An introduction to Opiate Addiction
Opiate and opioids are two commonly mistaken substances. The two have been confused for so long that some people do not even comprehend the difference between them anymore. Other than the close similarity in naming, the two are also usually confused because they affect the same receptors in the brain. However, the two are entirely different. Opiates are substances or drugs whose ingredients are derived from the opium plant. The most common types of opiates are morphine, codeine, and opium.
Meanwhile, opioids are synthetic or artificial drugs engineered to mimic the action of natural opium. Opioids could be entirely synthetic, which means that they are 100% man-made or partially synthetic where they are partly synthetic but also contain some natural opium. Examples of opioids include drugs such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.
With that out of the way, let’s now get down to discussing opiate addiction and why you really need to get some help if you or a loved one is affected.
Did you know that over 130 people die in the US every day due to opioids overdose? In 2017, approximately 1.7 million Americans were suffering from substance use disorders traced to opioid pain killers. If that’s not bad enough, 47,000 Americans died of opioids addiction in the same year!
So, how does opiate addiction develop? The crazy thing is that some people don’t even get this problem from taking street drugs such as Heroin. In certain instances, it starts by using prescription drugs such as morphine. Patients suffering from chronic conditions are usually given morphine to help with the pain. What morphine does is that it introduces dopamine and endorphins. These are neurotransmitters that create a euphoric feeling. After using them for some time, your brain will stop making its own dopamine and endorphin. You will also notice that the amount of opiates you used to take to feel high is no longer sufficient. This is what we refer to as the rise in tolerance. It then forces you to up the dose to feel the opiate’s impact.
After tolerance, the next thing you will notice is physical dependence. The brain’s inability to make its dopamine and endorphin will mean that you cannot feel pleasure, satisfaction, reward, and other similar effects produced by the two neurotransmitters. Any attempts to stay clean results in ugly withdrawal symptoms. This is usually accompanied by psychological dependence. Your cravings for opiates will get intense with every passing minute. Your natural instinct will be to do whatever it takes to get an opiate and achieve that high. You might have been using opiate pain killers to deal with pain for a particular condition, but even after getting healed, you’ll still find yourself cheating through the system to retain your supply of opiates. When that fails, most people – up to 80%, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse – end up using Heroin.
How Do I Know If I Have an Opiate Addiction?
To determine whether you or a loved one has an opiate addiction, we have compiled the indicators into the following categories:
Financial problems – When you have the nagging urge to get Heroin several times a day, you effortlessly end up spending a lot of your money on it. At times, it’s not even your money that you are using. In the initial stages of addiction, you’ll probably be misplacing your priorities and redirecting your finances to the drug instead of clearing your bills. The bills will pile up, and you’ll start operating on the negative. In no time, you’ll begin to spend someone else’s money. This is how people get into trouble because they inevitably start stealing money for drugs. The craving for opiates is insanely strong and will push you into doing whatever it takes – including breaking the law – to get that money for your next fix.
Difficulty maintaining interpersonal and social relations – this is when individuals start ignoring, avoiding, and lying to their loved ones. They could also begin fighting them for all sorts of reasons with some of them becoming domestically violent. They’ll even start avoiding, ignoring, or forgetting about their family responsibilities. Addicts will start losing interest in all sorts of activities. The guys who used to spend so much of their time on a football pitch will no longer have the interest of doing so. They’ll also retract themselves from most social activities.
Professional or academic issues – once you get addicted, your cravings for opiates will come second to nothing. Not even the job you worked so hard to get. This is when you’ll start noticing that you’re no longer working as efficiently as you used to. You’ll start clocking in late and leaving early. You will never run out of excuses to take a day off, and in other days, you’ll simply fail to show up without giving any reason.
In case you’re a student, your performance in school will take a significant spiral downwards. Your grades in school will become terrible, and you’ll find yourself facing the disciplinary committee more frequently.
Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms
Have you ever tried to quit taking opiates but barely a day since your last dose you start experiencing all sorts of issues that make it impossible for you to function? That’s what we refer to as withdrawal symptoms. Like we said earlier on, taking opiates for a long time causes your brain to shut down its production of endorphins and dopamine. The drugs also interfere with the chemical balance in the brain. In the end, the drugs cause physical and psychological dependence on the drug. Withdrawal symptoms are your brain’s way of expressing the craving for opiates.
The withdrawal symptoms usually come in phases which can start in as little as 16 hours.
The first phase is generally marked with the following symptoms:
- Muscle pain
- Panic attack
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach problems
It’s important to know that Phase 1 is usually the toughest. These symptoms are going to be severe, especially if you’ve been addicted for a long time. The risk for relapse is also very high at this point. The good news is that it gets better with time if you’re getting the professional help you need.
The second phase is much better, but you’ll still have to deal with specific issues such as:
- Muscle aches
- Stomach cramping
Phase 2 typically starts three days after your last dose. Sadly, this is not standard for everyone. In some people, phase 1 may last for a long duration, and that’s okay because your body is still trying to readjust to the chemical changes in your brain. You just need to stay strong and wait it out.
What’s the treatment for Opiate Addiction?
Opiate addiction could be a big beast, but it is nothing you cannot beat. A lot of people have done it before, and you are no exception.
There are so many people and institutions that are ready to help, and all you need to do is take the step and seek help. Whether it’s for you or a loved one, you will get very useful information from the addiction hotlines. They’ll give you all the details you need to start your treatment as soon as possible. Remember that treating a condition is always easier at its earliest stage and so it’s in your best interest to avoid wasting time.
A typical opiate addiction treatment usually starts with detox. This where the professionals start to get the opiates off your system. And how exactly do they do that? This is achieved through taper or opiate withdrawal medications like methadone, clonidine, and buprenorphine, which ease the withdrawal symptoms.
One may wonder, why not buy the drugs and do the detox yourself at home? Well, opiate addiction is also a psychological issue. You could manage to avoid the withdrawal symptoms, but if the psychological and behavioral aspect is not addressed, it’s easy to find yourself back on the drugs. For that reason, you may want to seek help from an inpatient or outpatient detox facility. Here you will get to interact with counselors who will help you understand addiction, the triggers, and how to avoid them. You’ll also have the opportunity to build a support network that will help you stay sober.
By calling the 24/7 hotline, you will get all this information and much more. They’ll even give you a list of nearby centers and the insurances allowed. They can also find you a support group within your area just in case you are calling while on the verge of relapse. Just pick up your phone and make that call today. Our professional counselors are waiting for it.