Opiate addiction is on the rise. What begins as a simple pain prescription after experiencing an injury or following surgery can lead to a substance use disorder.
As your body becomes dependent, trying to quit can be painful because of severe withdrawal symptoms. Anyone can develop an opiate addiction that can devastate your life and those of your loved ones if you don’t take action.
- What Are Opiates?
- Opiate Addiction Facts & Statistics
- Why Are Opiates Addictive?
- Signs & Symptoms of Opiate Addiction
- Coping With Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms
- Getting Opiate Addiction Treatment
Help is available. At Beacon House, our intimate and home-like opiate rehab center in beautiful Northern California is the perfect place to address this serious addiction. You’ll get the help you need from our caring and competent addiction medicine team who will be by your side every step of the way.
WHAT ARE OPIATES?
Opiates are generally considered to be drugs derived from opium. Although they are all highly addictive, they are often prescribed for pain. Taking them for a prolonged period, however, even if they are prescribed by a doctor, can lead to opiate addiction.
Some opiates are used as prescription pharmaceuticals, such as morphine and codeine. Others are just illicit street drugs used for recreational purposes, like heroin and opium.
Opioid is a term often used interchangeably with opiate. However, opioids are either synthetic or partially synthetic drugs designed to create similar effects to opiates. They affect your brain and body in much the same way as opiates.
With an Opiate Addiction Treatment Center, you can overcome abuse to these devastating drugs. For example, the most common opiates include:
OPIATE ADDICTION FACTS AND STATISTICS
The statistics surrounding opiate addiction are staggering, leading the CDC to declare an opioid epidemic in the U.S. Among all forms of drug abuse common today, none is more increasingly prevalent than opiate addiction.
By examining the statistics, it’s easy to confirm that opiate addiction is creating a crisis in our society:
- 2.1 million people in America suffer from an opioid use disorder.
- Opiate addiction varies widely by state, but the most current numbers show that the problem is worst in New Mexico and West Virginia.
- California and other western states report addiction rates higher than the national average.
- Between 1999 and 2010, the sale of prescription painkillers to pharmacies, hospitals and physicians increased by 400 percent.
- Prescription painkiller drugs account for more than 475,000 emergency room visits each year.
- Over 130 people die every day from an opioid-related overdose.
For those unsure what substances fall into the category of opiates, the definition centers around a group of drugs derived from opium—which comes from the poppy plant—that are used to alleviate pain. Opiates are often also defined as opioids or narcotics and include heroin as well as codeine, morphine and synthetic forms of the drugs such as Oxycontin.
Opiates can also be described as those drugs that produce a sense of wellbeing or euphoria, despite the fact that they are intended to treat acute and chronic pain resulting from injury and disease. Unfortunately, far too often patients taking opiates for legitimate health reasons quickly develop a tolerance, resulting in a need for more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect. And taking high dosages of opiates can easily lead not only to severe addictive conditions but also to death from cardiac or respiratory arrest as the body’s tolerance to the pleasurable effects of opiates develops much more quickly than tolerance to the drug’s dangerous side effects. In fact, the highly addictive nature of opiates is responsible for more than two million people in our country reporting abuse of pain medications within 12 months or less—that’s more than 5,500 people a day abusing a prescription drug.
However, as the crisis grows, so too does the solution. More and more health professionals understand this crucial issue. That’s why they provide opiate addiction information and education to their patients when they prescribe these medications.
WHY ARE OPIATES SO ADDICTIVE?
Opiate pain medications are intended to treat moderate to severe pain. When prescribed and used as directed following surgery or a medical procedure, they support the healing process by helping patients manage their pain.
However, taking opiates can lead to abuse because of the effect they have on the brain. When the drug enters your bloodstream, it causes your brain to release a flood of endorphins and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are responsible for feelings of pleasure, satisfaction and reward, and they produce a sense of euphoria. This high is an unnatural rush that can only be experienced by using the drug again.
Through a process of several steps, prolonged opiate use can develop into an opiate addiction:
- Tolerance: You need larger doses of opiates to create the same high.
