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What is Addiction, Opiate, Fentanyl, Cocaine

Discover the depths of addiction: from its neurological underpinnings to its far-reaching consequences on physical, mental, and social well-being. Learn about the various substances and behaviors that can ensnare individuals, as well as the signs, causes, and risks associated with addiction. With insights into its complexities, empower yourself to recognize and address addiction’s impact on yourself or loved ones.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is an intricate condition that contains many layers that contribute to the overall disease. Addiction is defined as a compulsive use of drugs or other substances, or the uncontrollable engagement in certain behaviours that result in harmful consequences. Addiction is considered to be under the realm of brain disorders as it involves changes to brain chemistry and structure which affects brain function, specifically related to motivation, reward, and self-control.

Drugs and other substances interact with the brain that results in a change in mood and behaviours, altering perception and the way individuals connect with their friends, family, and environment. The more substances are used, the more the brain is affected and the greater the tolerance develops. This leads to dependency of the substance. Withdrawal symptoms, substance cravings, and unable to veer away from those cravings are all signs that point towards addiction.

Addiction can involve various substances such as alcohol, opioids, methamphetamines, cocaine, fentanyl, and prescription medications. However, addiction can also relate to different addictive behaviours including gaming, gambling, compulsive eating, and more.

There are various causes and risks associated with addiction. Those with a genetic predisposition to addiction, where there is family history of substance use and abuse are at higher risk of battling addiction. Environmental factors are also a contributor to addiction as stress, trauma, and peer pressure are all gateways to substance use. In addition to genetic and environmental factors, concurrent mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and trauma play a role when it comes to an individual’s vulnerability to addiction.

Important signs to look out for if you suspect you or a loved one are suffering from addiction can include:

  • Unable to waiver focus to obtaining and using any form of substance, or engaging in behaviour excessively.
  • Lack of control over use of substances or behaviour which later lead to negative consequences.
  • Growing a tolerance to substance and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using.

Consequences of addiction play major roles on physical, mental, and social health aspects of one’s life. Physical health can be affected as addiction can lead to health problems including cardiovascular, respiratory, liver, and other infectious diseases. Mental health can be affected because addiction is often associated with mental health struggles like depression, anxiety, and psychosis. When addiction takes hold, it can create a divide between you and y0our relationships with all the people in your life, and further lead to social isolation.

Addiction is a complex disease that affects many aspects of an individuals and their loved one’s life. Having an understanding of the causes and outcomes that are associated with addiction, can help loved one’s to know what to look out for if them or their loved one may be battling addiction.

Opiate Addiction

Opioids are a class of drugs that include prescriptions pain relief drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine, as well as illegal drugs like heroin. Opioids are increasingly addictive due to the binding of the receptors in the brain that directly correlate with pain regulations and other emotions, which in turn produce euphoric states and relaxation. As a result of continuous use, the brain will become more tolerant to the effects that the drugs give which results in individuals increasing their dosages to be able to achieve the same original effects. This can rapidly lead to opiate addiction.

Prescription opioids are medications that are prescribed by doctors and health care professionals, with the goal to treat severe pain, often prescribed after surgery, or a traumatic injury. The most common opioid prescriptions being oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and codeine. Even though they can be effective with the short-term goal of pain management, the long-term effects that come with the high risk of addiction and dependency come heavily into play.

The opioid epidemic is the most serious public health crises that faces North Americans to date. With the dramatic increase in opioid use and misuse, individuals become addicted to the contents within opioids leading to an increase in overdose deaths. A major factor that plays a role in the opioid epidemic, is the misuse of prescription opioids leading to addiction. Misuse can be classified as taking opioids in any other manner than what a medical professional has instructed, this can include taking opioids to get high, using someone else’s prescription, or crushing opioids and snorting them to get a more enhanced effect.

The pitfalls of opioid use and addiction effect the individual their families, and everyone close to them. The consequences that come with opioid use is not only addiction, but can also contribute to infectious disease, respiratory issues, increased chance of overdose and death.

The difference between all the different kinds of opioids is that of their potency, which is how much you need to take the drug to produce the desired effects. Potent prescription opioids can include oxycodone and hydrocodone, and due to marketing determining the safe use of these prescription opioids paired with their effectiveness to treat pain and help with pain management has led to an increase in opioid being prescribed to patients. With the most potent opioid being fentanyl.

Opioid overdose has resulted in thousands of deaths each year in North America. It is important to know and look out for signs of opioid overdose to promptly and effectively get treated. Signs to look out for include slowed or stopped breathing, unconsciousness, and pinpoint pupils. Learning to properly use and administer naloxone can make all the difference. Naloxone is a medication that will rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and is important to have and know how to use, especially if you or your loved one battles addiction.

Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl is very potent and lethal. This alone is cause for concern. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, like morphine but is up to 100 times more potent. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl has become a increasingly consequential contributor to the opioid crisis. Illicit fentanyl is frequently mixed with heroin or other drugs which further increases its potency and the risk of overdose. Because of this potency, the smallest amount of fentanyl use can cause reactions which lead to overdose and death.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to relieve pain by binding to opioid receptors within an individual’s central nervous system. The potency of fentanyl is what drives it apart from morphine as it is more effective for severe pain management but also comes with its increased risk for an individual to become addicted and their potential for overdose.

It is important to be able to recognize the signs if you suspect your loved one may be suffering from fentanyl addiction. There are different behavioural, physical, and psychological factors that may suggest that your loved one is abusing fentanyl. Some signs for you to look out for can include:

Behaviour Change

  • Secrecy – your loved one may become more secretive when it comes to the activities they are participating in, where they are going day to day, and their social circle.
  • Finance Problems – Unexplained financial difficulties may surface. This can look like the borrowing of money frequently, or sudden financial struggles.
  • Abandoning Responsibilities – Fentanyl addiction can lead to a decreased performance when it comes to work, school, and other home responsibilities because the priority has become fentanyl.
  • Increased Risk – The need to obtain fentanyl to feed the addiction means doing anything to get their hands on it, including engaging risky activities to get it if that’s what it takes. This can include buying from unknown sources and or stealing prescription medications.

Physical Change

  • Pinpoint pupils – Even in dim lighting, pupils are constricted, and this is a sign of fentanyl and other opioid use.
  • Sleep Irregularity – Fentanyl addiction can interfere with sleep, which can lead to insomnia, and drowsiness.
  • Weight Loss – Significant weight changes, and this can include either weight loss or weight gain. This will either be associated with changes in appetite or metabolism as a result of the fentanyl abuse.
  • Loss in Coordination – Motor skills and coordination are affected, and seem more difficult, especially during times of intoxication.

Psychological Change

  • Moodiness – May experience abrupt changes in mood. This can be seen as both euphoric and range to irritability and angriness.
  • Anxiety and or Depression – Fentanyl addiction can provoke mental heath struggles which can lead to experiences of anxiety and depression.
  • Social withdrawal – Fentanyl can cause an individual to withdraw from their normal activities they once enjoyed and distance themselves from friends and family members.
  • Fentanyl – all the individual can think about is fentanyl, when they will use it next, and where they will have to go to get more. These thoughts overwhelm all other thoughts of an individual addicted to fentanyl.

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant that originates from coca plants native to South America. Cocaine is generally ingested by smoking, snorting, or ingesting. The way cocaine works is once it enters the blood stream it increases levels of dopamine which is a neurotransmitter that directly relates to pleasure, the reward system in the brain. The dopamine release is what initiates the intense euphoric experiences and the energy that the individual feels because of cocaine use.

The way cocaine works in the system is for the most part by blocking the uptake o neurotransmitters like dopamine. Serotonin, and norepinephrine, which leads to a build up of these chemicals in the brain. As a result the individual feels a sense of euphoria and hyperawareness. The being said, continuous use and abuse of cocaine will interfere with the normal functioning of neurotransmitters, which then leads to increased tolerance, dependency, and then addiction. Continuous use and abuse of cocaine will rewire the reward circuit in the brain, this is why the individual will need more to achieve the desired effect they once achieved with a small amount.

Depending on the individual and their cocaine addiction, different factors can provide signs of cocaine addiction, when it comes to how long and how much one has been abusing cocaine, a persons tolerance levels, and other concurrent disorders. Some common signs to look out for if you suspect your loved on is addicted to cocaine include:

  • Increased tolerance – Over a period of time, individuals may discover that they need more cocaine in a sitting to achieve the effects they crave as a result of their tolerance increasing.
  • Cravings – Cravings will be strong and intense, being very hard to fight the urge to use cocaine.
  • Lack of Control – Even with attempts to reduce and take control of their cocaine use, it is incredibly difficult for an individual to reduce or stop cold turkey.
  • Negative Outcomes – negative consequences may surface such as health problems, financial struggles, damage to relationships, but this will not matter to the individual, the only thing on their mind is cocaine.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms – When not using cocaine, individuals will begin to go through withdrawal and experience fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, and intense cravings as a result.
  • Behaviour Change – Changes in behaviour will be present including secrecy, lying, denial of drug use, and doing whatever it takes to obtain their drug of choice.
  • Physical Effects – Cocaine can cause pupils to dilate, heart rate and blood pressure to increase, nosebleeds as a result of snorting cocaine, weight loss, teeth damage, and injections sites.
  • Psychological Effects – Cocaine can cause aggression, paranoia, hallucination, mood swings, and anxiety.

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