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Risk Factors for Opioid Use Disorder and Overdose

Opioids are a class of medication designed for pain management. They are a legitimate medical therapy doctors use with patients experiencing persistent chronic pain that doesn’t respond to other interventions. However, opioids are also associated with a high risk of misuse, addiction, and overdose resulting in death.

Certain people are more likely to develop opioid use disorder than others. Several risk factors influence the likelihood of misusing or overdosing on these drugs. Not everyone is at equal risk, and it’s crucial to understand your chances of developing opioid use disorder when deciding whether to take these medications.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drug that include prescription pain relievers, synthetic opioids, and heroin. They interact with the opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body to reduce pain.

Doctors use prescription opioids to treat acute and chronic pain, as well as in palliative care. Many people manage pain with opioids such as oxycodone, codeine, and morphine after surgery or injury.

Synthetic opioids include things like tramadol and fentanyl. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and popular within the illegal drug market.

What is Opioid Use Disorder?

Opioid use disorder is a life-long chronic disorder involving the ongoing use of opioids beyond the prescribed or intended length of time.

People with opioid use disorder depend on the positive reinforcement the chemicals give them and will continue to use them despite any negative consequences. They may also develop withdrawal if they stop using them.

Opioid use disorder can have dangerous consequences. It can interfere with a person’s life and negatively impact their health. If left untreated, it can even lead to death by overdose.

Symptoms of Opioid Use Disorder

The symptoms of opioid use disorder include:

  • Taking larger doses of the opioids than prescribed
  • Using opioids for a more extended period than intended
  • Craving opioids
  • Spending excessive time thinking about or obtaining opioids
  • Increased tolerance to opioids, often resulting in the use of larger amounts
  • Difficulty fulfilling obligations at work, home, or in social situations
  • Experiencing withdrawal or taking more opioids to avoid withdrawal

Over 16 million people in the world are opioid-dependent. Opioid use disorder results in 47,000 deaths per year in the U.S. alone. Opioids are a highly addictive class of drug that present a real threat to many people’s health.

If you are dealing with opioid use disorder, you’re not alone. It’s easy to feel shame surrounding an issue like this, but the truth is that it’s not your fault. If you’re experiencing symptoms of an opioid use disorder, reach out as soon as possible to get help.

Risk Factors for Opioid Use Disorder

Certain risk factors can make you more inclined to develop opioid use disorder. Knowing which ones you have is vital to understanding whether or not you should take opioids for pain management.

The primary risk factors that influence whether you’ll develop opioid use disorder include:

  • History of substance use – You are much more likely to develop opioid use disorder if you’ve had a history of substance use or are currently using substances such as alcohol or other drugs.
  • Age – Younger adults (ages 18-25) are at a higher risk of misuse. Older adults (65 years and up) are more sensitive to the effects of opioids, which may make them more vulnerable to overdose.
  • Gender – Men are at a higher risk of opioid use disorder.
  • Mental illness – A history or current presentation of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder may all increase your risk.
  • Medical conditions – Certain diseases or conditions can make you more sensitive to the effects of opioids, such as sleep apnea, asthma, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
  • Other medications – Some medications may interact with opioids in a way that can be dangerous. They may cause side effects or decrease your awareness. Medicines that interact negatively with opioids include benzodiazepines, muscle relaxants, and antipsychotics.

While these risk factors can make you more vulnerable to opioid use disorder, anyone can be affected. You may have none of these risk factors and still develop it.

The dose, length of time, and type of opioids your doctor prescribes may also have an effect. Higher doses and longer prescriptions can make you more likely to develop the disorder. Extended-release and long-acting opioid formulas also have more significant risks of overdose and death.

You should always discuss with your doctor whether opioids are an appropriate medical therapy for you. They will help you assess your risk factors and what treatment plan makes the most sense in your situation.

Recovering from Opioid Use Disorder

Recovery from opioid use disorder is possible, though you can’t do it alone. You will need a support team of medical and mental health professionals and your loved ones to help you through the process.

Treatment generally involves a multi-pronged approach that includes cognitive-behavioral and medical components. One of the most effective plans is called medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT uses medication that may affect your brain chemistry and counseling or behavioral therapy.

Medication-Based Treatment

The three FDA-approved medications used in MAT are methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. They may reduce withdrawal symptoms, prevent cravings, and block the euphoric effects of opioids.

These medications don’t cause a high or substitute one addiction for another. They modify your brain chemistry to help you break the cycle of opioid use disorder.

Mental Health-Based Treatment

MAT is most effective when cognitive-behavioral components accompany it. The level of treatment needed depends on the individual. Possible approaches to this aspect of treatment include:

  • Outpatient counseling
  • Inpatient treatment
  • Long-term therapeutic communities
  • Support groups
  • Recovery support services

Only 1 in 4 people with opioid use disorder receive the treatment they need. If you’re struggling with this issue, don’t hesitate to reach out and start your healing journey today.

Starting Your Healing Journey

Like any other substance use disorder, recovery from opioid use can take time. Connecting with resources and professionals who can help you through your journey is essential.

You have options for what path to recovery you choose to take. You may wish to enter into an in-house treatment program, or live at home and receive a combination of medication and outpatient therapy sessions.

There’s no one right or wrong way to approach recovery. Here at Jackson House, we understand that you are a unique individual with specific needs and life circumstances. We can determine the right treatment plan for you. Contact us today to take your first step on the road to recovery.

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