- Physical dependence: Your body enters withdrawal if you stop taking the opiate.
- Psychological dependence: You experience intense cravings for opiates.
UNDERSTANDING OPIATE SIDE EFFECTS
There are both short- and long-term effects from opiate use and addiction which vary from mildly annoying to dangerous and, in the case of an overdose, deadly.
Among the most common short-term problems—which occur when opiate use first begins or when someone begins increasing their dosage—are breathing problems, known as respiratory depression. Because the drugs directly affect the portions of the brain stem that regulate breathing, first time users can find themselves short of breath. In the case of heavy use related to opiate addiction the brain essentially becomes unable to regulate respiration, and abusers may stop breathing all together.
Other common side effects of opiate use are:
- Confusion, again because the drugs—designed for pain relief—work directly on the central nervous system.
- Users may feel slower in their thinking and reaction time and may experience a loss of coordination.
- Constipation, which nearly all users experience, is also a side effect as the pain receptors in the gut react instantly to the chemicals present in opiates.
- Many users experience periods of sleepiness when taking opiates, and too often this becomes a desirable effect—allowing the user to “escape” their pain—that leads to overuse and eventually addiction.
- Itching has also been reported in approximately 10 percent of people taking opiates, and more than one-quarter report mild to moderate nausea that often fades as the body becomes accustomed to the drugs.
- Sexual side effects in both men and women are being reported and studied more and more, as researchers believe chronic opiate use reduces testosterone levels and cause erectile dysfunction in men as well as numbs the pleasure centers of the brain for women. Coupled with the pain for which an individual uses opiates, sex becomes less enjoyable and is often discontinued while opiates are being used.
When the body develops a tolerance to opiates a user is at risk of developing an addiction as they increase their dosage to achieve the desired effects. Unlike many drugs opiates accumulate in the body and their effects—slowed breathing, low heartbeat, dizziness and seizures—can easily become permanent conditions.
As the drugs become more widely used in this country physicians are seeing a connection between opiate addiction and depression. One study shows that those people who take opiates regularly for more than three months increase their chances of developing major depression by more than 50 percent. It’s believed that, because opiates bind to receptors to decrease the perception of pain, the “reward” centers of the brain are elevated and a higher threshold of the ability to feel pleasure is reached. Therefore, depression occurs when a pleasurable state can no longer be achieved no matter how much an addict increases their use of the drugs.
Lastly, opiate addiction and pregnancy is becoming an epidemic as rates of abuse increase. More than four percent of women reported using opiates while pregnant, and adverse effects on fetuses include congenital heart defects as well babies being delivered with severe complications to their central nervous and respiratory systems as well as problems with their digestive tracts.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF OPIATE OR OPIOID ADDICTION
While someone with opiate addiction can experience harsh physical side effects, sometimes the changes in their life are the more obvious sign that there’s a problem. A severe addiction to opioids or opiates can take their toll on you financially, professionally, interpersonally and legally.
If you suspect a friend or loved one has an opiate addiction, here are some of the signs to look out for:
- Borrowing or stealing money
- Financial troubles
- Ignoring or avoiding loved ones
- Drastic changes in behavior
- Faking pain-related injuries or hurting oneself to get a new prescription
- Having an excess of pill bottles
The symptoms of opiate addiction vary from person to person, but there are common signs that mark abuse of this class of drugs. Typically, those signs can be divided into three main categories: psychological or mood-related; behavioral; and physical.
In the psychological category, a person abusing or addicted to an opiate will display a sense of increased general anxiety—which may include panic attacks, especially if they fear running out of or needing to obtain more the drug—as well as periods of depression, irritability and greatly lowered motivation. Additionally, the opiate addict may display symptoms that seem positive or beneficial, such as consistent euphoria and improved self-esteem. However, these periods of highs often conceal a series of opiate addiction mood swings and personality changes that occur in those who have gained a tolerance to the drugs.
