What are Opiates?

Opiate Addiction

Opiates are controlled prescription substances that are made from opium, which is a natural chemical that comes from poppy seeds and plants. Opiates are prescribed to treat mild to severe pain in patients, are known as “opiate painkillers.” With such calming effects, opiates have a high rate of abuse that usually leads to addiction even after short term use. 

Addiction to painkillers occurs when a patient has been prescribed the medication for pain relief following an accident or an injury. Patients are given a prescription from a doctor with specific directions and have no intention of abusing the drug. But sometimes it just happens. The force behind it is the person builds up a tolerance to the opiates and resorts to taking more to get the same effects they did when first started. 

Increasing the medication dosage can lead to physical dependence, which means they’ll need to continue taking them daily to feel normal. Eventually, they’ll become reliant and will lead to cravings, which are urges to get more opiates – despite the harmful consequences that could occur. 

Once a person’s opiate-seeking behavior scales entirely out of control and begins to compromise their health, full-blown addiction has occurred and professional opiate addiction treatment is necessary. 

Addiction is far greater than a craving to use drugs, it’s a neurological disease that cripples the person who is suffering during their drug use period. People who are struggling with opiate abuse disorder usually recognize their addiction and want to stop using but feel unable to without help. 

The only way to fully recover from opiate painkiller addiction is getting professional treatment from an opiate rehab center.

How are Opiates Taken?

There are several ways of being administered opiates, which will all depend on your capabilities and specific doses needed. Here are a few samples: 

  • Pill or liquid is taken orally 
  • Nasal spray
  • Patch on bare skin
  • Dissolvable tablet 
  • Suppository 
  • Needle into vein
  • Needle into muscle
  • Needle into the spinal cord
  • Implanted pump

Depending on which opiate painkiller you are prescribed will determine whether you can administer from home. With stronger pain medicine drugs like morphine and fentanyl, those are given in a medical facility under a medical professional’s supervision.  

How Do Opiates Work?

Opiates are a narcotic, which attach to receptors found in the brain and spinal cord and send reduced pain messages and block the feelings of the pain. They come in both a short-acting or long-acting form. 

The short-acting version often has only opioids as pain medicine or a combination of opioids and another pain reliever, such as ibuprofen. Once taken, you may wait 15-30 minutes for results, and from there, receive 3 to 4 hours of relief. Prescribed to help with pain from a severe injury or surgery and are usually a minimal amount to be only taken a few days at a time.

Your doctor may give you a painkiller with longer-lasting effects if you have a more moderate to severe pain for an extended period. Those should give you relief for 8-12 hours, and are taking on a regular schedule for up to 2 weeks. There are also short-acting opiates with a long-acting effect as an emergency medication for when the pain is very bad. 

What causes Opiate addiction?

Opiates alter your brain by creating artificial endorphins that block pain and also make you feel good. Overusing opiates will cause your brain to always rely on these artificial endorphins. An extended period of using opiates, your brain may stop producing its endorphins. The more you use, the more likely this will happen, and the higher the probability of developing a drug tolerance. This is when your body gets used to the effects of the opiates and requires higher doses to feel like it once did before.

Types of Opiates

Opiates can come in many different forms. Morphine comes in an oral liquid, injectable, and a pill form. Codeine comes in an oral liquid, pill form, and also a suppository. 

Heroin’s appearance comes in a few different forms. Most popular is powder form resembling a white, off white, brown, or grey color. Then there’s black tar heroin, which is a sticky and black form of the drug. There’s a more recent trend of heroin coming in tablet form or being packed into gel caps and known as “scramble.” Most opiates will be made into a tablet or injectable form, depending on the manufacturer that produces them.

Here are some of the most prescribed opiates:

  • Codeine 
  • Fentanyl 
  • Hydrocodone 
  • Hydrocodone/acetaminophen 
  • Hydromorphone 
  • Meperidine 
  • Methadone 
  • Morphine 
  • Oxycodone 
  • Oxycodone and acetaminophen 
  • Oxycodone and naloxone

Your doctor will prescribe most pain killers to be taken orally, but there are drugs like fentanyl that are in a patch form and are absorbed into the skin. 

Opioids vs Opiates

Most people know that there is a difference between opioid and opiate, but not many know what makes them differ. 

Opiates are labeled as “natural” because they come from a poppy plant, which naturally creates the active ingredient molecules. Common opiates are opium, codeine, and morphine, which are all made directly from the poppy plants. 

Opioids are a painkiller made partially or fully synthetic. This means the painkiller’s active ingredient is created chemically in a lab. Opioids will have the same effect as opiates when in the human body because of the block of similar molecules. A few of the most popular opioids are OxyContin, hydrocodone, and fentanyl.

Opiate – Painkiller produced opium poppy (natural)

Opioid – Painkiller produced part or fully synthetic (lab-created)

Opiate Effects and Abuse

Opiates give you a euphoric and tranquil feel when you take them in an amount that exceeds what was prescribed. There is a euphoric and carefree feeling that you experience when taking pain killers. Once opiates are taken on a regular basis, the need for that feeling may lead to destructive patterns of drug abuse. Once becoming addicted, an individual will have compulsive drug-seeking behavior like theft, lying to get money, and may include seeing multiple doctors for prescriptions. As a last resort of desperation, a person may choose to get heroin, which closely mimics the effects of opiates. Despite people knowing the dangers of heroin, it is still commonly purchased off the streets because of easy availability and lower price then opiate pills. 

