Levorphanol Addiction

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, classifies drugs according to their potential for abuse. The DEA classifies levorphanol as a class II drug, which means it is habit-forming. The potential for levorphanol abuse is equal to that of morphine.

Repeated use of levorphanol increases the risk for the development of addiction and physical dependence. Post-operative patients who use levorphanol for less than one week should not develop dependence or addiction.

Opioids such as levorphanol are favored among recreational users because of the way this class of drugs gets them high. Opioid addiction is a growing problem in the United States. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. admission rates for opioids other than heroin skyrocketed by 414 percent between 1997 and 2007, from 7 people per 100,000 to 36 per 100,000 people.

This tremendous rise in opioid abuse is due, at least in part, to the fact that Americans consume more opioids than another other nation on earth. While Americans represent only about 5 percent of total population, they consume 80 percent of the global supply of opioids, according to the Institute of Addiction Medicine.

Levorphanol is available only by prescription. To reduce abuse, the DEA forbids refills of levorphanol - a doctor must write a new prescription each time the patient needs more medicine. Recreational users and abusers get around this law through diversion; individuals visit multiple doctors, present phony prescriptions at pharmacies or steal opioids from friends and family members.

The Definition of Addiction

Addiction is a disease that affects the cells of the central nervous system, or CNS. Addiction is a primary disease, meaning addiction arises on its own and is not caused by any other illness. Addiction is a chronic condition, requiring a substantial course of behavior modification and rehabilitation.

Addiction affects the actual neurological circuitry of the brain, changing the way the brain deals with reward, motivation and memory. These neurological changes cause the physical, psychological, social and spiritual behaviors commonly associated with addiction.

Doctors diagnose a patient as being addicted to levorphanol if he:

  • Cannot consistently abstain from using levorphanol
  • Has other behavior control problems
  • Experiences cravings for levorphanol
  • Does not recognize significant problems with his own behaviors or personal relationships
  • Has a dysfunctional emotional response

As with other chronic diseases, levorphanol addiction frequently involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without proper treatment, addiction gets worse and may result in disability or premature death.

Addiction versus Dependence

Opioid addiction and dependence are similar in that both conditions relate to opioid drug use. While it is tempting to use the terms addiction and dependence interchangeably, these two conditions are separate and quite distinct from one another.

The human body adapts to the presence of certain foreign substances, such as levorphanol, by adjusting its own chemistry. A person might develop a tolerance to levorphanol, which means he must take more levorphanol to relieve pain or to get high. With continued levorphanol use, the body begins to depend on a certain level of the substance in order to feel "normal." If the level of levorphanol were to drop, the body of an opioid-dependent person struggles to maintain chemical balance, in a process known as detoxification. The individual feels this battle for chemical stability through flu-like withdrawal symptoms.

Addiction changes the way a person thinks, feels and behaves. A person who is addicted to levorphanol will feel cravings for opioids and will spend much of his time looking for drugs, getting high or recovering from drug abuse.

A person may be dependent upon a drug but not addicted to it, and vice versa. For example, a patient can be physically dependent on an anti-hypertensive to keep her blood pressure within safe levels. If she were to stop taking her medicine, her blood pressure would rise but she would not feel cravings for the drug. She is dependent but not addicted.

On the other hand, someone can be addicted to cocaine but not physically dependent upon it. When an addicted person runs out of cocaine, she will experience cravings and drug-seeking behavior but she would not experience the flu-like symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal.

Addiction: What Family Members Should Know

Addiction is a disease that affects the cells of the central nervous system. This neurological disorder makes some individuals do things they would not ordinarily do, such as neglect family responsibilities or miss important events. Erratic behavior associated with levorphanol addiction is a reflection of this disease and not an indicator of moral character.

Levorphanol addiction is not necessarily an indication your loved one has engaged in criminal behavior. Opioid addiction is a predictable outcome of using powerful opioid medications for a long time.

Heredity plays a role in addiction. Researchers agree that addiction passes from one generation to the next. Family members should recognize that having an addicted relative increases each person's risk for developing an addiction at some point in life.

