Opioid Addiction and Dependence: A Crisis in America

opioid addiction in America

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have managed to completely avoid the news for the last decade-plus (which honestly seems like a great idea at times), you’re painfully aware of the ongoing opioid crisis that’s been ravaging America.

Data from 2018 showed that 128 people died every day from opioid overdoses.

While there seems to be some semblance of light at the end of the tunnel with overdose deaths declining a touch recently, there’s still a long way to go. The number of drug overdoses deaths was still 4 times higher in 2018 than 1999, with ~70% of those involving an opioid of some kind.

Pretty brutal stats for a class of drugs that can genuinely do some good for the people that truly need it.

What Are Opioids?

As per the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others”.

As you’ll no doubt note, those brands are extremely familiar. Add to that Percocet and Lortab and the picture gets a little clearer on how widespread these drugs are. Principally they’re prescribed for relief of moderate pain. For severe pain, like advanced cancers, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are prescribed which are 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The power of these drugs is off the charts.

Doctors largely have our best interests in mind and there’s inherently well-deserved trust in the relationship but the scope of what opioids are prescribed for has expanded over the years and put more and more people at risk for falling into addiction. In 2017 alone, more than 191 million opioid prescriptions were filled. Overprescription and marketing of opioids have certainly played a sizable role in this ongoing crisis.

Other opioids, like Methadone, are used in the treatment of opioid addiction and themselves are inherently risky.

The last of the opioids worth mentioning is one that’s just entirely illegal: heroin. An absolute wrecking ball of a drug, heroin can be smoked and snorted but is most typically injected. There were 5 times more deaths from heroin in 2018 than there were in 2010.

Why Are Opioids Addictive?

Regardless of whether you’re taking a prescription or the illegal variety, opioid addiction and dependence principally stem from the same thing. They all act similarly in producing feelings of euphoria in addition to blocking pain to achieve the desired painkilling effect. It’s that euphoria from the release of endorphins that triggers the reward centers of your brain and gets the ball of addiction rolling.

Due to the strength of these drugs, even a short stint on opioids can activate that mechanism in the mind and have you chasing those euphoric sensations with larger and larger doses.

How to Get Help With an Opioid Addiction and Dependence

The process begins with an internal recognition that you’re ready to take your life back. Arguably the toughest thing to tackle before starting down the road of recovery is the detox. Depending on how long you’ve been hooked on opioids you’ll have built a strong dependence on the drugs to feel “normal”, therefore getting them out of your system can create some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

After detox, inpatient addiction treatment is a great way to address why you started using opioids in the first place. During this time, you’ll learn techniques and coping mechanisms for long term sobriety. 

Getting help with opioid addiction is genuinely a phone call away, so when you’re ready, reach out to us at Star Recovery Center and we’ll take you through the next steps.

A Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness in Sobriety

mindfulness and addiction recovery
The stress of substance abuse on the mind is a real challenge to cope with. It’s why treatment only starts when detox ends because the physical addiction is only a piece of the puzzle when working towards lasting sobriety. More importantly, it’s the reason they say recovery is a journey and not a destination. Chemical dependency changes the very wiring of our brains and healing the mind is an ongoing process. Meditation and mindfulness are tools that help us develop awareness and clarity towards that end and they serve to assist in repairing the mental damage done by substance abuse. Sobriety is about taking one step at a time and mediation and mindfulness break it down further to focusing on one breath.

What Is Meditation and Mindfulness?

Sitting still and chanting ommmm. That’s stereotypically the first thing that might come to mind at the mention of mediation. But for real, what is mediation? The easiest thing is to consult the dictionary which tells us that it means to “think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation”. Mindfulness expounds on the idea of meditation and takes it further, Mayo Clinic defines it as, “a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress”. The draw to both in the context of maintaining lasting sobriety is clear: if you can train yourself to be aware and in the moment the benefits can be revelatory.

How Does Meditation and Mindfulness Help in Sobriety?

While both are considered alternative therapies to the traditional course of action for treating substance abuse, getting into the habit of practicing meditation and mindfulness can feel like a godsend in terms of the positives it shines on your life. Both during treatment and for the long run after. The benefits to sobriety and your general health and wellbeing include: Better Self Awareness – The more you meditate the more you’ll come to understand your thoughts and emotions better and eventually you’ll simply have a better grasp of yourself as a whole. The more in tune with yourself that you are, the more easily you can recognize when something is amiss and catch issues before they become too big to handle. Through that, you’ll ultimately be able to make better decisions for you. Improve Self Esteem – As you come to know yourself better and develop a way to work through and manage negative thoughts meaningfully, your positivity increases. Additionally, when you know you’re in control of your thoughts and the meaning you ascribe to them, it’s easier to find the positives. Reduce Stress – Logically, taking time to relax and focus on your breathing will reduce stress. Being squarely in the moment is a means to overcome and control anxiety. As you continue to practice meditation it can make dealing with stressors in the future feel manageable. Additionally, lower stress levels can help your immune system function better. Manage Anxiety/Depression – Depression and anxiety can be sparked by a lot of things, but stress is a big one. With mindfulness and meditation, you’re able to calmly get yourself through those bouts without dipping into anxiety or depression. Better Focus – As you hone your skill in meditation a natural byproduct is that your focus will greatly improve.

Practice Meditation and Mindfulness at Star Recovery Center

At Star Recovery Center in Anaheim, CA we believe strongly in the living in the moment ourselves. We’ve seen the transformative power for ourselves in the clients that go through treatment with us. If it’s something that’s piqued your interest, reach out to us and we’ll happily walk you through what meditation and mindfulness look like at Star Recovery Center.