Symptoms of Opiate Abuse:

  • Liver disease
  • Dehydration
  • Abscesses of the skin
  • Respiratory infections
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Addiction
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Failed attempts to reduce drug use
  • Overdose
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Opiate withdrawal symptoms and side effects

An opiate dependency will develop based on the length of time taking a particular medication, dosage, and way they took the drug. Opiate withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe, depending on how long they’ve been consistently using the drug. The opiate withdrawal process will be similar to this timeline: 

Early withdrawal symptoms happen within 6-12 hours for short-acting opiates and 30 hours for long-acting.

  • Tearing up
  • Muscle aches
  • Agitation
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Yawning excessively
  • Anxiety
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Heart racing
  • Hypertension
  • High fever

Late withdrawal symptoms come within 72 hours and last a week or more.

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Stomach cramps
  • Depression
  • Drug cravings

It will be imperative to seek out support provided by a mental health professional to decrease the symptoms and side effects of withdrawal. It would be best if you did not stop opiates suddenly without the physical and emotional support of a treatment professional. Choose not to, you may have significant side effects, and the withdrawal may be more powerful and have dangerous complications. Even with professional treatment, the cravings for opiates may continue longer than a week in some situations. 

Opiate Overdose

Taking opiates in high doses may cause respiratory failure and eventually lead to death. Opiates have an effect on the brain that regulates breathing. Opiate overdoses are identified by a combination of three different signs and symptoms known as “opioid overdose triad” and are identified by the following symptoms: 

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Respiratory suppression
  • Becoming unconscious

When combining opiates with alcohol and other sedative medications, you increase the risk of respiratory depression, which leads to death. Most opioid-related deaths are accidental due to individuals combining drugs and alcohol. This becomes so routine that they will continue to do it regularly until the fatal dose is taken. 

Individuals who become dependent on opioids are the group that is most likely to suffer an overdose.  

Mental and physical traits that could lead to overdose:  

  • Developing an opiate dependence
  • Using opiates by injection
  • Taking higher opiate doses than prescribed 
  • Combining opiates with other sedatives or alcohol
  • Diagnosed with HIV, lung or liver disease
  • Suffering from depression               
  • Living in the same house as opiate abusers

Treatment Options for Opiate Addiction

Woman considers going to an opiate addiction treatment centerWhen the individual decides to seek treatment for their opiate addiction, there are a few options available. 

Opiate addiction inpatient treatment requires the individual to stay in a hospital or treatment facility for an extended period. This is the proper treatment for a severe, long using addict who needs comprehensive treatment which will involve three stages: 

  • Hospital detox which allows the individual to have a professional medical professional watch over and assist during the first 3 to 7 days which are the most urging and uncomfortable 
  • Residential addiction treatment allows the individual to stay at the addiction treatment facility for 24/7 hands-on care during the crucial first 2 to 6 weeks of recovery. 
  • Aftercare treatment is similar to a long-term outpatient treatment, which will still require therapy regularly, support groups, and medication.

Opiate addiction outpatient treatments refer to any treatment program that does not require a hospital visit. This is recommended for the attics who don’t need the full-blown hands-on experience. Outpatient opiate rehab has grown popular among people who feel they do not need 24/7 intensive care treatment.  

Some of the more common reasons individuals prefer opiate outpatient treatment are:

  • Inability to leave a job due to owning a business, having no financial help without, or people you love depending on you. For individuals with severe addiction, inpatient treatment is a top priority even if they lose their job. However, some aren’t able to do that, so it’s understandable to choose outpatient therapy. 
  • A mild to moderate addiction to prescription painkillers such as opiates, outpatient treatment may be enough to quit. This is where you must be in tune with yourself and know your level of cravings and the ability to stay on the path of sobriety. 
  • A strong support network of friends and family may help an addict to recover as effectively in their home as they will do a treatment center. This usually precedes success if there is a supportive family at the household, and the friends and family surrounded by you are educated about addiction and treatment methods.
  • Without a prior history of addiction, individuals who have never experienced any dependence on drugs or alcohol will not see themselves as an addict. However, they have recognized they’ve slipped into addictive habits and behavior. Outpatient treatments may work for these individuals who do not have a genetic or psychological addiction history. 

Opiate addiction intensive outpatient treatment is more time-intensive than a normal outpatient program. These usually will be 3 to 5 days per week, 6 to 30 hours per week, and last about 90 days. The goals of intensive outpatient programs include:

  • Remaining abstinent 
  • Progressive behavioral chance
  • Support system participation
  • Responsibility to maintain a positive living environment, maintaining employment, and prompt to probation meetings. 
  • Improving decision-making skills
  • Develop a strong support system.

How is Opiate Addiction Diagnosed?

Your doctor or a medical health professional can give you the necessary tests to see if you have become addicted to opiates. The diagnosing will include a medical assessment and examination for mental disorders. 

Get Help Today 

When the time comes, and you are ready to take these next steps to regain your life, we will guide you through the process until you achieve sobriety. We will set customized goals and accomplish them while documenting all progress counting towards our goal. Our structured process gives all of our patients. The opportunity to be back in the world while educated enough to continue their sobriety journey.

It’s time to take back your life from opiate addiction. Allow our team of experienced and professional medical specialists at Crest View Recovery Center assist you while you take this path to sobriety.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537079/

https://pcssnow.org/resource/methadone-buprenorphine-opioid-agonist-substitution-tapers/

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin

 

Related Articles

The Opioid Crisis in America
How to Avoid Falling Victim to the Opioid Epidemic
Opioids vs Opiates Comparison
Opioid Withdrawal Timeline
Opioids and Alcohol Abuse
The Differences Between Opium vs Heroin