Healthy Lifestyle

Opioid Addiction: Misconceptions, Challenges and the Path to Recovery

When discussing opioid abuse, it’s important to recognize that prescription pain medication has a beneficial purpose. Opioid medications block the pain receptors in the brain, helping a person feel comfortable while recovering from an accident, injury, surgery, cancer, etc.

Common names of opioids

Most people are familiar with OxyContin or Percocet, but here are some other common names of opioids: 

  • Codeine
  • Morphine 
  • Hydrocodone        
  • Vicodin     
  • Fentanyl
  • Dilaudid    
  • Demerol   
  • Methadone          
  • Heroin (an illegal opioid) 

What opioid abuse looks like

The concern comes when:

  • The use increases rather than decreases over time.
  • There is long-term use, which can cause psychological or physical dependence.
  • You don’t feel ‘normal’ when you don’t take it, much like a coffee drinker may not feel ‘normal’ until having coffee in the morning.
  • Someone else’s prescription medication is used (which is illegal).
  • The medication is used to feel “high” or to “escape.”
  • You take more of a prescription than prescribed.
  • There is doctor shopping – going to different doctors to fill a prescription for pain medication.
  • Pain medication is mixed with other medications and/or alcohol.
  • Friends, family members or co-workers notice a change in your behavior.
  • You want to stop taking it but continue to use because of withdrawal symptoms or other reasons.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on average, 115 people die, each day, from opioid overdoses. The majority of individuals who struggle with opioid addiction were originally prescribed the medication by doctors.

Where to turn for help

Many physicians do a great job referring patients with chronic pain to various pain management clinics for long-term care.

If you or someone you know might be struggling with addiction:

  • Be honest with yourself.
  • Make an appointment with a therapist who specializes in alcohol- or substance-use disorders.
  • An evaluation will likely be conducted and a level of care will be recommended.
  • Follow the recommendations.
  • Attend self-help groups (AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery, SMART Recovery, etc.). 
  • Talk to someone who will be supportive, honest and encouraging.
  • Take care of YOU – without self-care you cannot care for others to the best of your ability.

If you’re unsure whether you have a problem, contact your company’s EAP service. A licensed therapist can meet with you and provide resources.

What needs to change?

As a community, we can continue to work on the stigma associated with substance abuse and offer support and guidance. Just because someone is struggling doesn’t mean he or she is a “bad” person. Many people don’t seek help for fear of being judged or rejected. 

Keep in mind that there are plenty of “functioning users.” They work, pay bills and spend time with friends and family, but inside, they’re fighting a battle no one knows about.