Opiate addiction has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. There were over 259 million prescriptions written for painkillers in 2012 according to the Centers for Disease Control. Opiates such as prescription painkillers are used to treat pain from incidents such as accidents, surgery, and terminal illnesses. While relieving the pain sensations, these drugs also create a feeling of euphoria and well-being in individuals. As the user continues taking the drug prescribed for them, over time they develop a tolerance to it, much as alcoholics develop a tolerance to alcohol. They must use more and more of the drug for it to have the same effects on their system. Many users also enjoy the euphoric feeling that the drug gives them; therefore, they take more and more of it to keep this sense of well-being.
What Exactly are Opiates?
Opiates come from the opium poppy plant. Natural opiates include codeine, thebaine, morphine and opium. To clarify, the difference between opiates and opioids: opioids are all drugs with morphinelike effects, which includes opiates, semi-synthetic opioids, and synthetic opioids. Semi-synthetic opioids are derived from opiates. This includes drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and heroin. Synthetic opioids are not derived from opiates and include the drugs, buprenorphine,
methadone, and fentanyl. Most opiates are Schedule II substances. This means they are at high risk for abuse and addiction even though they do have a medical use.
Heroin has no medical use. Many times, individuals who have become addicted to their pain medication and can no longer obtain it, turn to heroin. Because painkillers are so strictly regulated today, physicians have become more cautious and aware as they prescribe these drugs. They may discontinue prescriptions if they feel that the patient has become too dependent on the drug. In cases such as this, the patient may try to purchase the drugs illegally from individuals for a while. Prescription painkillers are very expensive on the street. Heroin is cheaper now than it has been in previous years. Therefore, many people turn to this drug in place of painkillers because it has the same effects of euphoria and well-being and is also much easier to obtain.
5 Signs of Addiction to Opiates
There are five signs that are present when someone is addicted to opiates. These five signs are:
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Inability to stop despite efforts to do so
- Changes in behavior
Tolerance is probably the first sign of addiction. Once a person develops a tolerance to an opiate, it takes more and more of
the drug to have the same effect, whether it is pain relief or the euphoric feeling matched with the feeling of well-being. When
this happens, the individual starts looking for more of the drug, whether it is by legal means or illegal.
If a person finds himself craving a drug, even if the drug is not needed for pain, this is another sign of addiction. Someone who is prescribed an opiate-based drug will find himself thinking about the drug before it is time to take the next dose. Others who abuse opiates illegally will find themselves craving it, wanting more and more of the substance almost daily.
Withdrawal symptoms when an individual stops taking opiates can be very uncomfortable, but should improve within 72 hours. They are much like flu type symptoms. The symptoms of withdrawal from opiates are not life-threatening. Some of the early symptoms include:
- Muscle Aches
Some of the later symptoms can be more uncomfortable but can be managed. Some of the most severe symptoms include:
- Dilated Pupils
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Abdominal Cramping
- Goose Bumps
Another sign of opiate addiction is the inability to stop using them despite efforts to do so. In many cases, the individual will realize that they have a problem with opiates and need to stop using them. In such cases, the person honestly and sincerely tries to stop or at least cut back on use. Despite such efforts, they remain engulfed in the abuse of the drugs.
The last sign of opiate addiction is behavioral changes. There actually are many behavioral changes when someone is abusing or addicted to opiates, or any drug for that matter. The person will start missing work or school due to drug usage. They will become isolated from family and friends and act secretive about their behavior. If married or in a personal relationship, this will start to suffer also. A real sign of addiction is having financial problems. The individual will start borrowing money from others to support their habit. They will let their obligations such as monthly bills and other payments and financial support for family take a back seat to obtaining their drugs. If you see all or any of these five signs in a loved one, there is a critical need to approach them about getting help for addiction.
Many overdose deaths are from opiates or heroin. Often, individuals will be in recovery from opiate addiction for a length of time and then turn back to abusing the drug. During this period, the individual does not have the tolerance they had built up from the drug beforehand. This is the cause many times for overdose. They feel that they can tolerate the same amount of the drug while the body is not capable of handling this amount, resulting in overdose and many times, death.
Treatment for Opiate Addiction
While opiate addiction is at epidemic levels in the United States, all is not lost. There is help for individuals battling with addiction. Many addiction treatment facilities today specialize in treatment programs for opiate or heroin addiction. You can research different centers and find treatment in a facility which will design a program for your individual needs and preferences.
Most inpatient addiction treatment facilities today offer in-house detoxification along with treatment programs to follow to assure you a full recovery from addiction. You can enroll in a program and completely recover from opiate addiction with a long and full life to follow. Don’t wait; if you are struggling with opiate addiction seek help in an inpatient facility today.