The American opioid crisis continues to claim more than 115 lives every day to overdose, and it touches countless others. Opana addiction results in a high risk of opioid overdose.
Opana addiction, like any other addiction, almost always requires professional help to overcome. The National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that willpower and good intentions are not enough to stop using drugs or alcohol in the long-term.1 That’s because addiction is a complex disease of the brain, and like most other chronic diseases, remission requires changing thought and behavior patterns and developing a healthy lifestyle that supports recovery.
If you or someone you love is addicted to Opana, understanding opioid use disorders and how they’re treated can help you make the choice to get the help you need to recover for the long-term.
What is Opana?
Opana is the brand name of an opioid painkiller known as oxymorphone, which is used to treat moderate to severe pain. The extended-release form of Opana treats pain around-the-clock. However, Opana is abused when the pill is crushed and snorted or injected, resulting in the full dose being released into the body all at once rather than over the course of many hours. This practice makes Opana ER a particularly dangerous drug that can produce an overdose very easily.
Opana, like all opioids, has a high risk of abuse, addiction and dependence.
Opioid Use Disorders: The Difference Between Abuse, Addiction and Dependence
Although they’re diagnosed as one disorder under the umbrella of “opioid use disorder,” abuse, addiction and dependence are not the same thing. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they differ in key ways.
Opana abuse is the act of using Opana in a way that causes problems in your life. Any non-medical use of Opana is considered abuse, as is using Opana in any way other than exactly as prescribed by a physician. Whether you abuse Opana to get high or to treat your pain, Opana abuse can lead to addiction and dependence.
Opana addiction is characterized by being unable to stop using Opana even though it’s causing major problems in your life. You may want or try to quit, but if addiction has occurred, this can be very challenging. No amount of willpower seems to work, and good intentions never come to fruition.
Addiction occurs due to brain changes that result from heavy substance abuse. These changes occur in the memory, learning, and reward centers of the brain, which begin to communicate in a way that equates liking Opana with wanting it. Intense cravings result, and the abuse becomes compulsive. Cravings can be triggered by people, places, things and emotions. They can be so powerful that it’s impossible to think of anything other than taking more.
Whether or not abuse transitions to addiction depends on a number of factors, including genes, environment, culture, personality and biology. Some factors may increase your risk of Opana addiction, including pain, chronic stress, trauma, co-occurring mental illnesses and family dysfunction.
Opana, like all opioids, produces tolerance very quickly. Tolerance is an indication that you’re developing a dependence on Opana. Dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that occur when you stop using cold-turkey.
Dependence, like addiction, results from brain changes that occur with heavy drug abuse. All psychoactive drugs produce a rush of dopamine, a neurotransmitter -or brain chemical -that produces intense feelings of pleasure and plays an important role in learning and motivation. Other brain chemicals may also be affected, such as serotonin and norepinephrine.
When Opana is used heavily, the brain changes its chemical function in order to compensate for the presence of the drug. For example, it will reduce dopamine production or reduce the number of dopamine receptors in the brain as well as change the function of other affected neurotransmitters. As a result of this compensation, it takes increasingly larger doses of Opana to produce the desired effects.
The more used, the more the brain changes its chemical function in an attempt to maintain normal function, and this cycle continues until the brain reaches a tipping point wherein it now operates more comfortably when the drug is present. Then, when use is stopped, normal neurotransmitter function rebounds, and this drastic change in brain chemical levels causes withdrawal symptoms, including cold sweats, muscle aches, nausea and abdominal cramps.
How Opioid Use Disorders Are Diagnosed
In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, opioid abuse, addiction and dependence became diagnosable under the general heading of an opioid use disorder. Diagnosis is based on eleven criteria. Meeting two to three criteria indicates a mild opioid use disorder. Meeting four to five criteria denotes a moderate disorder, and if you meet six or more, your disorder is considered severe. The first nine criteria are all about addiction, while the last two concern dependence. The criteria are:
- Using for longer periods or in larger amounts than you intended.
- Wanting to cut down or quit, but finding that you can’t.
- Spending excessive amounts of time seeking, using, and recovering from using Opana.
- Experiencing intense cravings that make it hard to focus on anything else.
- Continuing to use even though it’s causing problems at work, home, or school due to a failure to meet responsibilities and obligations.
- Continuing to use even though it’s causing major problems in your relationships.
- Abandoning activities and hobbies you used to enjoy in favor of using.
- Engaging in high-risk situations, such as operating a vehicle, while under the influence.
- Experiencing worsened symptoms of mental illness, such as anxiety or depression, or the onset of symptoms that didn’t previously exist.
- Needing increasingly larger doses of Opana to get the desired effects.
- Experiencing the onset of withdrawal symptoms when you stop using Opana.
Whether an opioid use disorder is mild, moderate or severe, a high-quality treatment program can help you end the abuse, addiction and dependence once and for all.