Environmental factors play a role too, increasing the risk for addiction for every member of the household. Environmental factors include stressful relationships, hypersensitivity to stress and poor coping mechanisms. Children frequently learn how to deal with stress by watching their parents; children of addicted parents learn dysfunctional ways to deal with everyday stress, increasing the child's risk for developing addiction as an adult.

Addiction affects and endangers the entire family. Illicit opioids are expensive, so levorphanol addiction depletes the household of income otherwise intended for food, rent or bills. Addiction reduces a person's ability to work and take care of family responsibilities. Addiction also causes the individual to participate in activities she would not normally engage in, such as associating with drug dealers or committing crimes to pay for levorphanol.

Addiction: What Parents Should Know

Parents should know that prescription drug abuse is a serious problem among children and teenagers. According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2 percent of 12 and 13 year olds report using psychotherapeutics including opioids such as levorphanol for non-medical purposes. This number rises to 3 percent among 14 and 15 year olds. About 3.9 percent of 16 and 17 year olds use this class of drugs either to get high or to treat a medical problem for which it was not prescribed.

Parents should look for warning signs including:

  • Unusual loss of interest in things that once were important
  • Drop in academic performance
  • Loss of motivation or energy
  • Finds ways to sneak off
  • Money issues
  • Items missing from the home

Caring for a Family Member with an Addiction

A person struggling with levorphanol addiction needs the love and support of a strong family unit now more than ever. Caring for a family member with a levorphanol addiction requires teamwork and communication. Family members can work together to develop a care plan that details how each individual will participate in recovery efforts.

The first step is to open lines of communication between family members. It may be difficult to talk about levorphanol addiction at first, but it will become easier with time. Schedule family meetings to discuss treatment options and measure progress.

The addicted person does not have to participate in these family meetings. In fact, the individual will probably be angry at first; the neurological changes resulting from this disease cause the addicted individual to feel possessive about and protective of his condition. With time and treatment, he will feel more comfortable communicating with his family, and be more receptive of their help.

Addiction has negative consequences for both the drug user and for her family but the act of recovery positively influences everyone's lives. Family members move closer together as they join forces to battle this chronic disease. The family unit learns to work as a team, sharing responsibilities and creating a supportive network the addicted person can rely on during recovery.

Each member of the family participates in recovery according to her age and abilities. For example, grandparents can watch over younger children while older children take over light household duties while the addicted parent is in rehabilitation. A teenager with a driver's license can run errands, while an aunt or uncle watches over meal preparation.

Family members play a vital role in recovery. Many addicted individuals seek treatment because of pressure from family members. Frequently, a family member locates the treatment center the addicted individual eventually attends.

It is possible to arrest the disease's progress at any time. Do not let your loved one hit rock bottom before you encourage him to seek treatment. Addiction causes terrible collateral damage and health hazards to both the addicted individual and to his family. Rock bottom might be overdose, jail time or even death. Early prevention and treatment reduces this damage and may even prevent disaster.

The treatment and recovery experience works best when the individual feels physically, emotionally and spiritually safe in his home environment. Family members should recognize addiction as a disease and avoid blaming the individual for his illness. With this in mind, there is a fine line between supporting a loved one's recovery and enabling his drug use.

Recovery often begins when the individual recognizes the problems caused by his addiction to levorphanol. It is sometimes tempting to shield a loved one from the pain of addiction but it is important that the individual understand how his disease affects everyone around him. For example, resist the urge to pay your addicted family member's rent when you know he has spent all his money on drugs. Family members must work in unison to support the addicted individual consistently without enabling his addiction.

Signs of Addiction

Levorphanol addiction changes the neurological system and causes the individual to behave, think and feel a certain way. Doctors look for these behavioral, cognitive and emotional signs when diagnosing addiction.

