As the North American opioid epidemic claims lives at an unprecedented pace, few people are unaware of the crisis. Illicit drugs like heroin and prescription opioids like hydrocodone ensnare thousands, leaving them with substance use disorders that can feel impossible to overcome. To make matters worse, opioid addiction is shrouded in myths, partial facts and rumors. People often have more questions than answers about this disease and learn the harrowing truth about opioid addiction far too late.

Whether you know someone who faces “>opioid addiction or have just heard about the epidemic, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by such a complex issue. Opioid addiction is deadly, but when more people are armed with knowledge about this debilitating disease, the faster they can find healing. For individuals seeking help for their opioid addiction, the myths and half-truths surrounding it need to be dispelled.

Some of the most commonly believed myths about opioid addictions (and the people who struggle with them) include:

Words like "junkie" only perpetuate the stigma of addiction.

Myth: People who misuse opioids are “junkies.”

Fact: Calling people “junkies,” “addicts,” or “druggies,” perpetuates the harmful stigmas that discourage them from getting help.

When it comes to talking about addiction, language matters. The stigma surrounding addiction thrives off ignorant name-calling, labeling and slurs. Writing off someone with a morphine use disorder as a “junkie” disregards the fact that they have a disease — something they are likely already ashamed to admit without the heckling from others. When someone internalizes a hurtful moniker like “druggie,” it can be all too easy for them to never seek help, believing that they don’t deserve it. Opioid addiction does not define the people who struggle with it, and no one deserves to live with the added weight of unfair stigmas.

Rewriting the Language of Addiction:

Changing the words and phrases used to reference substance use disorders and those who face them can lead to more people getting the help they need. Some suggestions include:

  • Instead of “addict,” use “person with a substance use disorder.”
  • Replace the adjective “dirty,” with “someone currently using substances,” and descriptors like “clean,” with “someone in recovery.”
  • Instead of “drug abuse,” or “drug habit,” use “substance use disorder.”

Not everyone who struggles with opioid addiction will tell friends or family.

Myth: If my friend or family member was misusing opioids, they would tell me, or I would notice the signs immediately.

Fact: While some people may exhibit clear signs of misuse, not every symptom is obvious. Some people become adept at concealing their misuse from loved ones.

Due to the societal stigmas surrounding drug use, many people aren’t apt to admit that they have a problem, even to family or friends. This is especially true with opioid addiction, as it often stems from a seemingly harmless prescription. For example, if your loved one recently underwent surgery, they might have been prescribed opioid painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, both of which are highly addictive. It can be all too easy to accidentally take too many narcotic painkillers, and addiction can quickly become a reality for people who would never dream of taking nefarious substances.

As the reality of living with an addiction sets in, your loved one may struggle with denial and work harder to conceal their substance use disorder from you. But this doesn’t mean you have to be left in the dark. If you suspect that someone you know misuses opioids, watch for the physical and behavioral signs of opioid addiction, which can include:

  • Swollen face, hands or feet
  • Complaints of frequent headaches
  • Mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety
  • Unusual skin rashes
  • Constricted pupils
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Increased irritability or mood swings
  • Appearing more withdrawn than usual
  • Forgetting family responsibilities
  • Uncharacteristic lying or excuse-making
  • Faking pain-related emergencies (to get more prescriptions)

It is never safe to detox from opioids without medical assistance.

Myth: At-home detox for opioid addiction is generally safe.  

Fact: Detoxing without medical supervision can be life-threatening.

Opioid addiction rewires the brain to think that opioids are naturally occurring, necessary substances. The longer someone uses opioid medications or illicit opiates, the more the drug is built up in their system, making detoxification all the more complicated. At-home detox and cold-turkey strategies are never safe because opioid withdrawal symptoms can be debilitating at best and deadly at worst. It can take several days or weeks to completely detox from opioids and the process can be precarious without medical support. Physical and mental withdrawal symptoms like sweating, nausea, panic attacks and paranoia can grow more severe over time, especially if co-occurring mental illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder are present.

Detoxing without medical support isn’t worth the risks, but no one has to go through the pain of opioid withdrawal alone. Medical detox for opioid addiction is offered at many locations of The Recovery Village, and each client receives 24-hour clinical support and daily counseling during detox. Safe and effective care is available for anyone who faces an opioid addiction — call The Recovery Village today to learn more.  

Hitting "rock bottom" with opioid use should be a sign to get treatment.

Myth: Hitting “rock bottom” will finally cause someone to get help.

Fact: Waiting for an opioid addiction to worsen can end in a fatal overdose.

Hitting “rock bottom,” or the absolute lowest depth to which one can sink within their addiction, is different for everyone. But no matter how the downfall manifests, hitting this lowpoint is ideally a wake-up call to seek treatment before it’s too late. With an opioid use disorder, many people never hear the alarm and fatally overdose without warning. Many people don’t realize that their next heroin or fentanyl high could be their last, but opioid addiction is a deadly gamble because overdose is always a possibility.  

Like cancer, opioid addiction is a disease — it deserves quality opioid addiction treatment as early as possible to prevent premature death. The sooner someone seeks medical attention for this type of substance use disorder, the lower their chances of fatal overdose. It is important to know that recovery from opioid addiction is possible. Whether a person is at “rock bottom,” or ready to act on their wake-up call, everyone can find effective treatment to leave opioid addiction in the past.  

If you're facing opioid addiction, get treatment sooner rather than later.

Finding Healing for Opioid Addiction

For thousands of people, opioid addiction is deadly. If you struggle with this substance use disorder, seeking help early on in the addiction can change the course of your future. Turning the tide of the opioid epidemic can start with one person getting the treatment they need. Don’t let stigma stand in your way. Your recovery is possible. The Recovery Village has accredited centers and effective programs across the country to ensure that wherever you are, you can get the care you deserve to thrive beyond addiction.

Not sure where to start? Have questions about opioid addiction or need answers for a loved one? Call The Recovery Village’s opiate hotline to speak with someone who can talk you through your situation, offer guidance and help you find local treatment options.

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