Opioid Addiction is on the Rise: Signs, Symptoms & How You Can Help

Opioid Addiction is on the Rise: Signs, Symptoms & How You Can Help

After the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, the media has increased discussion of opioid overdose. The government reported in 2010 that 60% of overdose deaths were due to pharmaceutical medications, and of these 3 or 4 were related to opioids (16,651 in the US)*. These numbers continue to grow in North Carolina and throughout the US.

Here are some frequently asked questions you should understand :

What are opioids?
Opioids are medications that treat pain. Some common prescription opioids are hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, codeine, fentanyl, and methadone. Heroin is an illegal opioid.

What is an opioid overdose?
An opioid overdose is when someone takes too much of one or more of the above-mentioned drugs.

What are the signs and symptoms of an opiate overdose?
small pupils
awake but unable to talk or unconscious
limp body
pale face
fingernails and lips can be blue/purple/black
breathing is slow and shallow or stopped
pulse is slow and erratic or stopped
choking or gurgling sounds
unresponsive to external stimuli

What should I do if I think someone has an opiate overdose?
CALL 911 – always do this first
if no pulse or no breathing, you can begin rescue breathing
if available, administer naloxone as injection or nasal spray

Will I be punished for trying to help a stranger with an opiate overdose?
Good Samaritan laws protect people who try to help others who are injured or ill. In April 2013, North Carolina passed a new law : individuals who experience a drug overdose or persons who witness an overdose and seek help for the victim can no longer be prosecuted for possession of small amounts of drugs, paraphernalia, or underage drinking.** So please help someone in need!

* CDC Newsroom

What treatments are available for opioid addiction?
There are several treatment options for opioid dependence and this is something you can discuss with your doctor or one of our doctors at Cognitive Psychiatry. However, here is a list below:Buprenorphine (Suboxone) is a medication prescribed by specially trained doctors who see patients in their normal office setting. This medication is a replacement therapy, meaning that the buprenorphine acts like an opioid to prevent the physical withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine has special properties which make it a good choice for replacement therapy; suboxone is the brand name of a medication which combines buprenorphine with naloxone to improve the safety of the medication and avoid misuse. Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill (CPCH) has doctors that are qualified to prescribe you this medication if they think it is a good choice for you. For details on how the CPCH suboxone program works, please see the information sheet below.Methadone is another replacement opioid therapy. It is prescribed through special programs; most are prescribed at clinics which require daily attendance. CPCH does not prescribe methadone.Naltrexone is a medication which blocks opioids so that if you use an opioid it will have no effect. This medication can be a good choice for someone who has not used opioids for a longer period of time, or for someone who has recently tapered off replacement therapy but wants to reduce their risk of relapse. Naltrexone is available in pill form or as a once-monthly shot. CPCH doctors can prescribe you the pill or shot but we do not administer shots at our office so this would have to be coordinated through your primary care doctor.

Inpatient detoxification (detox) programs are designed to help you stop using opioids quickly in a medically supervised setting. In this program, you will stay at a hospital and you will quickly come off of opioids. You will likely have withdrawal symptoms and the staff at the detox can give you medications to help make the withdrawal less uncomfortable.

Rehabilitation (rehab) programs are often recommended after a detox program. At rehab, you live away from home and do not take any opioids. You attend group and individual therapy sessions to try to better understand your dependence.

Is recovery possible?
Yes recovery is possible and that is something we see happen to people that get the help they need.

Do you have questions about opioid dependency? Feel free to email us at the email above.

Live Mentally Healthy,
Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill

On February 27rd, our current electronic health system will transition to a new and advanced system to better serve you: Athena. Prior to the transition date, you will be sent a registration link to create a new patient account in Athena. If you have any immediate questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your therapist, or call our office to speak to a staff member.