Over 35 million people worldwide abuse opiates, including at least 2 million in the United States alone. Because of their easy availability and powerful narcotic effects, opiates can quickly become addictive –and nearly impossible to quit. But the escalating crisis of opiate addiction has also created new ways to get help.
What Causes Opiate Addiction?
Opiates are natural narcotics derived from opium. Though only morphine and codeine are true opiates, these drugs belong to a larger group that includes a group of chemically synthesized painkillers such as:
All these drugs work in the same way to block pain and boost feelings of well-being, euphoria and pleasure.
Opiates and the other opioid drugs are widely prescribed for pain. The only exception is heroin, a street opioid created from morphine. The painkilling effect of opiates and opioids comes from their ability to bind with opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord and even the gastrointestinal tract. But the body makes its own opioid chemicals, called endorphins and encephalins – and these are suppressed by the action of the drug.
Along with reducing pain, opiates stimulate the brain’s pathways for reward and pleasure. But over time, the brain and body develop a tolerance for the drug, so that more and more is needed to get the same feelings. To do that, users may take higher or more frequent doses, combine opiates with other drugs, or take them by alternative methods such as snorting or injecting.
Getting Off Opioids: What Works
Quitting opiates is not as simple as just not taking the drug. Suddenly stopping an opiate or opioid triggers a number of withdrawal symptoms including:
- Muscle aches
- Diarrhea and nausea
- Restless leg syndrome
When those symptoms appear, many people return to taking opiates to stop them – a cycle that never lets the body completely detox, or clear the drug from the system completely.
Detox works best when it takes place under medical supervision to monitor the process and prescribe medications to ease the symptoms. Detox can take place entirely on an outpatient basis with the support of a doctor or clinic. It can also be done as part of an inpatient treatment program, or at a dedicated opiate detox center.
Detox Options Fit Individual Needs
In a detox center or inpatient detox program, the focus is on eliminating the drug from the system. Several detox protocols are available to fit individual needs. Risky but fast, rapid detox can take place in less than a day under general anesthesia. But the process of natural withdrawal can take a week or more. To help reduce the often-severe discomfort of withdrawal, detox programs of all kinds may use a variety of medications such as:
Detox is only the first step toward recovery from opiate addiction. After a stay in a dedicated detox facility, recovery can continue in an outpatient treatment program or in an inpatient drug rehab, which greatly increases the chances for recovery without relapsing.
Inpatient rehab provides a secure and distraction free environment to recover from the effects of drug abuse and focus completely on recovery. Inpatient rehab centers also offer detox as part of the program, and this makes for a seamless transition from withdrawal to recovery work.
The costs of detox may seem daunting, but the costs can be covered partially or entirely by insurance. Payment plans or sliding fee scales can also help to put detox and rehab within the reach of just about anyone.
Opiate addiction affects life, health and relationships. But help is just a phone call away. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to opiates, contact us at 800-584-3274 to find the solutions you need now.