Behaviorally, the opiate addict will use the drug—which in many cases was originally obtained as a prescription for the treatment of a physical injury resulting in a need for pain management—for longer or at a greater amount than the prescribing physician intended. The addict may also make unsuccessful attempts to decrease the amount they’re taking and may abandon formerly important activities in favor of spending most of their time obtaining or binging on the drug or recovering from its effects.
In a physical sense, the opiate addict or abuser will also experience seemingly positive effects such as improved alertness, energy and sexual arousal as well as increased sensory perception. However, they will also experience dangerous internal conditions such as an increased heart rate, constricted blood vessels, high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping and heightened physical agitation with leads to paranoia and, in some cases, psychotic episodes.
As widespread addiction to opiates is a relatively recent trend in this country, many medical professionals and addiction specialists are attempting to make a distinction of opiate dependence versus opiate addiction. In a state of dependence, the body relies on the drug merely to prevent the symptoms of withdrawal, and that dependence—in its early stages—can be managed with a slow tapering off of use. However, as the user builds a tolerance to the drug the body loses the ability to produce naturally occurring substances that mirror the effects of opiates, and therefore becomes dependent on external sources of the drugs.
When a state of opiate addiction is reached, the user can no longer control the cravings for the drugs—cravings that occur when the brain is altered at a chemical level—and begins using them compulsively despite the serious dangers they present to their health and psychological well-being. Therefore, when an addict attempts to quit taking the drugs without the help and guidance of addiction specialists the chance of an opiate addiction relapse is overwhelmingly common as the cravings are difficult to overcome.
To determine whether someone is opiate dependent or addicted there are several clinical tests utilized by physicians and addiction counselors during the withdrawal period that measure such conditions, such as:
- resting pulse rate
- occurrence of chills and sweating
- a level of restlessness
- pupil size and dilation
- digestive upset
- aches in the bones and joints
- anxiety or irritability
By rating these conditions on a scale health professionals can determine whether the individual is merely physical dependent or addicted to opiates.
In addition to these symptoms, having an opiate addiction puts you at a high risk of experiencing an overdose. Because these drugs lower your blood pressure and cause slowed or shallow breathing, an overdose can easily turn lethal if you’re not treated immediately.
COPING WITH OPIATE WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS
As nearly one-tenth of the U.S. population is estimated to misuse opiates at any given time, the symptoms of withdrawal are well known to health professionals and addiction specialists. And when, over time, the amount of the drug taken by the addict increases in order to produce the desired effect, the user will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing the symptoms that occur with a reduction or discontinuation in dosage.
Early symptoms of opiate withdrawal include:
- muscle aches
- a runny nose
- profuse sweating
- uncontrollable yawning
- tendency towards tearing
In the later stages of withdrawal, the opiate addict may experience:
- abdominal cramping
- severe diarrhea
- dilated pupils
- nausea and vomiting
Typically, the symptoms of opiate withdrawal—which can begin within 24 hours from stopping opiate use—are uncomfortable but not necessarily life-threatening, except in cases of extremely long-term abuse or if the addict has other underlying health conditions that become dangerous when withdrawal begins, such as heart conditions or a history of strokes. Additionally, if the opiate abuser has been combining various drugs—such as taking oxycontin with alcohol or codeine with benzodiazepines—the chances for serious adverse complications during withdrawal are much more likely. It’s vital therefore that an individual be closed monitored by a physician during any drug withdrawal phase.
For the short-term opiate user who may not know whether or not they’ll suffer from withdrawal symptoms, physicians can perform several diagnostic tests including urine and blood screening as well as tests to determine if the opiates have damaged the liver or kidneys. Additionally, it’s important for the longer-term opiate user to receive a comprehensive medical exam measuring blood count, red and white blood cell and platelet numbers.
The physical effects of opiate withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a week to a month, however the emotional symptoms—low energy, insomnia and anxiety—can last for several months depending on the level of drug use. And in the longer term the heavy opiate user can expect post-acute withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms occur because brain chemicals fluctuate wildly as the brain attempts to return to a normal state of equilibrium. During this time, severe mood swings are common and the various physical symptoms of withdrawal may come and go rapidly. Generally, post-acute withdrawal periods last only a few days but long-term opiate addicts have reported experiencing the effects up to two years after they initially stopped using the drugs.
