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Opiate Addiction: The Epidemic, Withdrawal and Recovery Options

Opiate addiction has been a major problem in the United States for decades. But in the last few years, it has become an even bigger concern. The drugs that fall into this category have certainly played their role in contributing to our country’s opioid crisis. Every day, they impact a countless number of lives, and the outlook has not been promising.

For those who struggle with opiate addictions, they often feel stuck. Many of them feel imprisoned to these drugs, and they have no idea how to quit. The good news is that help is available, and there is no reason to continue abusing them.

What is remarkable is that many of the people who abuse opiates fail to realize how dangerous they are. They do not understand the risks involved with continuing to use them. Quite often, they do not even know how easy it is to get addicted. This page offers detailed information on what opiates are, how to identify an addiction, and where to get help.

What are Opiates?

Opiates are substances that are derived from opium, which comes from the poppy plant. They are types of narcotic drugs that work as depressants in the central nervous system in the body.

Because of the way these drugs work, they are very effective at treating pain. In fact, at one point, all opiates were legal medications in the United States. Today, we know that there are some of them that are considered to be more dangerous than others. Many of them were classified as Schedule I substances under the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. But there are a few that are still widely prescribed.

The human brain has many different opioid receptors. They act as action sites for different opiate drugs. These receptors play an important role because of the body’s neurotransmitters, which act on them to produce a natural response.

When a person is hurt in any way, the body immediately releases neurotransmitters as a way to help control the pain. They attach to the opioid receptors to provide some relief. But in some cases, it is just not enough. Doctors can prescribe legal opiates to help control the pain. Also, people may use illegal ones for the same reason.

In addition to helping to control pain, using opiate drugs will produce a sensation of euphoria. This is best described as an overwhelming feeling of happiness and well-being. Some people say that they feel relaxed, calm and sedated as a result of euphoria. This feeling occurs because the brain is releasing excess dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical that the brain naturally produces when something good happens. People experience it many times a day when they eat, talk with friends, or get a piece of good news. Using opiate drugs repeatedly will cause a lot of it to be released into the brain. Eventually, the individual loses the ability to produce it without taking the drug. At that point, they are dependent on it.

This is a very informational video that explains in greater detail how opiates work in the brain and body:

Yes, there is a difference; although these terms are often used to describe the same types of drugs. It is important to understand what sets them apart from one another.

An opiate is a drug that is naturally derived from the opium poppy plant, which was first grown in Southwest Asia. Eventually, other countries began growing it too. Today, most of it comes from Afghanistan. However, there have been reports of illegal opium poppy farms in some places in the United States.

The term opioid is used to describe any drug that acts upon the body’s opioid receptors. This includes opiates, but it also includes several other substances that are created in a laboratory setting. Vicodin and Percocet are two examples of opioids that are commonly sold in the U.S.

Both types of drugs are frequently used and abused, and both can be very dangerous.

Commonly Abused Opiates

There are several different opiates that are commonly abused in our country, as well as around the world. Some are legal, and some are not; but all of them can lead to an addiction.

Heroin may be the most popular, illicit, abused drug in the world. It is illegal in the United States, which means it is classified as a Schedule I substance. What you may not know is that this was not always the case.

This drug was first created by a man named C.R. Alder Wright in 1974. He created it from morphine, which comes from the opium poppy plant. More than two decades later, another chemist by the name of Felix Hoffmann re-synthesized it. He was working for Bayer pharmaceutical company. It was first marketed in Germany over the counter as cough suppressant. They claimed it was a non-addictive substitute for morphine.

In 1914, heroin could be prescribed and sold for medical purposes in the U.S. It remained on the market for ten years, until it was banned in 1924.

Today, the ban remains in effect, but heroin is still widely available on the streets. People often turn to it when they are no longer able to obtain their prescription opioid painkillers. In fact, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 94% of people in opioid addiction treatment turned to heroin because it was more available and affordable.

For more information on heroin addiction, check out this video from National Geographic:

Codeine is another popular opiate drug that has been on the market for many years. It is often used to treat pain, diarrhea, and it is frequently prescribed as a cough medicine. It is legal in the United States, and doctors will often prescribe it with acetaminophen, aspirin or Ibuprofen.

Codeine was first discovered by a man named Pierre Jean Robiquet in 1832. It is currently listed on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. In 2013, close to 250,000 kilograms of it were consumed. That means it is the most common opiate drug in the world.

