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Opana ER is an extended-release opioid medication that’s used to treat long-term, severe pain around the clock. A semi-synthetic opioid agonist, Opana ER contains oxymorphone hydrochloride, which acts on the body’s opioid receptors to reduce the sensation of pain. Oxymorphone is similar to morphine, methadone, hydromorphone and fentanyl.

Opana ER is typically prescribed only to patients who are unable to take non-opioid analgesics or for whom other medications, including immediate-release opioids, are ineffective. Patients who take Opana ER are closely monitored by a physician due to the high potential for abuse and accidental overdose.

A High Risk of Addiction, Dependence and Overdose

While any opioid medication carries a high risk of addiction, that risk is particularly high with Opana ER. According to the manufacturer’s website, the risk of developing an addiction or dependence is elevated even at recommended doses that are taken as prescribed.

Addiction is characterized by abusing a drug despite negative consequences, while dependence is characterized by changes in the brain that lead it to operate more “normally” when a substance is present than when it’s not. As a result of dependence, withdrawal symptoms will set in when the drug use is discontinued.

The risk of overdose and death are also higher for those taking extended-release opioid medications. Opioids in general can cause life-threatening respiratory depression, especially when crushed and snorted or injected. This is particularly true with Opana ER, because when it’s crushed, it releases a potentially fatal dose of oxymorphone. Even when it’s taken as directed, Opana ER has a high risk of serious, life-threatening or fatal overdose, and taking it with alcohol or other prescription medications considerably increases that risk.

Side Effects of Opana ER

Aside from the high risk of fatal overdose, additional side effects of Opana ER are similar to those of other opioid pain relievers and include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fever

More serious side effects may include seizures, shallow breathing, a slow heartbeat and allergic reactions that may cause hives and the swelling of the face, tongue, lips or throat.

Treating Opana ER Addiction and Dependence

Opioid addiction has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S., particularly on the East Coast. Over two million Americans suffered from addiction to or dependence on prescription opioid painkillers in 2012, and the number of unintentional overdose deaths from narcotic pain relievers more than quadrupled between 1999 and 2012.

Treating an opioid dependence almost always requires medical intervention due to the often-excruciating withdrawal symptoms that typically send a user right back to the drug just to end the discomfort. Maintenance medications like methadone and buprenorphine are used to prevent the onset of withdrawal symptoms and stave off the intense cravings associated with opiate withdrawal so that those with a dependence can focus on addressing the addiction and restoring their lives. Maintenance medications may be used for the short-term or the long-term, depending on the severity of the dependence and other factors.

Treating an opioid addiction is far more complex than treating dependence and requires a number of research-based therapies to address the underlying issues surrounding the addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps those with an addiction identify self-destructive ways of thinking and behaving and replace them with healthier thoughts and behaviors. Contingency management involves tangible rewards for remaining abstinent. Alternative therapies like acupuncture, meditation and massage therapy help reduce stress and promote a higher sense of well-being.

If you have an addiction to opioid pain relievers, seeking professional help through a high-quality treatment program is essential for overcoming the addiction and enjoying long-term recovery. Beating an addiction to Opana ER or another opioid isn’t easy, and taking the first step and asking for help is, for many, the hardest part of the recovery process. But seeking help and putting in the hard work will lead to better physical and mental health and a vastly higher quality of life.

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Know Your Pills: Opana ER & Its Risks
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