Living Well - WMHS Blog

Opioid Addiction Crisis Beds

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) states that opioids are a drug classification that can include both legal and illegal substances. Heroin is the most well-known illicit drug. However, most people who end up addicted to opioids originally obtain a legal drug such as oxycodone, morphine, or hydrocodone. The primary purpose of legal opioids is to control pain. The drug interacts with the opioid receptors located on the nerve cells of the nervous system and brain to produce a feeling of euphoria in addition to pain relief.

ASAM describes opioid addiction as a relapsing, primary and chronic disease of the brain that causes people to continually seek the reward of euphoric feelings. Some people addicted to opioids will move from one doctor to the next in an attempt to get a legitimate prescription for an opioid, while others will resort to stealing. The addiction can quickly spiral out of control, causing physical, emotional and financial damage as well as potential legal problems.

Opioid Addiction Has Reached Epidemic Proportions

As of March 2018, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that 115 people suffer a fatal opioid overdose every day in the United States. It quotes the Centers for Disease Control in listing the annual cost of opioid abuse and addiction at more than $78 billion dollars. This includes direct healthcare costs in addition to the involvement of the criminal justice system, lost productivity, and treatment to overcome opioid addiction. In 2016, opioid use accounted for two-thirds of all overdose deaths with 42,249 people dying from them.

Recognizing Opioid Addiction

Most opioid addictions start out as misuse before crossing over into the category of addiction. For example, a patient may take a higher dose than recommended to speed up the process of pain relief or purposely take it to feel high. It’s also common for people who have severe or chronic pain to take a drug prescribed to someone else hoping for relief. You will start to exhibit at least some of the following symptoms as your use becomes more frequent:

  • You feel an overwhelming desire to use the drug to the point where you can’t focus on anything else.
  • You start using opioids for longer than you planned to or taking more of the drug than you planned to take.
  • It becomes difficult or impossible to stop using the drug or reduce your use of it.
  • Other activities, such as social outings with friends or spending time with family, become less important compared to the high feeling you achieve from opioids.
  • You can’t stop using opioids even when you become aware they are causing you physical health problems, emotional distress, relationship issues, employment problems, financial difficulties, or legal problems.
  • You have used the drug at least once while driving or while engaging in another activity that could be highly dangerous.
  • When you try to stop, you have physical withdrawal problems.
  • It requires taking more of the drug to achieve the same effect.

According to Web MD, you have a mild case of opioid use disorder if you have two or three symptoms, a moderate case if you have four or five symptoms, or a severe case if you have six or more symptoms.

Starting Recovery from Opioid Addiction

It isn’t easy to stop taking opioids once you have become addicted to them, but it’s a necessary first step towards recovery. The more severe your addiction, the more difficulties you will experience when coming off opioids. Some of the most common withdrawal effects include:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Anxiety
  • Appetite loss
  • Confusion
  • Continuous runny nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Drug cravings
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Fatigue
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Salivation
  • Stuffed nose
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

Although not considered medically dangerous, the detox process can be highly unpleasant and it’s best to have close supervision as you complete it.

Western Maryland Health System Has Crisis Beds Available

Western Maryland Health System (WMHS) has two crisis beds available. Crisis beds are critical in keeping those seeking treatment on the right track as they wait for available resources. To learn more about our crisis beds, click here to view our video.