When it comes to treating conditions involving pain, opiate medications do an excellent job at relieving pain symptoms. Unfortunately, opiate medications work in much the same way as heroin, another opiate-type drug. As with heroin, the high potential for prescription drug abuse has resulted in astronomical rates of addiction over the past decade.
Likewise, opiate addiction treatment rates have increased substantially. As detox is only step one in the recovery process, recovering addicts remain at a high risk of relapse when ongoing treatment needs go unmet.
While relapse, in and of itself, can be a discouraging time, the risk of experiencing an opiate overdose when relapsing rises considerably for people just coming out of detox. Opiate overdose can be life threatening to say the least, and accounts for most all overdose deaths resulting from opiate drug use.
Opiate Overdose Trends
Today’s fast-paced world drives more than a few people to seek out ways to relax and escape. When used for nonmedical purposes, opiate drugs provide an easy escape from life’s daily pressures.
People who get injured and require some form of pain treatment can also fall prey to the relaxing effects of opiates. These patterns of use account for the high opiate addiction rates of today.
While opiate overdose can happen in cases of long-term drug use, the risk of overdose increases exponentially when a person relapses after going through detox.
According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, opiate overdose rates saw an increase of 111 percent between the years 2004 and 2008. In terms of emergency room admissions resulting from opiate overdose, prescription drug-related incidents alone increased from .5 million admissions in 2004 to one million admissions in 2008.
By the time a person enters opiate detox treatment, he or she has reached the point where both a physical and psychological addiction have developed. The primary goal in detox works to break the body’s physical addiction to the drug.
The detox process allows brain chemical processes to resume some degree of normal function without the effects of opiates. As long-term opiate use causes a person’s tolerance levels to keep increasing, eliminating all traces of opiates from the body becomes a necessary first step to recovery.
Once the detox period ends, both the brain and body have adapted to the absence of opiates in the system. While detox does help a person overcome the body’s physical dependency, the psychological component of addiction can only be treated through ongoing treatment. When left untreated, the risk for relapse and opiate overdose remains.
After detox, the body no longer requires opiates in order to function normally, however a person will still experience ongoing drug cravings. Drug cravings tend to run especially high during the first few days after completing detox.
Someone who relapses during this time will likely try to pick up where he or she left off in terms of the amount or dose of drugs ingested. Since the body’s tolerance level for opiates has decreased considerably after detox treatment, users are at a high risk of opiate overdose.
In effect, an overdose occurs when the drug overpowers the central nervous system’s ability to keep bodily processes working. The respiratory system in particular is most susceptible to overdose and can completely shut down during a relapse episode. For this reason, respiratory failure accounts for the majority of opiate overdose deaths.