Alarming reports of rising rates of people addicted to opioids are in the headlines on a weekly basis. But what are opioids — and how do you know if you or a loved one may be dependent on them?

Alarming reports of rising rates of people addicted to opioids are in the headlines on a weekly basis. But what are opioids—and how do you know if you or a loved one may be dependent on them?

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, opioids are a class of drugs that include illegal substances like heroin, but also include prescription pain relievers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl.

In other words, addiction to opioids doesn’t necessarily include scenes of furtive purchases of illegal drugs like you see in the movies or on TV.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that the total “economic burden” of just prescription opioid abuse in the U.S. is about $78.5 billion a year. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 12.5 million people misused prescription opioids in 2015.

Jeremy Yates, administrator of Texas Health Recovery and Wellness Center, says people often start off taking the medication for legitimate reasons.

“A lot of times it starts out with something where you legitimately need it, and for some folks, they just like the way it makes them feel,” he explains. “Next thing you know, you’re addicted to it.”

Signs you or a loved one may be dependent on pain medication include:

  • Drowsiness and a lack of energy
  • Inability to concentrate, lack of motivation
  • Social and behavioral changes
  • Changes in appearance
  • Increased secrecy

Yates says to also be on the lookout for how often that pain medication needs to be refilled.

“You might start to notice that you’re having to refill your prescriptions sooner than the pharmacy will allow you to,” he explains. “For instance, the 30-day supply your doctor prescribed only lasts 15 days, and you’re having to ask the pharmacy to call for an earlier refill.

“Or maybe you notice that your friend or loved one is taking more than the prescribed amount,” he adds, “or more than they used to.”

Yates says that thankfully, the increased attention on opioid addiction has also increased awareness and conversations among doctors and the general public.

“Physicians are wising up to the mass amount of medications that are being doled out that people are getting addicted to,” he says. “A lot of urgent cares aren’t even prescribing any pain medications, or if they do, it’s a prescription for a day or two, until you can go to your doctor. People are starting to pay attention.”

And government agencies like Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more are also turning research dollars toward new medicines to both prevent and treat opioid misuse. Also garnering wider research and discussion are ways to manage pain and monitor opioid use. Physical therapists at Texas Health are trying to combat opioid abuse by offering physical rehabilitation as an effective pain-reducing method.

If you or a loved one feel they may be misusing opioids, Yates says there are many avenues of treatment, depending on the severity of the problem.

“The first step is calling us at the behavioral health call center,” he explains. “They’ll make the appropriate referral—to us, to detox if needed, or to an addiction specialist.”

Sometimes, clients take the first step themselves. Other times, it’s a family member or health professional who is concerned about that person’s well-being. A complimentary assessment is the first step in creating a personalized care plan. At Texas Health Recovery & Wellness Center you will find compassionate care from physicians on the medical staff, nurses, and licensed addiction professionals.

To learn more about Texas Health Recovery & Wellness Center and the programs we provide, call the Texas Health Behavioral Health helpline which is always open at 682-236-6023.

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