Behavioral, Cognitive and Emotional Changes

Behavioral:

Addiction changes the way a person behaves. An addicted person uses opioids such as levorphanol excessively, frequently more often or in higher doses than he intended. This person may express a desire to cut down or quit levorphanol, but seems unable to control his own behavior.

He spends an increasing amount of time seeking, using or recovering from levorphanol use. His drug use has a significant adverse impact on his personal relationships, family responsibilities and ability to hold down a job. The addicted person continues to use levorphanol despite these negative effects of drug addiction.

With time, addiction narrows the individual's focus, blotting out everything unrelated to levorphanol. He stops participating in activities that used to interest him, such as going to work and school, and only engages in those things that result in getting high. Eventually, the person loses interest in everything he used to care about, including friends, family and personal goals.

Cognitive:

Levorphanol addiction changes the way a person thinks. She becomes preoccupied with substance abuse. Addiction alters her ability to see the risks associated with levorphanol clearly; she can only recognize the benefits of levorphanol or other opioids.

As her addiction progresses, it destructs her life. Addiction will blind her to the actual cause of her problems - she will blame her troubles on her family, her friends or her boss.

Emotional:

Although many people try to medicate their problems away with prescription painkillers, addicted individuals are frequently in immense emotional pain. The neurological changes brought about by addiction usually result in increased anxiety, sadness and emotional pain.

Additionally, addiction increases a person's sensitivity because the disease affects the brain's stress systems. Many addicts will say that things seem more stressful than they used to be. The individual may have trouble identifying his feelings, distinguishing his emotions from his bodily sensations, or describing his feelings to others.

Symptoms of Addiction

Addiction to levorphanol and other opioids makes real changes to the body and manifests itself in actual physical and psychological symptoms. These symptoms appear as long as the individual is addicted levorphanol and may continue long after he quits using opioids. Physical symptoms are difficult to overcome while psychological symptoms may be hard to detect.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of drug addiction include:

  • Unexplained Weight Gain or Weight Loss
  • A Change in Sleep Patterns
  • Deteriorating Physical Appearance
  • Nagging Cough
  • Diminished Hygiene Care
  • Body or Clothing May Have an Unusual Odor
  • Bloodshot Eyes with Large or Small Pupils
  • Tremors
  • Slurred Speech

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms of addiction to opioids include:

  • Inability to Abstain Consistently
  • Impairment in Behavioral Control
  • Cravings for Drugs or Intense Reward Experiences
  • Diminished Capacity to Recognize Significant Personal or Relationship Problems
  • Dysfunctional Emotional Response

Treatment Options

When left untreated or inadequately treated, addiction to levorphanol can cause disability or premature death.

Treatment for levorphanol addiction consists of two parts: detoxification and rehabilitation. Detoxification is the process of lowering the level of levorphanol in the body. Detoxification from opioids typically includes five or more days of intense withdrawal symptoms as the body adjusts to the lack of opioids.

Rehabilitation focuses on the behavioral aspect of opioid addiction. Rehabilitation includes behavior modification and counseling which helps the individual learn how to live without opioids.

Detoxification

A person may try to break their levorphanol addiction alone, without the help of medicine to reduce withdrawal symptoms. He will experience several days of flu-like symptoms, including diarrhea and muscle aches, along with insomnia, malaise and anxiety. During self-detoxification, withdrawal symptoms will only fade with time or by taking another dose of levorphanol.

He also faces dangerous complications, such as dehydration from excessive diarrhea. He may also vomit and inhale the stomach contents, known as aspiration; this may result in fluid in the lungs and lung infections. The primary complication to detoxification is the return to opioid abuse. When going through the long, grueling process of self-detoxification, it is extremely tempting to stop the symptoms by taking another dose of levorphanol.

The Thomas Recipe

Other levorphanol addicts come up with a homemade treatment plan including medicines to ease withdrawal symptoms. One such remedy is the Thomas Recipe, which includes valium or some other benzodiazepine to help the addicted individual sleep. Imodium relieves diarrhea while mineral supplements help with muscle aches. On or about the fourth day, the individual awakens with malaise and lack of energy. He counteracts this with L-Tyrosine with B6, which gives him a surge of energy.