How Opana Dependence is Treated
Opana dependence can be treated in a couple of different ways. Detox involves allowing all traces of opioids to leave your body so that brain function can begin to return to normal. Medication-assisted treatment involves taking a medication that prevents withdrawal, reduces cravings and helps to normalize brain function. Which method you choose will depend on several factors, including your personal preference.
Medical detox is the first step of treatment for an opioid use disorder. During medical detox, the detox process is supervised by medical and mental health professionals who may administer medication as needed to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and shorten the time it takes to detox. Detox can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on factors like:
- How much Opana is in your system at the time of detox
- Whether you took extended-release Opana ER
- The length and severity of your dependence
- Your age
- Your biology
- Your general state of physical and mental health
During medical detox, a variety of counseling sessions and assessments guide the process of developing an individualized treatment plan to address the addiction once detox is complete.
Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is considered the gold-standard for treating opioid dependence and addiction, and it has several benefits for recovery. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, medication-assisted treatment:2
- Increases engagement in treatment
- Improves social functioning
- Reduces overdose risk
- Reduces relapse risk
- Reduces illegal opioid abuse
- Reduces HIV and hepatitis C infections
- Improves the chances of finding and maintaining employment
- Improves birth outcomes for pregnant women who are addicted to opioids
The medications used with medication-assisted treatment prevent cravings and improve the ability to focus on recovery. But medication is only one component of MAT. The other component is counseling, which is central to long-term successful recovery.
Three medications can be used for medication-assisted treatment:
Methadone is a synthetic opioid with effects that are weaker and more gradual than those of other opioids. Because it has a high potential for abuse, methadone is only available as a daily dose through a licensed clinic. Methadone blocks withdrawal and reduces cravings.
Buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic partial opioid agonist, which means that while it has the same effects as a full agonist like heroin, the effects are far weaker. Buprenorphine has a ceiling effect, so unlike methadone, taking more of it won’t increase its effects. Since it has a lower abuse potential than methadone, buprenorphine is available as a take-home prescription. Buprenorphine blocks cravings, prevents withdrawal, and helps to normalize brain function.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist, which means that it hooks up to opioid receptors and blocks the effects of any other opioids taken. While methadone and buprenorphine can be taken as soon as you stop using Opana, naltrexone therapy can’t start until all traces of opioids are out of your system, which means that medical detox must be completed before starting on it. Naltrexone reduces cravings and blocks the effects of opioids. It can be taken daily as a pill or as a monthly injection.
The medication component of medication-assisted treatment can be taken for as long as it’s needed. Some people will be on medication for a few months, while others may take it for a few years. Others may take it for the rest of their lives.
How Opana Addiction is Treated
Once detox is complete or medication-assisted treatment has begun, treating the Opana addition becomes the major focus of treatment. Addiction is far more complex than dependence. It almost always has underlying causes that led to the substance abuse in the first place, and the addiction itself causes many problems in life. Addiction also changes thought and behavior patterns and leads to dysfunctional ways of thinking and behaving, which further perpetuate the addiction. All these issues must be addressed in treatment for the best possible outcomes.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stresses that because there is no single pathway to recovery that works for every person, a treatment program should take a holistic approach to treatment.3 This approach involves treating issues of body, mind and spirit using a variety of both traditional and complementary therapies.
Traditional therapies are those proven to effectively treat addiction and include cognitive and behavioral therapies, psychoeducational classes, family therapy and the use of medications. Complementary therapies are those that are shown to treat addiction when they’re used along with traditional therapies. Complementary therapies include art or music therapy, massage therapy, yoga and mindfulness meditation.
Through a variety of therapies, people in treatment:
- Identify and replace harmful patterns of thought and behavior
- Develop coping skills for stress, negative emotions, cravings and other triggers
- Address the underlying causes of the addiction, which may include chronic stress, a history of trauma or a co-occurring mental illness
- Repair damaged relationships and address damage done by the addiction to other areas of life
- Identify skills, strengths and values and find purpose and meaning in a life of recovery
- Learn to relax and have fun without Opana
- Develop an overall healthy lifestyle that supports recovery
The overarching goal of treatment is to arm you with the knowledge, tools, skills and strategies you need to create an ideal life for yourself that removes the need or desire to abuse drugs. Through treatment, many people find authentic happiness and joy in a life of abstinence.
Treatment is Essential for Successful Long-Term Recovery from Opana Misuse
Treatment helps many people overcome even a severe opioid addiction, and it can help you or someone you love to end addiction, too. Treatment helps resolve a variety of issues, develop a healthy, enjoyable lifestyle and learn to think and behave in ways that honor intrinsic values and draw on strengths and talents. Most people who engage with treatment for an adequate period of time- the National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that anything less than 90 days has limited effectiveness -recover for the long-term.4
Recovery from an Opana addiction is a lifelong process, and it starts with treatment. If you have an addiction to Opana or other opioids, treatment can help you end the drug abuse once and for all and restore your quality of life and sense of well-being for the long-haul.