Opiate addiction has been in the news a great deal lately. It has become an epidemic mainly due to the overprescription and overuse of painkillers like Percocet and Oxycontin. Opiate medications are derived from morphine. They are typically prescribed to people experiencing severe pain. The pain can be due to an injury or be present after surgery. Pain can also be due to a chronic issue like back pain or be due to a terminal illness like AIDS or cancer. While opiates can be of great use for those suffering from pain, they can also be very addictive.
What is Opiate Addiction?
Opiates block the pain receptors in the brain so that the person no longer feels it. In addition to blocking pain receptors, opiates also affect certain neurotransmitters in the brain. This can cause a feeling of euphoria or feeling a high when taking them. Opiates affect the heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and body temperature when taken as well. When taken for longer periods of time, the user develops a tolerance to the medication. They need to take more of the drug in order to feel the same effects.
When a person builds up a tolerance to opiates, eventually the brain stops producing its own feel-good neurotransmitters without them. This means that the body can no longer function normally unless opiates are taken. If the medication is stopped abruptly, symptoms of withdrawal will occur. Withdrawal signs can start in as little as 6 hours after the last dose and usually last up to a week. These symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Body aches
- A rebound of pain from previous injuries
- Muscle cramping
- Intense cravings for the drug
Opiate addiction typically starts out with a prescription for painkillers. Eventually, the prescription runs out and doctors may refuse to prescribe more. This leads many people to turn to illegal methods of obtaining opiates. Illegal prescription painkillers are quite expensive. This causes extreme financial problems when people get addicted to them. When their money runs out and they can not afford to buy prescription opiates anymore, many people turn to heroin.
Heroin is much cheaper than buying prescription painkillers but comes with inherent risk. It can be snorted or injected, with most addicts progressing to injection due to its quick effect on the body. Injecting heroin comes with the added risk of infection due to sharing needles and reusing dirty needs.
Hope for Opiate Addiction
Opiate addiction affects all aspects of a person’s life from relationships with family and friends to employment and sometimes causes legal issues. Opiate addiction is a serious illness with extreme consequences but there is hope for people who are suffering.
Opiate Addiction Treatment
The first step to overcoming opiate addiction is detoxing from the drug. Most people who attempt to detox from opiates on their own end up failing. This is because the symptoms of opiate withdrawal can be quite severe and the intense physical craving is not something most people can ignore. For the greatest chance of success, detoxing should occur in an inpatient facility. There are different medication options for symptoms of opiate withdrawal. The traditional medication used is methadone. Methadone is an opiate, but it is a long-acting medication and a person taking it will not feel the euphoric effects like they would with other opiates. The dosage can be adjusted according to how much a person has been taking opiates. Over time, the dosage can be tapered down gradually, eventually resulting in no longer needing methadone at all.
Suboxone is a newer medication used for opiate addiction. Suboxone contains an opiate but it also contains another drug to block the euphoric effects of the opiate. Like methadone, suboxone is used to lower symptoms of opiate withdrawal by replacing drugs like heroin and oxycontin. The strength needed will depend on how much a person was taking previously. These drugs reduce cravings for street opiates and other prescription painkillers, making the detox process a bit more comfortable.
An inpatient facility with medical staff who are trained in opiate addiction is imperative to a successful recovery. Relapsing back into opiate addiction is extremely dangerous for those who have recently demoted. This is because, after detox, the body no longer has the tolerance to opiates that it did before. If a person goes out and takes the dosage they were used to taking prior to detox, this will result in overdose and possibly death. Because of the high risk of an overdose after detox, inpatient facilities are crucial in preventing relapse.
During recovery and treatment, medications are prescribed and therapy is started. Many people who abuse opiates have an underlying mental health issue that should be treated while in recovery. Depression and anxiety are often mental health issues that the person has been attempting to medicate with opiates. When the opiates are removed, these issues can cause symptoms that need to be treated while recovering from addiction. This therapy includes one on one counseling, group therapy, and 12 step programs like narcotic anonymous. The inpatient community will help addicts learn how to function without opiates. Recovering users are taught how to set life goals, how to deal with cravings, what to avoid, and taught new coping strategies for stressors and triggers outside of the facility. These are important tools to have and can not be accessed without help. Relapse from opiate addiction is much more common in those who choose to attempt to quit without the help of trained addiction professionals.
Recovery from opiate addiction can be achieved. To increase the odds of quitting opiates for life, call our counselors today to talk about inpatient facility treatment. Our counselors are available twenty-four hours a day to speak with you about treatment for yourself or someone you love. There is hope for opiate addiction. Call now 877 813-9235