Opiate Abuse: Symptoms and Treatment
Opiates are prescription drugs generally given out to help people manage pain. They are handed out freely and an addiction is easy to form. The American Society of Addiction Medicine claims that in 2012, over 259 million prescriptions were written for opiates in the United States. With this volume available, it isn’t surprising people are developing addictions.
Opiate addiction can be overcome: and with help, you can learn to live a normal healthy life.
If you find yourself addicted to opiates, don’t feel bad. It’s often unintentional as you use the opiates to manage legitimate pain and then find yourself addicted. Recognize the problem and take the time to find a treatment option that will help you get off the opiates and back to a normal life without the drug dependency. There are hundreds of treatment options available for you, take the first step and make the call.
With a doctor’s supervision, opiates are used to handle pain related to surgery, injuries, and illness. However, for some people, they become highly addictive because they give a sense of pleasure and relief from pain. The body also builds a strong tolerance to the drug, causing people to take more and more in order to get the same relief.
Since opiates are so freely prescribed, people often offer spares of their prescription to friends and loved ones who are in pain, thinking to be helpful and save them the trip to the doctors. Unknowingly, they then set that person on the path to addiction as they are now taking opiates without any medical supervision.
There are many opiates in the market, including:
- Hydrocodone such as Vicodin and Lortab, which is often combined with an acetaminophen
- Meperidine such as Demerol
- Hydromorphone such as Dilaudid
- Propoxyphene such as Darvon
- Codeine, which is often given for bad coughs
- Oxycodone such as OxyContin, Endocet, Percocet, Percodan, or Roxice
Signs and Symptoms of Opiate Abuse
Identifying yourself or someone you love as an addict can be scary, and often you’ll go through a period of denial at first. You often justify your use because you have a doctor’s prescription and the medication makes you feel good, removing other pain and hardship from your life. However, there are short- and long-term effects of continued use of the drug that you should be aware of so that you can identify when your use goes from medically necessary to addiction.
- Long-Term Effects: Opiates can take a huge toll on the health of your body, and all it takes is one large dose to kill you. Research is underway to show how extensive long-term use can lead to brain damage due to lack of oxygen. It can also impact your personal and social life as opiate addicts are focused mainly on feeding their addiction and not taking care of people or responsibilities they have.
Long-term opiate use can lead to many lifestyle and behavior changes. Many addicts are so focused on getting their fix that they spend all their money in pursuit of the drugs and not on necessities they need. They may even start selling drugs to support their addiction. Either way, they are so preoccupied with obtaining and taking the opiate they’re addicted to that they don’t focus on important relationships and start to build new friendships with other drug abusers. This leads to neglect of work, school, and other activities, outbursts of temper, an appearance of secrecy, a rapid deterioration of physical appearance, and more.
If you believe someone is using opiates, you may notice they are euphoric, drowsy, or confused. Also, they might have small pupils, slowed breathing, periodic loss of consciousness, or constipation. If you suspect opiate abuse, you can also watch out for behaviors such as visiting multiple doctors for prescriptions, shifts in moods, extra pill bottles in the trash, withdrawal from family and friends, and financial problems.
- Overdose Symptoms: In 2014, there were over 44,000 cases of overdose that were lethal − and many of those were due to prescriptions. People who are overdosing can be awake but unable to communicate, suddenly falling asleep, and have a pale or clammy face. Their fingernails or lips begin to turn blue, and breathing and pulse slows down. They could start vomiting, or even lose consciousness.
Abuse of opiates means that the painkillers cannot unload their endorphins, and in some cases, there are 100 times the number of endorphins than normal in the body. This has extreme negative impacts on the brain as it is flooded with pleasure and gets addicted to a feeling it will never be able to recreate without the drug. The body stops producing its own endorphins and simply relies on the unnatural input from the drug.
The body is always trying to keep itself in balance, and when there is an imbalance such as when the system is flooded with endorphins, the body does its best to counteract the change and restore the balance. So, when someone is addicted and constantly flooding their body with endorphins, the body will change to produce less endorphins on its own, instead requiring the drug to even feel normal. This also means that the safest and best way to get back to normal is through treatment with medical supervision.
Accepting Opiate Abuse
If any of those symptoms sound like you, it may be time to admit you’re addicted to opiates. The longer you continue your addiction, the more dependent you become on the drug to function normally. Have you been using the opiates for longer than intended or aren’t willing to surrender your prescription into someone else’s management? If you can’t decrease the amount you’re taking, if you’re obsessing over obtaining the drug, or if you’re beginning to neglect important activities, it’s time to admit your addiction and seek treatment. Don’t focus on feeling bad about getting to this point, instead focus on treatment and creating a healthier future for yourself. Opiate addiction can be overcome: and with help, you can learn to live a normal healthy life.
Helping a Loved One
If you are researching treatment options for a loved one, then you’re taking the first step to help them overcome their addiction and get started on a normal life. Look for these signs of opiate abuse to determine if your loved one is struggling with addiction to their opiate prescription.
- Marks on the body from taking injections
- Slow or shallow breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Constantly itching skin
- Small pupils
If you believe they are addicted, you need to start the conversation with them to help them recognize their problem and seek treatment. This is a hard thing to do, as the addict may not be ready or willing to admit that they have a problem and may be irrational or defensive.