People can use codeine in many different ways. Most people begin by taking it for medical purposes, and then they gradually become dependent on it. Teenagers are known for mixing it with other liquids to form a dangerous cocktail they call Sizzurp or Purple Drank, among other names.

Sizzurp consists of a blend of codeine-based cough syrup, soda (such as Sprite or 7-Up), and a Jolly Rancher candy. It first became trendy in Houston, Texas and has gained popularity because of its mention in many hip-hop songs.

Morphine is an opiate drug that is frequently prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. It is often given to patients either before, during or after surgical procedures. This drug is highly addictive, which is why it should only be prescribed for short time periods.

Morphine has been around for a very long time. It was first synthesized by Friedrich Serturner around 1805. Experts believe that its creation was the first successful isolation of an active ingredient from a plant. The pharmaceutical company Merck began marketing it in 1827. Once the hypodermic syringe was invented around 1855, it became much more widely used.

This is the opiate drug that serves as the basis for most of the prescription opioids on the market. Despite its risk for addiction, morphine remains a common drug of abuse. Even in the midst of our current opioid epidemic, the risks involved with these types of medications are often overlooked.

This fact is evidenced by the release of the song, “Morphine” by hip-hop artist Princess Nokia. The drug makes its appearance in the lines that read:

Got my blanket and my bottle, yeah, you know I like to sip.

Said her lips taste like morphine, asked me if I want a drip.

Lyrics like these make it clear that today’s culture is still not taking the opioid epidemic seriously.

Opium refers to the dried latex that can be obtained from the opium poppy plant. About 12% of this latex is made up of morphine, which is then processed to create heroin.

The oldest known opium seeds date back to the Neolithic age around 5000 BC. The drug’s earliest uses were in food and anesthetics. It was also frequently used as a part of various rituals. It does provide excellent pain relief, but it also produces an intense euphoria.

Opium is probably the most rare opiate drug in the world. This is because of the popularity of heroin, morphine and other narcotics. Its effects are not as strong, and because of this, people usually use it to make alternative substances.

This BBC video offers a great overview of opium:

Which Opioids are Commonly Abused?

Opioid drugs are just as frequently abused as opiates. These medications are available by prescription, but people can also purchase them illegally online or on the street.

Opiates Addiction Information

Oxycodone is often sold under the brand names, Percocet and OxyContin. It is often prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. It is available in tablet form, and recently, an extended release version was marketed in an attempt to cut down on abuse.

This drug is derived from thebaine, which also comes from the opium poppy plant. It was first developed in Germany in 1917. It does produce euphoric effects, even when taken in prescribed dosages.

Oxycodone, like other opioids should only be used on a short-term basis. It works well for treating back pain and pain from cancer treatments. But whenever possible, alternate pain relief options should be sought to prevent dependence and addiction.

Vicodin is the trade name for the combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. It is not as strong as Oxycodone, but it is just as addictive.

This medication is more frequently prescribed than many other opioid drugs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that the United States consumes almost 100% of the world’s hydrocodone. Also, in 1991, there were around 76 million prescriptions written for the drug. By 2013, there were close to 207 million.

The crackdown on painkiller prescriptions may be bringing this total down in the years to come. Today, physicians are encouraged to try other drugs in an attempt to fix the opioid epidemic. Sadly, Vicodin has played a major role in its development.

Fentanyl is an opioid drug that has received a lot of media attention in recent years. It is available by prescription, but is usually only prescribed for severe pain that cannot be treated with other medications. It is highly addictive, and it is very easy to overdose on it if you use too much of it.

This is a drug that is 100 times more potent than morphine. It is also much stronger than heroin, both of which make it much deadlier. Fentanyl has been implicated in many deaths over the last few years. The deaths of Prince and Tom Petty can both be traced back to overdoses of the drug.

Of course, this does not count the number of people who have lost their lives because of accidentally overdosing on Fentanyl. It’s a drug that is often mixed into other substances, like heroin, to enhance the high.

This is a helpful video that explains the dangers of Fentanyl in greater detail:

Finally, Dilaudid is a narcotic medication that is most often given to patients in pain in the hospital. Most people agree that it works best when it is given via IV, but it is also available in tablet form.

