OCD and Opiates: Understanding This Co-Occurring Condition

ocd and opiates

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is more common than people may realize. Its effects have impacted individuals for ages. Unfortunately, many of those who experience this disorder have not received the treatment and support that they need. Some have even developed substance use disorders in addition to their mental health disorder. Sadly, some people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder also struggle with opiate dependence. OCD and opiates form a very dangerous combination and can lead to a dual diagnosis of addiction and mental illness. 

Thankfully, however, with more information about the effects of substance dependence and OCD, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of these co-occurring disorders. As a result, those who need help overcoming opiate dependence can also get the help they need in order to manage their OCD symptoms. 

If you have been struggling with the effects of OCD and opiates, know that there is hope. Here at Sana Lake Recovery Center, we want to offer you the resources you need as you begin your journey to recovery and freedom.

What is an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known as OCD, is a mental health condition that is chronic and long-lasting. It is a type of anxiety disorder that affects one’s daily life and activities. Those who suffer from this disorder tend to experience thoughts, obsessions, and behaviors that others may deem unreasonable or irrational. Repetitive behaviors, known as compulsions, are commonalities in the lives of those who have OCD. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), obsessive-compulsive disorder is equally as common in women as it is in men. The ADAA also reports that 2.2 million Americans suffer from OCD. The average age of onset is about 19 years old. But, about one-fourth of OCD cases begin around 14 years of age.

When a person suffers from obsessive-disorder, he or she may experience unwanted or uncontrollable thoughts and obsessions. Trying to suppress, ignore, or avoid them may cause the individual to have anxiety or intense fear. 

Obsessive thoughts that may affect people with OCD might include the following:

  • Thoughts to harm oneself
  • Thoughts to harm others
  • Obsessive need for order, symmetry, etc.
  • Unwanted, repetitive sexual thoughts
  • Excessive concerns and fears about germs, dirt, etc.
  • Fears or concerns about things being out of place or undone (i.e. unlocked doors or stoves being left on)

These obsessions may lead to compulsive behaviors such as:

  • Constantly checking to see if the door is locked
  • Repeatedly checking to make sure the stove is off
  • Ordering and reordering items to ensure organization
  • Constant hand washing, cleaning, and disinfecting

These obsessions and compulsions can disrupt a person’s life, making it difficult for him or her to function the way others do. These behaviors can also prevent people from feeling comfortable or at rest in many cases. So, it’s important for individuals to receive professional help.

The Risk Factors of OCD

Several factors can lead to the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Although medical professionals are not certain of all of the risk factors, they have identified some possibilities.

One of the possible risk factors is stress. In some cases, a stressful event in a person’s life may lead to symptoms of OCD. Also, if a person suffers from another mental health disorder, such as an anxiety disorder or a stress disorder, the individual may also begin to deal with OCD.

Genetics may also be associated with the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Biology and family history could also have something to do with a person’s risk of having OCD. If a relative suffers from this disorder, it’s possible that another person in the family may suffer from it, too. Also, one’s environment may be a risk factor.

What Are Opiates?

Opiate drugs are derived from opium and this drug category includes opioids. Most of the time, people use opioid medications because they have pain-relieving qualities. These drugs may prove to be helpful in that they provide pain relief. However, some people may find that using opiates can be harmful. This is because opiate use often leads to opiate dependence, even in cases where a person is using these drugs as recommended by a doctor. 

When a person uses an opioid, the drug binds to the opioid receptors in his or her brain. Opioid receptors serve many different purposes. These include regulating the way the body responds to stress. It also includes the body’s response to pain. When the binding occurs, it reduces the amount of pain a person feels.

Some opiate drugs are legal as they are used medically. However, there are also some illicit forms of this drug. Some of the legal and illicit forms of opiates and opioids are codeine, hydrocodone, fentanyl, oxycodone, Dilaudid, methadone, and heroin.

Using opioid drugs can cause people to experience a calming or sedative effect. This effect can be quite addictive. This can sometimes lead to opiate dependence, although this is not always the case. Individuals who use opiates and opioids regularly may grow to depend on the pain-blocking and calming effects of these drugs.

This may especially be the case in the lives of those who suffer from chronic pain and excessive discomfort. In order to avoid pain, individuals may use more and more of a pain reliever. This might lead the individual to misuse their medication and even, in some cases, turn to illicit opioid use. People may turn to heroin use or even begin mixing substances in order to escape the discomfort they feel.

