Do you know the difference between substance use disorder, addiction, and dependence? Substance use disorder is now the common term used in the industry to refer to addiction. In contrast, drug dependence is a moderate condition of inclination to misuse a substance.
In the U.S., there is a rising incidence of drug overdose, around a 30% increase from 2019 to 2020. This is one of the leading causes of death among teens and middle-aged Americans, and narcotics is one of the commonly abused substances.
Let’s look further into opioid use disorder (OUD) and the important areas around it.
Drug Dependence vs Addiction
There is a thin line between drug dependence and addiction since the former happens first before the latter. Drug dependence usually happens when you have taken the substance for a longer time, and you feel withdrawal symptoms upon stopping your intake.
Here are some of the common withdrawal signs:
- Uncontrolled tremors
- Depression and anxiety
- Loss of enthusiasm
- Sweating and chills
Once you are dependent on narcotics, there is a higher chance that you will develop OUD. To prevent that from happening, you need to gradually taper off from medication and consult your doctor about it.
How Serious is Narcotic Addiction in the U.S?
There are around 50,000 Americans who died from narcotic abuse in 2019, and this includes the misuse of natural and synthetic drugs and painkillers. From these numbers, it incurred an annual government expense of $78.50 billion.
In 2017, 47,000 people in the U.S. died due to overdosing with these substances, whether natural or synthetic. Also, some traces of fentanyl was found in some of the patient’s dead bodies. Fentanyl is a strong illicit narcotic that is distributed in the black market and streets.
Besides, narcotic abuse also led to other health consequences like the spread of HIV, hepatitis, and health problems of unborn babies. Government agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are putting great efforts into these five main areas to combat substance use disorder:
- Better pain management
- Funding research to solve addiction and improve pain alleviation methods
- Easier access to health and rehab treatment services
- Promoting awareness for the health consequences of drug abuse
- Enhancing public health watch for people abusing substances
What are the Causes of OUD
The main start for developing OUD is when you overdose on the drug. The moment this happens, your body starts to gain tolerance, so you will need a higher dose to reach the same level on your next intake. Also, the euphoric feeling associated with narcotics is highly motivating for abuse.
These prescription medicines help block pain in your system while giving you a good feeling. Even when you follow your doctor’s prescription, tolerance will still happen, that’s why medication with this drug is limited.
Mental and Physical Dependence
A person is moved to abuse the drug due to certain triggers, like an event or emotion that motivates the misuse of the substance. Here are some common triggers for narcotic abuse:
- Death of a loved one
- Stomach pains
- Intense fear
- Increased anxiety
- Peer pressure
Once an individual develops a mental and physical dependence on narcotics, addiction is just around. When you can no longer control your urge for the drug, that’s a sign of substance use disorder.
What are the Common OUD Signs
There are clear symptoms that you or your loved one already has an OUD. If you are unsure of the signs you are seeing, better seek advice from a doctor. They have the experience and expertise of determining mental, behavioral, and physical signs of narcotic addiction. Here are common behaviors to observe for OUD:
- Inability to focus
- Quick shifts in mood
- Highly irritable
- Slower breathing
- Lack of motivation
How can you tell if you or your loved one has OUD?
It is challenging to definitely tell if you or any of your family members are abusing narcotics, especially at the start of their medication. Even when you see symptoms of dependence and possible abuse, you still need to carefully observe them. Once you have outlined and rechecked what you have observed, then that’s the time you can motivate yourself or your family member to consult with a doctor.
How likely are you or your loved one to have OUD?
The risk of addiction is higher for those individuals who are using narcotics without a prescription. This is so because of the uncontrolled consumption of the drug, which greatly increases the risk of an overdose and dependence, and then later addiction.
Also, other factors affect the chance of you or any of your family members having OUD. Here are some of the factors:
- Younger than 20 years
- Medical or family history of alcoholism or substance abuse
- Engaged in life-threatening activities
- Have undergone depression or anxiety disorder before
- Smoking habits
- Financial problems
When you notice that your loved one is on the brink of being addicted to narcotics, try talking to them, but never confront them directly. Let them slowly realize the consequence of this behavior and how far have they gone from their healthy self. Once you convince them about their condition and that they need help, that’s the time you bring them to a doctor for consultation and treatment.
Prognosis of OUD
The most critical times of a patient’s OUD treatment are the first four weeks and the four weeks after treatment. That’s the main reason why there must be 24-hour supervision of the patient for these critical times. Medical personnel can immediately help the patient with any severe discomfort or complication due to withdrawal symptoms.
When it comes to reducing the morbidity of treating OUD, the best antagonist to use is buprenorphine and methadone. These two substances are used in the replacement therapy for OUD, wherein they reduce treatment cost and morbidity.
Also, this treatment method reduces the risk for the patient to acquire hepatitis C by 50 percent. Overall, this is an efficient treatment method that is supported by the U.S. government and medical institutions.
It’s never easy to have an OUD, so it’s best if you can seek medical help as early as possible. By doing that, you are decreasing further damage to your health.