While the Thomas Recipe eases withdrawal symptoms a bit, the individual is still at risk for complications such as aspiration, dehydration and relapse. Relapse to opioid abuse may result in life threatening overdose. Tolerance to levorphanol drops throughout the detoxification process; a person can overdose on a smaller amount of levorphanol than he used to take before attempting detoxification.

Overdose

Levorphanol addiction may result in overdose, which can be fatal. Symptoms of levorphanol overdose include:

  • Breathing that Stops
  • Cold, Clammy Skin
  • Confusion
  • Extreme Drowsiness
  • Fainting
  • Pinpoint Pupils
  • Shallow Breathing
  • Weak Pulse

Levorphanol overdose is a serious, life threatening medical emergency that requires immediate professional care. In the emergency department, doctors administer naloxone and other medications to reduce opioids to safe levels. Nurses establish an airway to help the patient breathe and monitor his vital signs. Nurses may empty the patient's stomach or administer charcoal to absorb excess levorphanol. If necessary, nurses and doctors perform CPR or other life-saving measures.

Drug Replacement Therapy

Individuals without toxic levels of levorphanol can participate in drug replacement therapy, or DRT. Doctors prescribe methadone, Suboxone or other drugs that mimic the effects of levorphanol but do not get the patient high. DRT allows the individual to put off the detoxification process until after he has gone through behavioral modification. Once he learns how to live without levorphanol, he weans himself from the replacement drug.

Some people have a difficult time weaning themselves from the replacement drug. Harvard Medical School estimates that 25 percent of methadone DRT patients eventually quit using altogether, while another 25 percent continues to take the drug and 50 percent go on and off methadone.

DRT is just one type of MAT, or medically-assisted treatment. Rehabilitation experts agree that MAT helps people kick their levorphanol addiction.

MAT:

  • Improves Survival
  • Increase Retention in Treatment
  • Decreases Illicit Opioid Use
  • Decreases The Risk for Hepatitis and HIV
  • Decreases Criminal Activities
  • Increases Employment
  • Improves Birth Outcomes for Pregnant Women Battling Addiction

Another type of MAT is inpatient detoxification. During standard detoxification, doctors administer naloxone and other medications to reduce levorphanol levels, and still other drugs to relieve the ensuing withdrawal symptoms. Nurses monitor patients for complications and take appropriate action. While standard detoxification reduces the severity and duration of physical withdrawal symptoms somewhat, the patient still suffers from demoralizing psychological withdrawal symptoms that can make the individual feel incapable or unworthy of recovery.

Rapid detox is the most humane and efficient way to detoxify the body from levorphanol. During rapid detox, board certified anesthesiologists administer sedatives and anesthesia along with the standard detoxification medications. The patient dozes in a comfortable "twilight sleep" during detoxification. When she awakens a few hours later, she will have no memory of the demeaning and uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. She will be in better position for effective rehabilitation for her addiction to levorphanol.

Rehabilitation

Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of levorphanol addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug abuse. Medications are an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies. While detoxification addresses the physical aspects of levorphanol addiction, rehabilitation focuses on the behavioral aspects of this destructive disease.

There is a wide variety of treatment options available, including outpatient therapy, inpatient rehabilitation and long-term residential treatment. No single treatment is appropriate for everyone, but treatment needs to be readily available to encourage the individual to continue therapy. It is critical that the patient remains in treatment for an adequate amount of time.

Effective treatment for levorphanol addiction attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his drug abuse. Many people struggling with levorphanol addiction have other issues, such as mental disorders, relationship problems, financial difficulties or legal issues. Counselors should assess and modify treatment plans continually to ensure it meets the patient's changing needs. Counselors should require drug testing frequently, as relapses to levorphanol use do occur.

Counselors should assess patients for the presence of infectious diseases such as HIV/ AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis. She should also present risk-reduction counseling to help a patient modify or change behaviors that place him at risk of contracting or spreading infectious diseases.

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