Wait until they’re in a good place mentally and not under the influence of their drug (if possible) before you approach the subject. During your conversation, remember to remain calm no matter what they do and be willing to truly listen to what they are saying. Make sure you emphasize how much you care about the person and forgive them for what has happened. Show them that there is hope and a possibility for treatment.
Don’t get upset, raise your voice, or pass judgement on them because of their addiction. However, remember that you may need to be patient and bring up the concept of treatment on multiple occasions before they are able to accept that you truly have their best interests at heart.
Detox and Withdrawal
Withdrawal from opiates can be difficult and painful, especially if you’ve been abusing them in large amounts for a long time. You have to retrain your body to provide the chemicals instead of relying on the drug to provide them for you. Ignoring the urge to get the chemical fix from the drug leads to withdrawal symptoms. Medically supervised detox programs give you a better chance to get through these symptoms without caving in and reverting to taking the drug.
Detoxing from opiates is a little tricky, as people tend to have very different experiences and different pain levels. However, if you’re at a treatment facility, the professionals can help you manage the pain as they wean you off your addiction. They may use medication to help you taper off or holistic approaches such as nutrition or meditation depending on what’s happening with you.
While this process can seem scary, it’s an important and necessary first step to any treatment program. Having the help a treatment facility provides means that your withdrawal symptoms will be less severe and you have the support you need to make it through.
- Medical Detox: Safe detox often requires someone to stay at a hospital or treatment facility while they go through the process. This way they can be monitored and given any medications necessary to weaken the withdrawal symptoms. Generally, medical detox involves weaning someone off the drug by tapering the dose of the same or a substitute drug.
- Rapid Detox: This happens when the patient goes through the detox process while under anesthesia. The patient is then given injections of opiate blockers which stops the action of the drug and causes withdrawal to begin. They also generally receive medication to help muscles relax and prevent nausea. Physical detoxification can be achieved in four to eight hours with this process and happens in the intensive-care unit of a hospital. Sparing patients the pain of withdrawal, this is a good option for people who have repeatedly been unable to complete a general detox program. However, there are risks associated with this type of detox and the use of anesthesia.
- Stepped Rapid Detox: Instead of being under general anesthesia, small doses of Narcan are injected under the skin as well as giving naltrexone orally, which together can reduce withdrawal symptoms. While this can be slower than full rapid detox, the speed of the detox can be controlled to respond to patient needs and symptoms can be addressed.
- Ultra-Rapid Detox: Again the patient is under general anesthesia while receiving Naltrexone to block all endorphin receptors and forces complete detoxification within a five- to thirty-minute period. As with rapid detox, it comes with medical risk.
- Outpatient Detox: For people who are more likely to have mild symptoms, outpatient detox is an option, generally by taking some kind of medications in place of the opiates.
- Methadone: Taking methadone is the most common approach to opiate detox. It can be taken while in a clinic or treatment facility and the dose is slowly tapered down over a period of weeks. There is still an uncomfortable withdrawal period and other medical supplements are often necessary.
Going into treatment for opiate addiction can be hard and is often intimidating, but the doctors and staff will do everything they can to help you through the process. In addition to helping through the detox process, rehab programs will also help patients learn to live without the drug and learn coping skills to handle situations where they would previously reach for the drug. They will also teach healthy life habits such as exercise and nutrition to help the person feel their best long term.
Treatment and Rehab for Opiate Addiction
Accepting that you need rehab is the first step towards getting on the road to recovery. Depending on your specific situation, you may need to stay in a treatment facility for a month all the way up to a year. There are many different choices for the type of facility, from gender-specific to holistic to faith-based to luxury. The process at all of them, however, is similar.
Staying consistent with your aftercare is a key step in keeping yourself sober and preventing or limiting relapses.
You’ll start with intake when you arrive at your treatment facility. You will meet with a doctor and therapist to understand where you are with your addiction, gather background information, and to map out the plan for detox and rehabilitation. Once this is complete, you’ll start the detox process where your body withdraws from the abuse and begins to recover. This can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, even when medically assisted, but the staff at the facility will take every step possible to ensure you’re comfortable and your needs are met.
As detox completes, you’ll start the rehab portion of the program. This will include education about addiction, individual and group therapy, support, and any other tools you need to help you recover and live a healthier life in the future. The details of your rehab program will depend on the type of facility you choose and what your therapist thinks will work best for you.
As your treatment program draws to a close, you and your therapist will develop an aftercare plan to help you stay drug free once you leave the treatment facility and return to your normal life. This often includes counseling and group support. Staying consistent with your aftercare is a key step in keeping yourself sober and preventing or limiting relapses.
Paying for Opiate Treatment
Often, individuals facing the need for treatment from opiate abuse are already financially stressed, and the thought of adding an expensive drug treatment facility visit on top makes them avoid treatment altogether. Luckily, many insurance programs will pay for some or all of your treatment, helping make the cost more affordable. Give Rehab-Finder.Org a call and let us help you assess what’s available based on your insurance program, search through all the rehab facilities in the country, and find one that will give you the treatment you want while still being affordable. Having someone help with the search process can remove a lot of the stress of starting treatment. We’ll present you with the best options and you can get started on your recovery.
You Can Recover From Opiate Addiction
If you’re ready to start down the road to recovery, it’s time to take the first step and find the treatment facility that is right for you. You don’t want to be controlled by drugs for the rest of your life and assistance is available to help you detox your body and learn to live a healthy lifestyle.
Don’t try to fight with your addiction alone when you could call today and find a treatment facility that can help and support your journey.
Call today at 877-251-4813.