Many doctors will only prescribe this drug when other options for treating pain have not been effective. When Dilaudid is compared with Oxycodone, it is much stronger, which also means the risk of addiction is higher.

Like other opioid drugs, Dilaudid is available in an extended release formulation. This can decrease the risk of addiction while offering better pain control to patients.

When it comes to medications like this one, medical professionals have ample opportunity to steal them. There have been many cases of nurses and doctors stealing Dilaudid and other opioids because they were addicted.

This video offers unique insight into the world of addiction and medical professionals:

The Role of Opiates in the Opioid Epidemic

There is no denying the key role that opiates have played in worsening the opioid epidemic in our country. Heroin is the drug that is most often implicated, and as we stated previously, many people turn to it instead of their prescription painkillers.

NIDA offers the following statistics:

  • Between 2002 and 2012, heroin use was 19 times higher among people who reported the abuse of painkillers than among those who did not.
  • The percentages were .02% vs. .39%.
  • 86% of urban injection drug users reported the nonmedical use of prescription opioids prior to using heroin.
  • In the 1960s, more than 80% of people who abused opiates began with heroin.
  • In the 2000s, 75% of people stated that their first use was a prescription drug.
  • Today, close to 80% of people who abuse heroin report having used an opioid pain reliever first.

The statistics certainly do not lie. This is a problem, and opiates are key players, even if they usually do not start out that way. Eventually, most people will turn to drugs like heroin for a number of reasons. For many, cost is a deciding factor. For others, they may seek out an alternative when they are no longer able to obtain prescriptions from their doctors.

How Can You Know if You’re Addicted?

While it might be surprising, it is not uncommon for people to be unaware that they are addicted to opiates. They may suspect that they are dependent upon them, but many remain in denial about their addictions for years.

There are many ways you can find out if you are addicted to an opiate drug. You may want to take our opiate addiction quiz to learn more about your relationship with them. You can also take a few moments and take advantage of our free phone assessment. This will allow you to speak with a professional and explain your drug use history.

You may also find it helpful to have a list of the signs of addiction to refer to. You may be an addict if you:

  • Continue taking a substance even when you do not need it to treat a specific condition.
  • Find that you are forming a tolerance, and you need to take higher amounts to achieve the same effects.
  • Feel strange when the drug begins to wear off. This is known as withdrawal.
  • Feel as though you cannot stop using the drug, even if you want to stop.
  • Continue to use even though you are experiencing negative consequences as a result.
  • Spend a lot of time thinking about using, how it makes you feel, and how to get more.
  • Have lost interest in the people you love and the things you used to like to do.
  • Hide your substance abuse from other people.
  • Struggle to get along with your co-workers, friends and family members.

Quitting and Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

When you stop taking an opiate drug, your body will respond in a negative way, at first. This is completely normal, and it is known as withdrawal. Opiate withdrawal symptoms can become quite severe, and it is difficult to deal with them alone.

Some of the common opiate withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Having intense cravings
  • Vomiting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Excessive yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Anger or agitation
  • A runny nose
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Tearing of the eyes

It is important to understand how opiate withdrawal progresses. It is something that occurs in stages, and people generally experience the onset of symptoms slowly. This is what you can expect.

  • Symptoms should begin within the first 24 hours after the last dose, depending on the type of opiate it is.
  • At first, symptoms should be pretty mild, but they will increase in severity.
  • By the end of the third day, the individual should reach the peak of withdrawal.
  • On the fourth and fifth day, symptoms should begin to improve. But they may notice a few new symptoms, such as chills and excessive fatigue.
  • By the end of the first week, many symptoms will have disappeared completely, but some may still linger.

Opiate Detox and Withdrawal Treatment

There is a list of drugs that require detox, and opiates are on that list. These drugs – whether they are legal or illegal – are extremely dangerous. Someone who is in recovery has a very high chance of relapsing within the first week. Going through the detoxification process can lessen that risk.

Drug detox is a very important part of the recovery process, and it serves a few different purposes. It helps by reducing the risk of any possible complications that can happen during the various stages of withdrawal. It also improves the individual’s chances for a successful long-term recovery, while making them feel more comfortable.

Doctors recommend different forms of treatment for everyone, based on their needs. It is important to understand the types of treatment you might be receiving.

When it comes to treating opiate addiction, a medical detox approach is often highly recommended. This means that patients are given medications to help them with their symptoms. Most often, medication assisted treatment or opioid replacement therapy is the best options.

