Opiate addiction has never been a bigger issue, both worldwide and in the United States. The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that an estimated 2.1 million people were, at the time, addicted to prescription opiates and around 500,000 more addicted to heroin, figures that are almost certainly higher now in the face of a nationwide heroin epidemic. A recent analysis from Blue Cross Blue Shield indicated their members indicated cases of opioid addiction increased seven-fold from 2010 to 2016.
If you or a loved one find yourself struggling with opiate abuse and addiction, you can find access to comprehensive, inpatient recovery at TTCCare’s West Palm Beach facility.
What Are Opiates and Why Are They So Addictive?
The word “opiates” refers to any drug derived from the opium poppy. At one point, “opioids” was used to describe synthetic opiates, but now it’s used to describe all opiates, so the two are interchangeable as of 2017.
Here is a list of synthetic and natural opiates, as well as their common brand names:
- Morphine (MS Contin)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percoset)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Hycodan)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Fentanyl (Duregesic)
These drugs are so addictive because they basically hack the brain’s pleasure centers and vary them. The basic science of the process of opioid addiction involves your brain’s opioid receptors. When an opioid drug is consumed, it binds to these receptors and blocks pain signals while causing the release of dopamine, the main neurotransmitter involved in feeling pleasure.
Over a prolonged period of repeat use of opiates, your brain’s chemistry is rewired so that you can’t feel this pleasure without the use of the drugs, causing addiction and dependence.
How Do People Become Addicted to Heroin?
Heroin, an illicit drug derived from morphine, is one of the only opiates not used for medical purposes, but it’s responsible for more overdose deaths than any other illegal substance, and more often than not, heroin use starts with prescription painkillers.
Despite regulatory bodies’ recommendations, doctors prescribe prescription opioids at an alarming rate, for chronic or acute pain, and recovery from operations of various kinds. Between 1999 and 2014, sales of prescription opioids quadrupled, but there wasn’t a noticeable change in the amount of pain reported by patients. Prescriptions for these drugs are easier to get than ever before.
When patients are given prescription drugs over a prolonged period of time, they become dependent on them. This dependence means when the drugs become too expensive or their prescription runs out, they often turn to alternatives. An unintended crack-down on ‘pill mills’ and poorly regulated pharmacies was many prescription painkiller users losing their supply. Many have turned to a cheaper, more common substance: the street drug heroin.
What Are the Signs of Opiate Addiction?
In the short term, opiates cause a feeling of euphoria and escape. Drugs of this class are depressants, meaning they slow down physical and mental function and provide the user a peaceful sensation.
When used over a long period of time, however, these drugs are perceived to be less strong. This is due to the user building up a tolerance for them, so they have to use more to achieve the same sensation. This in combination with the body beginning to expect these chemicals is how dependence sets in, and eventually may result in addiction.
Addiction involves a physical need for a person to have a certain substance in order to function. Here are some of the signs of abuse and addiction to heroin and other opiates:
- Increased anxiety and panic attacks
- Low motivation
- Depression and feelings of worthlessness
- In extreme cases, psychosis
- Increased alertness
- Constricted blood vessels
- High blood pressure
- Physical agitation and insomnia
- Decreased appetite
Opioid abuse also comes with some unpleasant side effects, but these usually don’t take hold until the user is basically powerless to the drug. These include chest pain, trouble breathing, constipation, nausea and general confusion, both during use of opiate drugs and when sober.
How Do You Know If You Have an Opiate Addiction?
Many addicts may not be willing to admit to their own addiction, or unable to recognize it in the first place. If you’re unsure if you fit into a category where you could benefit from professional care in a recovery program, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you take opioids longer than prescribed or at a greater dose than intended?
- Do you have difficulty taking less than you’re used to?
- Do you abandon social and other respeonsibilities to use drugs?
- Do you find yourself spending a large amount of time planning, using, acquiring and recovering from using opiates?
If you can honestly answer yes to any of these questions regarding your own habits or a loved ones, you need to seek help before you put yourself in a dangerous situation with drug abuse and addiction. Heroin use leads to more overdoses than any other street drug, and often addicts don’t realize that they’re taking too much because they’ve built up such a high tolerance.
At The Treatment Center’s Residential Palm Beach facility, we can offer medical detox and recovery services to help you free yourself from the grip of addiction. Call our 24/7 helpline at [phone].
How is Opiate Addiction Treated?
There are several methods of attacking opiate addiction at various stages of the condition. The first involves a drug used to intervene during an overdose:
Opioids, like many depressants, slow your breathing. The danger with opioids is that unlike other depressants, it’s easier to build up a tolerance and take too much without realizing it. That’s why opiates as a whole are responsible for more overdose cases and deaths than any other substance. In 2015 alone, it was estimated by the American Society of Addiction Medicine that prescription opioid overdoses resulted in over 20,000 deaths and heroin use leading to 13,000 more.
Currently, it’s recommended that family members and associates of addicts, as well as emergency responders all carry a drug called Naloxone (Narcan, Evzio), which counters the effects of opioids, namely in bringing a user’s breathing back to a healthy speed.
Residential Treatment for Opiate Addiction
Today, it’s widely agreed upon that the best method of treatment for addicts of opiates and other addictive substances is an inpatient program where they can get clean with the supervision of mental health, medical and drug addiction specialists.
This may involve different therapy sessions including group therapy, family therapy and one-on-one counseling, as well as integration into a 12-step program like Narcotics Anonymous, but one of the most important aspects of an inpatient treatment program is medically supervised detox. Here’s why detoxing in a safe environment is so important.
What Are the Hazards of Withdrawal from Opiates?
Withdrawing from Opiates is a very uncomfortable and difficult process, although as long as the patient doesn’t have any concurrent addictions, it’s not likely to be fatal. Still, attempting to stop using a drug cold turkey has incredibly low success rates due to the harsh side effects associated with abstinence, including the following:
- Intense cravings for the drug
- Alternating cold flashes with feverish sweating
- Anxiety and insomnia/restlessness
- Muscle and bone pain
Even though heroin and opioid withdrawal doesn’t tend to carry the danger of death (without complications), it can be extremely dangerous for an addict to go through without proper supervision.
At our West Palm Beach recovery facility, we offer a place to escape addiction for addicts from around the country. The Treatment Center has trained staff working around-the-clock to help patients with medically supervised detox, counseling and recovery support programs to ensure that everyone is given the best possible chance to regain sobriety in a residential setting.
For more information about our West Palm Beach facility, give us a call at [phone]. Our highly trained addiction counselors are standing by to help you receive the care and compassion that you need to fight opiate addiction.