Unfortunately, many people suffer from opiate and opioid misuse and dependency here in the United States. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that a 2018 report shows that, daily, 128 people in the U.S. die as a result of an opioid overdose. NIDA also reports that more than 47,000 individuals lost their lives in 2017 as a result of opioid overdoses.

Opiates and OCD: The Effects of Addiction and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The data on opioid overdose deaths is nothing short of alarming and disturbing. Sadly, many individuals are currently falling prey to the opioid epidemic that has taken America by storm. Those who suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders are no exception; many people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder also struggle with addiction.

The combination of OCD and opiates is undoubtedly a dangerous one. Those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder often have difficulty controlling or managing the symptoms of their disorder. This may lead them to do things that may be harmful or unsafe. Operating under the influence of powerful drugs such as opiates can prove to be life-threatening for those who suffer from co-occurring mental health concerns. 

Sometimes, those who suffer from OCD struggle with things like depression, anxiety, excessive fear, and all-around discomfort. They may struggle to “fit in” or feel comfortable in social settings because of their disorder. Some individuals may not even realize that they are suffering from OCD but may recognize that there are certain symptoms in their lives that alter their daily lives. 

As a result of all of these challenges, many people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder seek ways to self-medicate. Some may turn to alcohol use while others may use drugs that give them the ability to escape, even if only temporarily. 

Unfortunately, this form of self-medication can lead people to develop co-occurring disorders: substance use disorders and mental health disorders. This is both harmful and life-altering. So, it is absolutely critical for those who struggle with addiction and mental illness to get help from professionals. 

A dual diagnosis program can offer the help people need in order to manage the symptoms of mental health disorders and end substance dependence in their lives.

The Importance of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Individuals who suffer from the effects of OCD and opiate dependence may feel hopeless. In many cases of addiction, people begin to isolate themselves and spend more and more time alone. Some may begin to withdraw from family members and friends. They might start to spend time with other people who use drugs. 

OCD and addiction can both cause people to lose interest in the things they once enjoyed. Additionally, when people suffer from co-occurring disorders, it can be difficult for them to deal with one disorder because the two are usually intertwined, affecting and intensifying one another’s effects.

Dual diagnosis treatment programs recognize this connection. These programs understand that treating one disorder without addressing is ineffective. In fact, doing so may even prove to do more harm than good. After all, treating symptoms of OCD may help a person to manage their mental health disorder. But, they will still suffer from addiction, which is a life-threatening disorder that requires attention and treatment. Likewise, a person who receives treatment for addiction may continue struggling with the effects of OCD. If the individual doesn’t get the help he or she needs for managing those symptoms, an addiction relapse may occur.

So, if you are suffering from a dual diagnosis, it’s best to get treatment a facility that can offer you support, understanding, and guidance regarding both conditions.

Contact Sana Lake Recovery Center for Help

There are many ways to treat those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some people may opt for an approach that involves medication. This option may be helpful for some, but it’s important to discuss it with a medical professional.

Another way to help those who are dealing with OCD is therapy. More specifically speaking, individuals may benefit greatly from psychotherapy. Also known as “talk therapy”, psychotherapy can help individuals to identify, address, and manage the symptoms of their mental health disorder. 

Types of psychotherapy include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). These therapeutic approaches can help individuals to think critically about their thoughts and behaviors. This may enable people to experience habit reshaping and reversal. 

Treatment for both OCD and opiate dependence should be individualized. In other words, those who receive treatment for these co-occurring disorders should receive treatment that works to meet their unique needs. 

Thankfully, this approach to treatment is available here at Sana Lake Recovery Center. Our team of certified substance use counselors strives to provide personalized care to each individual who comes to our facility for treatment. We understand that each of our members has specific and unique needs. All of them should be addressed with skill and professionalism. But, individuals also need understanding and support throughout the recovery process. We work to offer these components here at Sana Lake.

If you’re ready to take a step toward recovery and overcome addiction, please reach out to us today! We are ready to offer you the support and help you need in order to find true peace and freedom. Allow our team to walk beside you as you move forward and leave substance dependence in the past! 

References:

https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20354432

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ocd/what-is-obsessive-compulsive-disorder

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.