There are several drugs that have been approved for use in medication assisted treatment, or MAT. They include:

Your doctor will choose the one that is best suited for you and your personal needs.

Holistic treatments will undoubtedly become a part of your treatment plan, and for good reason. The human body is quite good at detoxing on its own, as long as it is healthy enough. Holistic withdrawal treatments are important because they improve the health of the liver and kidneys. They also help addicts feel better, overall.

Most patients can expect to meet with a nutritionist for dietary advice and changes. They can also expect to begin a regular exercise program. Other treatments may also be recommended.

Quitting Opiates Cold Turkey

Saying that quitting opiates cold turkey is hard is most likely an understatement. Anyone who has attempted it would agree. These drugs are potent, dangerous and highly addictive. The body yearns for them, both physically and psychologically.

One man related his story in an article on the Vice website. He stated that it was the hardest thing he had ever done, and it made him feel like he wanted to die. What’s more, that quit led to a string of other addictions just to cope with the withdrawal symptoms.

After getting off his pain medication, he switched to marijuana, but he found that he could never get high enough. He moved on to alcohol, and spent most of his time drunk and/or high.

Most people who quit opiates cold turkey will suffer from a relapse. Those that avoid it have usually moved on to other drugs instead. This is why it is best not to take the risk, and quit by going through detox and rehab.

Opiate Rehab and Your Options

Once detox is over, the next step is to go through an opiate rehab to help with the mental part of the addiction. This is critical because unless the underlying cause has been dealt with, recovery is very unlikely.

There are different types of rehabilitation programs for opiate addiction. What works for one person might not be the right option for someone else.

Many experts believe that inpatient rehab is the best option for recovery. This is especially true when that individual has never had any form of treatment in the past. It involves a 28-day stay in a facility, complete with many different forms of therapy.

Outpatient rehab programs can be effective, but they are usually best for people who have been through more intensive treatment first. People work with a therapist individually to get the help they need, and appointments are usually on a weekly basis.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are a great option for people who need a higher level of care. Not everyone can commit to an inpatient stay, and attending an IOP can be a good compromise. The programs usually last for about 12 weeks and involve several lengthy appointments during the week.

Narcotics Anonymous offers support groups for people with drug addictions. They follow the 12 Step method of recovery. Groups tend to vary in size, and there is no charge to participate.

Types of Therapy for Opiate Addiction Recovery

Patients will encounter many different types of therapy during their addiction treatment programs. This is a key part of keeping rehab varied so that all of their needs are met.

Individual therapy sessions are usually seen as the cornerstone or foundation of rehab. The therapist has a very important job, which is to determine the cause of the addiction. They are also tasked with helping people change their behaviors so they can avoid relapsing.

Therapists may offer different types of treatment, such as:

  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment – This is for people with co-occurring disorders, such as depression or anxiety. It treats both the mental health issue and the addiction at the same time.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – This allows people to understand their behaviors in a new light and make the appropriate changes.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy – This method addresses patients’ unwillingness to change their behaviors and desires to stop using. It can be incredibly helpful during rehab.
  • EMDR – This stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a form of treatment utilized for people suffering from trauma or PTSD.
  • Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy – This method helps people change the self-defeating thoughts they often have. As a result, they improve their self-confidence and learn how to adapt their behaviors to produce positive results.

Peer counseling has shown to be a very effective method of treating addictions. It helps to know that others understand what you are going through, which is why it is often used in rehab settings. There may be different types of support groups that cover various topics that people participate in.

The family is the most powerful support system for someone who is addicted to opiates. But quite often, important relationships are damaged when someone is an addict. This is why family counseling is so important. They allow addicts the chance to make amends for any harm they’ve caused, and they provide support to loved ones as well.

How to Get Started With Your Opiate Addiction Treatment Right Away

It is our hope that you feel ready to start your opiate addiction treatment. We want you to know that, here at Northpoint Washington, we are here for you. We can talk with you about the different types of rehab and what might be best for you.

You never have to worry about being judged when you talk with us about your addiction. We understand how serious your problem is. We also have the proper tools that you need to overcome your addiction. You won’t find another facility in the area that cares as much as we do.

Do you have additional questions you would like to have answered about opiate addiction? Please let us know how we might be able to further assist you by contacting us today.

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Northpoint Washington: Opening April 2019

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