Prescription Opioid Addiction in Boston, MA

Annually there are about 67,367 deaths in the U.S. due to drug overdoses, with 70% involving opioids. However, in Massachusetts, about 88% of deaths involved opioids, which equals about 1,991 opioid-related deaths each year.1 However, this figure could be much greater, as all opioid-related deaths are not reported.

The Massachusetts opioid epidemic is on an alarming upward trend, with three times as many overdoses occurring than five years ago.2 If you or someone you know is addicted to prescription painkillers, the best way to prevent an opioid overdose is to seek a rehab program near you.

For help finding a prescription opioid treatment program, give us a call at (857) 577-8193. One of our caring and nonjudgmental rehab support advisors can assist you.

What are Prescription Opioids?

Opioid painkillers are prescription drugs used to treat moderate to severe pain, such as after a surgery. Some prescription opioids are derived from the opium poppy plant while others are made synthetically in a lab. People frequently misuse their prescription opioids by taking higher or more frequent doses than directed, snorting or injecting it, or by mixing it with other substances, such as alcohol. Misuse also occurs when people take other people’s prescriptions to get high.3

The overprescribing of prescription painkillers over the past twenty years has made it easy for people to obtain and divert these addictive drugs. In 2018, Massachusetts medical providers gave opioid prescriptions to over 35% of patients, lower than the 51% of prescriptions given on average nationally.1 While this is an encouraging figure, opioid-related overdose deaths are still on the rise and much more work needs to be done to address this epidemic.

Common Opioid Painkillers

Some of the most common prescription opioids are:3

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana)
  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza)

Common Uses for Prescription Opioids

The most common uses of prescription opioids are:

  • Moderate to severe pain (often after surgery or severe injuries)
  • Cancer pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Osteoarthritis

Because of the addictive nature of opioids, you should never misuse them or use them recreationally. Prescription opioids have similar chemical structure and effects to heroin, and as such, research shows that about 4-6% of people who misuse prescription painkillers switch to heroin—this may be because heroin is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids.4,5

Signs of a Prescription Opioid Addiction

About 25% of patients who use prescription opioids struggle with prescription opioid addiction. Addiction most often occurs after long-term opioid therapy or chronic misuse.6 Opioid addiction is characterized by an uncontrollable pattern of opioid use, regardless of how it negatively affects your life.

Here are a few of the most common symptoms of opioid addiction, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). A medical professional may diagnose an opioid use disorder if you show at least two of the following signs within one year:7

  • You take larger or more frequent doses than prescribed.
  • You want to limit your opioid use, but you are struggling to cut back.
  • You spend large amounts of time, money, and effort to get opioids.
  • You experience intense cravings for opioids.
  • Your regular use of opioids is interfering with your performance at home, work, or school.
  • You continue to use opioids even though they negatively affect your social life and relationships. 
  • You stop or cut back on social, career, or recreational activities because of opioid use.
  • You use opioids even when it is dangerous.
  • You continue to use opioids even though they are causing physical or mental issues.
  • You developed a tolerance and need more opioids to achieve the same results.
  • You experience withdrawal when you don’t use opioids.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

If you are dependent on or addicted to prescription opioids and suddenly quit or reduce use, painful withdrawal symptoms will emerge. Opioid withdrawal symptoms include:7

  • Dysphoric mood
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose or teary eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating
  • Goose bumps
  • Diarrhea
  • Yawning
  • Fever
  • Insomnia

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can vary from slightly uncomfortable to a life-threatening medical emergency. If you want to quit, it’s not recommended that you detox on your own. A medical detox program will provide you with the care and oversight you need to stay safe and comfortable.

Another reason that medical supervision is essential is for the support. When you are experiencing the uncomfortable and often painful symptoms of opioid withdrawal, you may be tempted to go back to opioids for pain relief. However, a support system helps you through the different stages of withdrawal, so you don’t have to experience it alone. You can find support and treatment through medical detox and rehab facilities in Boston and throughout Massachusetts.

Treatment for Prescription Opioid Addiction

Opioid use disorder in Massachusetts has become an epidemic, but help is available. When you go to drug rehab, you’ll receive critical care, therapies, and interventions designed to end the cycle of opioid misuse. When you are free from your prescription opioid addiction, you can live a more fulfilling and sober life.

Some of the treatment options for prescription opioid abuse include:

  • Inpatient
  • Outpatient
  • Residential

Inpatient programs allow patients to check themselves into a facility for the duration of treatment. It includes a strict regimen of treatment, activities, and therapy sessions, as well as 24/7 care and support.

Outpatient programs offer a few similar therapies as inpatient programs, except patients aren’t checked into a facility. Instead, patients stay in their own homes attend scheduled classes and sessions.

Residential programs are more casual inpatient programs offered in a home-like environment instead of a treatment facility. Lives in a residential program aren’t as scheduled and monitored as inpatient programs, so patients can receive round-the-clock care while still maintaining a limited about of freedom.

Dual Diagnosis for Co-Occurring Disorders

Many people struggling with an opioid addiction also have a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety—these co-occurring conditions are often referred to as a dual diagnosis and they require integrated and specialized treatment. According to research, about 43% of people in an addiction treatment program for prescription painkiller abuse have a co-occurring mental health condition.8

 Some of the most common mental health conditions to occur with opioid addictions include:8

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health disorders to accompany the misuse of opioids.8

When seeking treatment for your opioid use disorder, you should also find facilities equipped to handle any other diagnosis you may have. In addition, addressing and treating underlying and accompanying mental health issues can help you avoid a relapse, as mental health issues are often a trigger or the cause of drug addictions.

Managing Pain without Opioids

If you are wanting to quit opioids but are worried about how you will manage your pain, your concern is valid. There are many different alternative pain-management options that don’t involve using addictive substances like prescription opioids. 

Some common opioid alternatives for pain management include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Guided imagery
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Yoga
  • Hypnosis
  • Biofeedback
  • Aromatherapy
  • Relaxation
  • Herbal remedies
  • Massages 

Some non-opioid medical options include:

  • Local anesthesia
  • Nerve blocks
  • Injections
  • Corrective surgery
  • Physical therapy
  • Radio waves
  • Electric signals
  • Spinal cord stimulation

Before choosing an alternative to prescription opioids, speak to your doctor or medical professional to know what is best for your specific situation.

Find a Rehab for Prescription Opioid Addiction in Boston

If you or someone you know is showing signs of opioid addiction, you can find help. Opioid abuse treatment results in better physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. You don’t need to go through your journey alone.

Call our Boston Drug Treatment Center helpline at (857) 577-8193 to speak with a knowledgeable recovery support specialist who will help you find the best program for you in Massachusetts.

Prescription Opioid Resources

  1. Massachusetts: Opioid-Involved Deaths and Related Harms. (2018). National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-summaries-by-state/massachusetts-opioid-involved-deaths-related-harms
  2. Office of Attorney General Maura Healey. (n.d.). Fighting the Opioid Crisis. Mass.gov. https://www.mass.gov/fighting-the-opioid-crisis
  3. Prescription Opioids DrugFacts. (June 2021). National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids
  4. Heroin DrugFacts. (June 2021). National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
  5. Heroin. (n.d.). National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/heroin
  6. Prescription Opioids. (August 29,2017). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/basics/prescribed.html
  7. Module 5: Assessing and Addressing Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). (n.d.) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/training/oud/accessible/index.html
  8. Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders Research Report. (April 2020). National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness

Sarah Damron is a freelance content marketing writer, expert writer with Express Writers, and mom of two sassy daughters. She has over six years of experience creating online content, mainly in the marketing and medical fields.