’s global pandemic, it’s likely that if you (or a loved one) are suffering from an opioid addiction, you may feel more isolated and alone than ever. We recognize that in the midst of a global pandemic, drug addiction treatment can seem daunting, if not impossible. You may convince yourself that, in an effort to keep yourself safe from the virus, you should attempt opioid addiction recovery on your own. Addiction, however, harnesses these feelings of isolation and anxiety, uses them as fuel, and ultimately gets worse. Addiction feeds on isolation. Knowing this, here at Crest View, our passion for helping individuals with addiction navigate recovery during this unprecedented time has only grown stronger.
Rehabs and recovery centers have strict precautions in place during COVID-19 and, at Crest View in particular, we’ve seen great success with patients who have sought treatment under our roof during the pandemic. We also know that there have been tragic outcomes for some individuals who have chosen not to seek treatment during COVID-19.
If you have a severe opioid addiction, we highly encourage you to explore inpatient treatment options in your area. If your addiction is mild to moderate and you and someone you trust – whether it be a friend, a family member, or a doctor – agree that inpatient treatment may not be necessary, there are outpatient options available to you (more on treatment options below).
What does treatment look like for opioid use disorder? Has treatment changed during COVID-19?
Depending on the extent of your or your loved one’s addiction, there are a variety of treatment options. Rehabs and recovery centers have continued to safely utilize both inpatient and outpatient programs during COVID-19, and have strict precautions in place. You can find out more from individual rehabs or treatment centers as to how they have modified their approaches in light of COVID-19.
Inpatient treatment requires an individual to stay in a hospital or treatment facility for an extended period and is considered the proper treatment for someone with a severe, long-term addiction and involves a comprehensive approach that consists of three stages.
- Hospital detox allows the individual to have a professional medical professional watch over and assist during the first 3 to 7 days, which are typically the most uncomfortable and physically challenging days.
- Residential addiction treatment allows the individual to stay at the addiction treatment facility for 24/7 hands-on care during the crucial first 2 to 6 weeks of recovery.
- Aftercare treatment is similar to a long-term outpatient treatment (detailed below), which will still require therapy regularly, support groups, and medication.
Outpatient treatment involves programs that do not require a hospital visit, and is recommended for those who may not go through extreme withdrawal and do not need 24/7 intensive care and monitoring. Individuals under the following circumstances often opt for – and find great success – in outpatient programs:
- Work-related reasons. You may be unable to leave a job due to owning a business, having no financial help without, or having family members who depend on your outcome. For individuals with severe addiction, inpatient treatment should still be a top priority, even if your job is at stake. However, some aren’t able to do that, so it’s understandable to choose outpatient therapy. (We recently wrote a blog about how there are still professional opportunities to seek after rehab. Don’t let work deter you from getting the help you need. Check out the blog post for our advice here).
- Mild to moderate addiction. With a mild to moderate addiction to prescription painkillers such as opioids, outpatient treatment may be enough to quit. This is where you must be in tune with yourself and know your level of cravings and your ability to stay on the path of sobriety.
- A strong support network of friends and family. This level of support may help an addict recover just as effectively in their home as they would in a treatment center. This usually precedes success if there is a supportive family at the household, and the friends and family surrounded by you are educated about addiction and treatment methods.
- No prior history of addiction. Individuals who have never experienced any dependence on drugs or alcohol may not characterize themselves as having a “true addiction.” However, they have recognized they’ve slipped into addictive habits and behavior. Outpatient treatments may work for these individuals, who do not have a genetic or psychological addiction history.
Intensive outpatient treatment is more time-intensive than a normal outpatient program. These programs usually will be 3 to 5 days per week, 6 to 30 hours per week, and last about 90 days. The goals of intensive outpatient programs include:
- Remaining abstinent
- Progressive behavioral chance
- Support system participation
- Responsibility to maintain a positive living environment, maintaining employment, and prompt to probation meetings.
- Improving decision-making skills
- Developing a strong support system
Are you ready to seek help? Or do you want to help a friend or family member in need?
At Crest View Recovery Center, we understand the urgent need for effective addiction treatment to combat the North Carolina opioid addiction statistics. Therefore, we take pride in providing the highest quality of holistic care in the state, and have a personalized approach for each individual. Some of our programs include:
- Painkiller addiction treatment
- Opioid addiction recovery
- Prescription drug abuse treatment
- Individual, group, and family therapy
Prescription drug addiction is reaching epidemic proportions in America today. At CVRC, we will be by your side throughout the process to ensure your safety and comfort in recovery. Our staff – many of whom are in recovery themselves – have the training and experience to help guide you through rehab treatment, into recovery, and toward a healthier and happier future.
Call us at (866) 986-1371 or submit a form here to get in touch. Even if we’re not the right fit for you, we want to help you find a treatment program that is.
Still feeling hesitant about rehab or a recovery program? Check out our latest blog here: Hesitant About Rehab or Getting Treatment During COVID-19? Here’s Our Advice
If you’ve already been in rehab or a recovery program, but are still struggling to remain sober during COVID-19 and trying to avoid relapse, we encourage you to check out our blog that explores this topic: Relapse Prevention Therapy & COVID-19: Understanding Addiction & Depression