How to Recognize and Treat Opioid Addiction

(DGIwire) – Is a friend or family member abusing opioids? It may not be easy to tell, especially in the early stages of addiction. As the Mayo Clinic reports, studies suggest that up to one-third of people who take opioids for chronic pain abuse them and more than 10 percent become addicted over time. Here are some signs that can guide recognition of opioid abuse or addiction in patients receiving long-term opioid therapy and some basic steps for treatment.

Someone addicted to opioids may report lost or stolen medication, or call for early refills on their prescription, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). They may seek opioids from a variety of sources, and their doctors may notice withdrawal symptoms during appointments.

A person with an opioid addiction may also exhibit craving and preoccupation with use despite negative consequences. They may make recurring requests to their doctor for increases in opioids, NIDA reports. They may report increasing pain despite a lack of progression of the condition for which they are being treated, and they may express disdain for non-opioid pain treatments. Outward signs of opioid addiction can include oversedation or excessive sleepiness as well as a decrease in everyday activity as well as reduced functioning and impaired relationships.

“Those who are close to someone taking opioids for pain management should be aware of all the manifestations of addiction,” says Tony Mack, CEO of Virpax Pharmaceuticals and an expert on opioids and pain management with 25 years in the pharmaceutical industry. He has long been focused on innovations in a variety of areas of medicine—including the study of novel solutions for pain management that could provide a satisfactory level of care and that avoid the use of opioids.

With regard to treatment of opioid addiction, NIDA reports that a number of effective medications are available, including buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone. Medications, NIDA adds, should be combined with behavioral counseling for a “whole patient” approach, known as Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). Studies cited by NIDA indicate that MAT can be effective in decreasing opioid use and opioid-related overdose deaths, while increasing social functioning and the likelihood that an individual will remain in therapy.

“A tremendous amount of research is now being conducted to address the issues of opioid addition and pain management, and progress to date suggests that new solutions may one day improve the state of care,” Mack adds.