Because the physical, emotional and psychological symptoms of opiate withdrawal depend on so many factors—length of abuse, health of the user and whether a state of dependence or addiction has been reached—it’s critically important to seek immediate help from both medical professionals and dedicated addiction specialists who can help manage the symptoms of withdrawal and therefore greatly increase the chances for a successful recovery from opiate addiction.
GETTING OPIATE ADDICTION TREATMENT
Once the addict makes the decision to seek help for their opiate addiction, specialized treatment centers are the first place to seek help. In conjunction with care from doctors who specializes in opiate addiction, recovery rates for addicts vastly improve when a comprehensive approach to withdrawal is undertaken.
Often, for the chronic and long-term addict, opiate addiction medication is utilized to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. These medications include Buprenorphine paired with Naloxone during the initial detoxification stages and, when needed, during the maintenance phase of treatment. Buprenorphine activates opiate receptors in the brain and reduces cravings for the drugs, while naloxone prevents the addict from misusing this medication that is designed to aid in recovery. In certain cases, Clonidine, a blood pressure drug that works directly on the brain, may be prescribed in order to reduce the commonly experienced “fight or flight” response—the urge to abandon recovery efforts in favor of returning to drug abuse—which is over-activated during a withdrawal from opiates.
Psychological and social factors are the main elements that push opiate addicts back into a life of drug abuse as general stress and stressful situations remind the brain of the drug’s pleasurable “escape” effect. Therefore, addiction experts and treatment centers recommend participation in narcotic-addiction programs and one-on-one and peer opiate addiction counseling. Such therapy can take place as an outpatient or in a residential facility and often includes cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing, both of which aid the addict in realizing the impact and consequences of their decisions to abuse opiates and show more healthy ways to deal with stressful situations.
Additionally, if the opiate addicts drug use has damaged personal relationships, family and couples counseling is highly recommended and can help create a strong support system as the addict seeks long-term recovery. It’s important to note that experts in opiate addiction recovery stress that simple and immediate detoxification rarely results in long-term recovery, and abstinence treatments as well as ongoing monitoring are critical to success.
Because opiate are so readily available as prescriptions for pain relief and other health conditions and are so common in millions of households, the growing problem of opiate addiction is still a relatively new public health epidemic in our country. But health professionals continue to develop new strategies—withdrawal-easing medications, innovative therapies and counseling approaches—to help reverse this trend. And as with any addiction, recovery is possible for anyone who is given strong support and encouragement to achieve long-term, lasting freedom from opiate abuse and addiction.
TREATMENTS AND REHAB PROCESS
The Opiate Addiction Treatment Center at Beacon House is the perfect place to begin your rehab. Our staff has the training and experience to make sure you find success in treatment. With your commitment to sobriety, we can bring about real change in your life.
When you arrive at Beacon House in Northern California, our initial clinical evaluation helps us determine a unique treatment approach based on your specific needs. Treatment will begin with detoxification, allowing you to safely begin the withdrawal process.
At Beacon House Opiate Addiction Treatment Center, we tailor our services to ensure you get the care you deserve. This can include inpatient, outpatient or extensive care. All of our programs also include experiential programs to help reintroduce you to “real life” without opiates.
We also offer programs for other substances, including:
- Heroin Addiction Treatment
- Alcohol Addiction Treatment
- Cocaine Addiction Treatment
- Meth Addiction Treatment
Each program differs depending on your specific circumstances with addiction. However, we offer a wide range of therapies that will likely be in place during your program.
CONTACT BEACON HOUSE AND OVERCOME OPIATE ABUSE TODAY
If you’re ready to break free from opiate addiction, we invite you to contact Beacon House today. Our Opiate Addiction Treatment Center is here to guide you away from abuse and into lifelong recovery. For more information, call us at 831.372.4366 .