What You Should Know About Opioid Dependence and How to Beat It

Substance use disorders, particularly opioid dependence, can have devastating effects on your mental, emotional, physical, and financial well-being.
While prescription opioid pain medications are commonly prescribed after surgery and for various painful conditions, opioids are extremely habit-forming. Prescription use can lead to opioid dependence and ultimately drive people to use illicit opioids, such as heroin, too.
In 2021, around 60 million people worldwide used opioids in either prescription or illicit forms. While not everyone will go on to develop a substance use disorder, those who do then have immeasurable difficulty stopping their use.
Challenges such as withdrawal symptoms and cravings make it nearly impossible to stop using these drugs without professional assistance, and even with professional care, recovery can be laborious and time-consuming.
Psychiatric nurse practitioner Judy Vansiea, DNP, MA, MS, APRN, NPP, compassionately treats opioid dependence and addiction at Coping Nurse Practitioner in Psychiatry Services, based in Uniondale, New York.
With telehealth services available, you or your loved one receives unwavering support during your recovery. Understanding the disorder is a valuable step toward overcoming your condition and restoring your quality of life.

Understanding your disorder

Substance use disorders aren’t some behavioral concern you can consciously stop at any time.
You’re not a bad or weak person if you experience opioid dependence; the structure of your brain has physically and chemically been altered by using these medications.
The neurobiological basis of opioid dependence is quite complex, but it helps explain why you have such a hard time avoiding opioids once you’ve used them for a while.
Part of what makes the effects of opioids so powerful in your brain is the associated release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical that causes you to feel pleasurable and satisfied. Feeling that surge of happiness and stress relief activates your brain’s reward center and keeps you coming back for more.
When you’re not using opioids, the lack of dopamine and its associated feelings seems stronger, which ultimately causes drug cravings and automatic habits.
Oftentimes, environmental factors attract you to opioids or cause you to continue using them after having a prescription. These include factors such as your:

  • Upbringing
  • Mental health
  • Genetic predispositions
  • Personality

Similarly, you may also notice particular triggers that activate or intensify your opioid cravings. These include depressive episodes and major life changes and challenges.
During your initial consultation for substance use disorder treatment, Dr. Vansiea explores every aspect of your disorder so she can recommend an effective course of treatment.

Treating opioid addiction: Overcoming withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms are one of the greatest challenges of recovery. They develop when you stop using opioids and can cause great discomfort and distress, and they result from measurable changes in your brain cells and chemicals.
These are just a few examples:

  • Jitters
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Painful muscle cramps

A major part of opioid use disorder treatment is minimizing these symptoms.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) using medications like buprenorphine and methadone blunts withdrawal symptoms because these medications bind to the same opioid receptors in your brain as opioids themselves.
These medications also reduce cravings so you don’t feel driven to use your substance of choice. Some also block feelings of euphoria when you use opioids.
If Dr. Vansiea decides to prescribe MAT, she supervises you closely and often recommends psychotherapy or counseling alongside treatment. This results in a whole-patient treatment approach, which is typically more effective for recovery than one single treatment at a time.
To find out more about opioid dependence, addiction, and compassionate treatment, call Coping Nurse Practitioner in Psychiatry Services or book a consultation online today.

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