Frequently Asked Questions
- Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.
- Prescription opioids are generally prescribed by providers for moderate-to-severe pain from cancer, surgery or injury. Despite lack of evidence about long-term effectiveness, prescription opioids have been prescribed for chronic pain (i.e. back pain, arthritis) in recent years.
You may be dependent on opioids if:
- Your body adapts to the presence of the opioid and you experience withdrawal when opioid use is reduced or discontinued.
- Withdrawal symptoms include muscle and joint aches, fever or chills, sweating, rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness or agitation, anxiety or panic, runny nose, shaking, yawning, seizures, insomnia or sleeping difficulties, fear or paranoia.
- You need higher doses to feel the effects of opioids
- You experience cravings to use opioids
- You cannot cut down or stop using opioids when you want to, or if the urge to use is too strong to control.
Tolerance occurs when your body no longer responds to the same dose of a drug or prescription medication from repeated exposure. When your body develops tolerance, you may need a higher dose of the drug or medication to feel the effect.
Dependence occurs when the body adapts to the presence of a drug or medication and stopping or reducing the dose, results in withdrawal symptoms. Examples of withdrawal symptoms from opioids include anxiety, runny nose, tearing, worsening muscle and joint pain, chills, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea.
Addiction occurs when you develop a compulsive need to use a drug or medication despite experiencing harmful consequences. Addiction leads to an inability to fulfill work, social and or family obligations. It is a result of complex changes in the brain that may lead to craving and relapse even after years of abstinence and requires medical attention, behavioral counseling and long-term support to prevent relapse.
- When you call the toll free number our trained staff can offer individualized information, resources, support and referrals to treatment in your area.
- Individualized phone coaching sessions to address concerns related to opioid prescriptions or opioid use.
- Provide audio recordings of guided meditation exercises and mindfulness to help manage your pain.
- This help can be used in addition to your current treatment.
- Medication Assisted Treatment is the use of FDA-approved medications combined with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat opioid dependence.
- Types of medications include:
- Suboxone® (buprenorphine and naloxone) relieves drug cravings without producing the “high” or dangerous side effects of other opioids. Suboxone® is a medication which contains naloxone to prevent attempts to get high by injecting the medication. Suboxone is given by mouth, it can be prescribed at a doctor’s office by certified physicians and nurse practitioners. Suboxone® helps reduce opioid cravings, and withdrawal symptoms.
- Methadone is the most used and most studied opioid dependence medication in the world. Given by mouth, and dispensed daily from a clinic with authority to prescribe methadone (called an Opioid Treatment Program or OTP). Methadone helps reduce opioid cravings, and withdrawal symptoms.
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol®)blocks the action of opioids, is not addictive or sedating, and does not result in physical dependence. It is given as a monthly injection in a doctor’s office.
- Using opioids during pregnancy can result in preterm labor and or stunted growth, convulsions and even death of the fetus.
- The baby can also become dependent on the opioids and experience neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS results in the baby experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, diarrhea, fever, irritability, seizures and difficulty feeding.
- Medical treatment of opioid dependence during pregnancy improves outcomes for babies and their mothers.
- Pregnant women are treated with either methadone or buprenorphine to help reduce cravings and opioid use. Both methadone and buprenorphine are safe for the unborn baby, even though the baby can experience NAS at birth.
- The University of Virginia, Center for Leading Edge in Addiction Research (CLEAR) is offering a helpline for adults who are residents of the State of Virginia and would like to talk about opioid use for themselves or their friends and family. You can start by calling 1-877-674-6437 or 1-877-OPIOIDS or email us at email@example.com.
- If you think your adult friend or loved one might have concerns related to opioid use, you can offer to walk the person through the information and help access these and other resources.
- The UVA Helpline is a toll- free number. You will not be charged for the services received.
- We DO NOT share your information with your doctor or any medical providers at the University of Virginia.