According to recent statistics, opiate abuse and addiction is costing the U.S. more than $484 billion annually, making it one of the most common and costly addictions afflicting those around us. Whether you are suffering from an opiate addiction yourself, or if you have a loved one in your life who is struggling to overcome the addiction, understanding an opiate addiction thoroughly is the first step to getting the help and resources necessary for your personal situation.
What is an Addiction to Opiates?
Prescription strength painkillers use variety of opioids to alleviate pain ranging from joint pain to muscle strains and aches. Individuals who become addicted to opiates have often had the painkillers or prescription medications prescribed directly to them, only later to lead to a more serious addiction and habit. Because of the strength of opiates and most painkillers on the market today, they need to be administered and taken with extreme caution to avoid becoming habit forming.
The most common types of opiates that are used and abused today are morphine, heroin, opioids and even codeine. Additionally, there are also synthetic opiates which are prescribed within traditional doctor’s offices and hospitals such as Oxycontin, which are rapidly becoming even more abused on the drug market today. Although opiates are originally derived from the poppy plant, which also contains opium, they have since become extremely popular and used within a variety of medications available to treat a number of illnesses and pain symptoms.
It is not uncommon for the everyday individual to quickly become addicted to using opiates after a routine procedure due to their powerful nature. Once an individual begins taking opiates, the pleasure center in the brain is activated each time the body receives the medication, giving the patient a relief from pain and an overall euphoric feeling. Once the body no longer has the opiates in the system, it begins to crave more medication and painkillers to “light up the brain’s pleasure system” again. Within just a few days to a few weeks, any individual who has had no history of drug use or addiction has the capability of becoming addicted to using opiates and other narcotics. Ensuring safety and proper use of prescriptions is necessary to avoid any potential downward spiral.
Signs and Symptoms of an Opiate Addiction Withdrawal
Whether you or a loved one in your life is attempting to overcome an addiction to opiates, it is likely to experience common opiate withdrawal signs and symptoms when you stop using the drugs, especially within the first 72 hours of non-usage. When you have become severely addicted to opiates and you are looking to find a way out of your addiction, it is highly recommended to seek medical care and assistance throughout the process to help with ensuring your body’s health and safety while you are detoxing.
When you first attempt to stop using opiates, it is common to experience insomnia, increased irritability, anxiety, achy muscles and even increased sinus drainage and sweating. As withdrawal symptoms begin to worsen depending on the severity of your addiction to opiates, you may begin to experience nausea, vomiting and cramping throughout the abdomen. Diarrhea, dilated pupils and even frequent episodes of goosebumps without warning is also common. If you find yourself experiencing the later symptoms of withdrawal from opiate addiction which are more severe, it may be necessary to check yourself into a hospital or a local rehabilitation treatment center or facility.
Because of the severity of an opiate addiction, it is easily possible to overdose on prescription medications, morphine and other opiates that have been given to patients by doctors themselves. Opiates can ultimately lead to respiratory decompression, heart failure, liver and kidney failure as well as brain damage depending on which opiates are used, the amount that has been taken, as well as whether or not any other substances have been mixed with the opiates during the process.
Long-Term Effects of an Opiate Addiction
Long-term effects of an opiate addiction often lead to anti-social behavior, caring less about responsibilities, and even the inability to maintain relationships or employment. Opiate addictions often trigger financial stress, many times even leading to lying to spouses and family members to help with affording the habit.
Understanding the early signs and symptoms of becoming addicted to using opiates can help you to recognize these signs in those close to you and assist them in getting the help they need.
Building a Support Group for a Loved One Struggling to Overcome an Addiction
Building a group for support is essential for anyone attempting to beat their opiate addiction. Your support group should consist of close friends and family members who can be trusted, are empathetic to the situation, but are not enablers. The bigger your support group is the easier it becomes for the addict to stay away from temptation, and remain healthy and clean.
Inpatient Rehabilitation Treatment Facilities
Inpatient rehabilitation treatment facilities do not only provide a safe haven for you to detox in, but they often have medical assistance and care available at all times. Various drugs such as Methadone, Revia, Suboxone and Subutex are used to help with detoxing opiates from the body, especially within the first few days of not using the drug altogether.
When you have a severe addiction to opiates, an inpatient rehabilitation treatment center or facility may be the ideal, and maybe even only, solution for you. Checking into an inpatient rehabilitation center often requires patients to live within the premises for a set period of time, lasting anywhere from 28 days to more than 60 days depending on your own needs as well as the severity of the addiction you are trying to overcome.
The Benefits of Inpatient Rehab Facilities
Inpatient rehab facilities and treatment programs provide you not only with medical care and assistance, but also with counseling and group therapy opportunities. Hearing about the same struggles others are also facing can be reassuring throughout your journey to sobriety. Meeting others who are also going through the same process is a way for you to ensure you stay as motivated and focused on your goals as much as possible at all times.
Outpatient Opiate Rehab Programs
Outpatient rehab programs and facilities are also available for individuals who are faced with an addiction to opiates and who want to overcome the addiction and cravings altogether. Outpatient rehab programs do not require individuals to live within the facility where treatment takes place. Instead, using an outpatient rehab program gives you the opportunity to prove your sobriety by attending bi-weekly, weekly, or even monthly meetings to assess your progress, share your stories, and to hear from others.
Outpatient opiate rehab programs are only advisable to those who do not have an addictive personality or who have not gone through different programs unsuccessfully in the past. Because of the potential severity of this type of addiction, it is important to seek out an impatient care facility or a hospital if the individual involved is suffering from a severe addiction relating to prescription painkillers or other opiates.
Selecting the Right Rehab Program
Whether you have been struggling with an addiction to opiates for years or if you have only recently found yourself forming an unhealthy habit, choosing the right rehab program or treatment center for you highly depends on your own needs, your lifestyle, as well as the severity of the addiction in question.
Having a clear understanding and self-awareness of your opiate addiction and how it is affecting and impacting you, your family, and those around you each day is a way for you to better determine whether you require inpatient care, or if you are better suited for an outpatient rehab and recovery program.
The more you understand opiate related addictions and how they can affect you both short and long-term, the easier it is to begin making the right choices for yourself if you are in need of help and support to get your own life back in track. Educating and informing yourself about this affliction is one of the best ways you can lend support and a helping hand to a loved one through their process of getting clean and sober.
Resources and References:
NIH: NLM: Opiate Withdrawal: MedLinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
Addictions and Recovery:
Opiates – Narcotics: Addiction, Withdrawal and Recovery Facts
Addictions: Opiate Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment & Recovery
Caron: Heroin and Opiate Statistics: Opiate Abuse: Heroin Addiction: