Opiod Use Disorder

Opioids are natural psychoactive substances extracted from the opium poppy plant. When you take this substance, other than for medicinal purposes, and without a doctor’s prescription, you are effectively abusing it. Whether you take opioids for medicinal purposes or solely for recreation, if your use begins to affect your health, along with other aspects of your life and those around you, it is known as opioid use disorder.

Opioid use disorder is generally characterised by a process of continual opioid use that causes significant harm or suffering to the user. It often involves a strong craving to use opioids, which will only serve to increase your tolerance to the substance, when this happens, addiction and dependence sets in, making it difficult for you to quit without professional help. Opioid dependence can manifest in the form of physical dependence, psychological dependence, or both.

Opioids include substances such as heroin, cocaine, morphine, and oxycodone. These substances can be obtained illegally, or prescribed for medical reasons by a doctor. When used for legitimate medical reasons, these substances can be effective in managing chronic and acute pain. You have opioid use disorder when you constantly feel the urge to seek out and consume any of these substances, as well as when you feel the need to take more than intended, despite the health, social, and professional complications that may arise as a result of these behaviours. Opioids interact with the receptors associated with pain and pleasure, which are located in the brain. When you take any opioid substance, you will experience a feeling of euphoria, elevated mood, and a lessening of pain. However, because these receptors are located in the area of the brain that also controls automatic function, such as heartbeat and respiration, taking more than intended, it can not only be dangerous, but potentially fatal.

Once you become dependent on, or addicted to, opioids, it can be quite difficult to stop unless you seek professional help. Fortunately, professional help is available at different centres all over the UK, with effective addiction treatment programmes available to help you put a stop to your dependence on these substances, and live a normal, healthy life.

Signs and symptoms of Opioid Use Disorder

There are several signs and symptoms that can show if you, or someone you know, has opioid use disorder. These symptoms can be divided into four categories, which are:

Behavioural symptoms:

  • Visiting different doctors in an attempt to get multiple prescriptions for opioid-based medications
  • Borrowing or stealing medication and forging prescriptions
  • Continuing to take prescription drugs even when their purpose has ended
  • Consuming opioid-related substances even when it is obviously dangerous to do so
  • Continuing to use these substances even after they have led to negative consequences in the past
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Physical symptoms:

There are also a series of physical symptoms associated with opioid use disorder. Even though some of them are similar to the symptoms of non-drug related diseases, if you normally consume opioid-related substances, and discover that you have any or all of these physical symptoms, then chances are you have a problem. These physical symptoms include:

  • Itchiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Cold or hot flashes
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Insomnia
  • Respiratory and heart problems

Cognitive symptoms:

In addition to physical symptoms, opioid use disorder can cause a failure in cognitive function and this can result in:

  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of ability to concentrate or focus

Psychosocial symptoms:

If you constantly ingest opioid substances, you also stand the risk of suffering from anti-social and psychosocial complications such as:

  • Sudden and constant changes in mood
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Paranoia and anxiety

This list is in no way exhaustive. There are a lot of complications that can arise as a result of opioid use disorder, which could affect virtually every part of your life, from daily activities such as work and school, to family relationships and a decline in physical and mental health. Some of these symptoms can also be signs of withdrawal. This happens when you try to stop your use of opioid-related substances.

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Causes of Opioid Use Disorder

There is no one single cause for opioid use disorder, and studies suggest that a number of factors may be responsible. If you constantly ingest opioid substances, you probably started taking it for self medication or it was prescribed by a doctor to manage acute pain. It is also possible that your opioid use disorder began as a result of curiosity, and a need to try out new experiences. Regardless of the reason, misusing and becoming dependent on opioids could be influenced by a number of factors

some of which are genetically and environmentally inclined. For instance, studies suggest that people who are known to be impulsive (which is a hereditary trait) are more likely to misuse drugs and abuse illegal substances. Environmental factors, such as access to opioid drugs and proximity to other users, have been cited as other possible reasons for opioid use disorder. However, whatever the reason behind your opioid use disorder, it is important to note that the negative repercussions are far higher than the supposed benefits.

Addiction and Dependence

When you realise that you cannot cope without opioid-related substances, despite the obvious negative implications, and when you suffer from withdrawal even when you try to stop, this shows that you have entered the stages of addiction. When you are addicted to opioid-related substances, you have persistent cravings to consume more and more, no matter how hard you try to stop. If you have gotten to this stage, it is impossible to stop on your own. You must get professional help if you want to avoid further complications.

Dependence, on the other hand, is when you can only function properly when you take these opioid substances. For example, if you had a painful accident, and the doctor recommended morphine to help you manage the pain, you will have become dependent on the morphine if you cannot function properly without taking your usual dose, regardless of whether the pain has stopped or not. Opioid use dependence is a cause for concern, as it can make you less productive at work or school, and can also affect your social and economic life.

Prevention and Management

Doctors are constantly being advised to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions written for patients in an effort to reduce the prevalence of opioid use disorder in society. This issue has resulted in several health complications, and even death. So, GPs are advised to be cautious in how they prescribe these drugs for treatment.

Opioid use disorder typically requires long-term professional treatment and care. A professional treatment programme is geared towards helping you reduce, and eventually stop completely, the consumption of opioid-related substances. Because people’s bodily systems differ, there are multiple strategies involved in the process that will help reduce your drug use and eventually lead to abstinence. Additional methods include opioid replacement therapy, which involves replacing an opioid with a less harmful substance. This replacement will also be reduced over time.

Like every other form of drug abuse, opioid use disorder is a complex condition that requires adequate medical attention, proper counselling, and long-term support to prevent relapse. Opioid use disorder is a harmful and potentially fatal condition that should be dealt with as quick as possible. If you, or anyone you know, is in this condition, it may be difficult to stop without help. Fortunately, there are many programmes and care centres available in the UK that can help you, or your loved one, in this situation.

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