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Understanding Opiates

Useful and helpful information about opiates and the opioid crisis in America today.

You may have heard of something called the "opiate crisis" on the news in the past few years, but what exactly is this crisis, and how is it affecting Americans?

What are opiates?

Opiates are a class of drugs that have been used for thousands of years, originally derived from the poppy plant. Many opiates are created synthetically, for medicinal purposes, while others are classified as illegal. Every opiate shares one thing - they all depress the body's central nervous system.

Opiates are often used in medical settings as pain relievers, and doctors will prescribe them for those who suffer from chronic pain, or are recovering from surgery. Even though opiates do have a medical use, they are often used illegally to get high, and are often snorted or injected, resulting in a dangerous slowing of the body's natural systems.

Common opiates include:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl

Opiate addiction and abuse

Opiate addiction is one of the most extreme drug problems in the US today, with estimates reaching more than two million users in 2015. Still, millions of opiate prescriptions are written up every year, and obtaining heroin on the streets is more common than ever. The Center for Disease Control notes that studies show that up to three out of every four heroin users were previously prescription opiate abusers.

When a person becomes addicted to heroin, they build up a tolerance to the effects of the drug, so they need to use more and more in order to get the same feelings. This results in a higher risk of overdose, which could lead to death. Even when used under the care of a doctor, opiates are highly addictive, and many users continue to seek opiates after their prescription expires. This leads to drug purchases on the street, where the strength and purity of the drug are not controlled. Every dose is different, and just one can be too much for the body to handle.

What are some of the symptoms of opiate usage?

Opiate usage slows down the central nervous system, which in turn slows breathing and heart rate, and lowers body temperature and blood pressure. In addition, it produces a feeling of extreme pleasure and euphoria, which leads people to keep using it. Some other signs and symptoms of someone using opiates are:

  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness, drowsiness, or intermittently losing consciousness
  • Noticeable euphoria

In addition, the behaviors of an addict may change as well. For example, an addict might always be on the hunt for a new doctor to prescribe pain killers, or may suddenly be in financial distress due to spending all their money on drugs. You may notice the person withdraw from social interactions and quickly change moods if their drug supply is running low.

If a person uses needles to inject the drug, you may notice the areas around injection sites become abscessed or infected. Intravenous drug use often leads to shared needles, which can pass on any blood-borne illness like hepatitis, or HIV.
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Call now to be connected with a compassionate treatment specialist.
Call us now (24/7)
(855) 977-9303

Opiate withdrawal

One of the scariest parts of opiate addiction is the withdrawal. When an addict suddenly stops using the drug, their body starts to withdraw from the drug. Because users spend much of their time high on the drug, it's hard for them to feel normal without it. The chemistry of their brain actually changes, leading to mental and emotional changes in a person, in addition to physical changes.

Depending on how long the person has been using opiates, and taking into consideration other health issues, withdrawal can occasionally be life-threatening. Users do not simply crave the drug - they will feel muscle aches, have changes in digestion, anxiety, agitation, extreme sweating, shaking and nausea, and may have insomnia. 

Withdrawal symptoms start within a few hours of the last use of the drug, with the symptoms peaking after a few days. While the physical symptoms may start to subside after a week, the psychological symptoms of addiction might last much longer. 

Depression, paranoia, and a need to feel the pleasurable feelings related to the drug can lead to relapse at any time, even years after the last use of the drug. That's why it's always recommended to detox with the help of a professional.

Treatment for opiate abuse

There are several treatment options available. Here are some things that should be considered before deciding on a treatment plan.

  • How long has the person been using opiates?
  • Are there any other health problems
  • What method did you usually use to take the drug?
  • How did you usually obtain the drug?

More powerful drugs, or people who have used them for a long time, might need a higher level of care. Opiates should never be stopped suddenly, or without the proper emotional and medical supports in place. Medical professionals will slowly wean a user off the drug, and sometimes prescribe methadone, buprenorphine, or a similar drug to make the transition easier. While these drugs are opiates, they do not produce the same high, and therefore are not as easy to abuse.

Since it is so easy to relapse into addiction, it's often helpful to get psychological counseling as well. Sometimes addictions stem from emotional problems, and people turn to drugs to ease their pain. Keeping that in mind, a therapist or a psychologist may be able to help to heal mental illnesses, in order to lessen the chances of relapse.

The opiate crisis has gripped America tightly in the past few decades, and it's a complex problem that needs a multifaceted solution. However, there is help and hope for those who find themselves struggling with addiction. It is not shameful, nor is it a weakness. Addiction is an illness, and with the proper supports in place, can be overcome.

You may have heard of something called the "opiate crisis" on the news in the past few years, but what exactly is this crisis, and how is it affecting Americans?

What are opiates?

Opiates are a class of drugs that have been used for thousands of years, originally derived from the poppy plant. Many opiates are created synthetically, for medicinal purposes, while others are classified as illegal. Every opiate shares one thing - they all depress the body's central nervous system.

Opiates are often used in medical settings as pain relievers, and doctors will prescribe them for those who suffer from chronic pain, or are recovering from surgery. Even though opiates do have a medical use, they are often used illegally to get high, and are often snorted or injected, resulting in a dangerous slowing of the body's natural systems.

Common opiates include:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl

Opiate addiction and abuse

Opiate addiction is one of the most extreme drug problems in the US today, with estimates reaching more than two million users in 2015. Still, millions of opiate prescriptions are written up every year, and obtaining heroin on the streets is more common than ever. The Center for Disease Control notes that studies show that up to three out of every four heroin users were previously prescription opiate abusers.

When a person becomes addicted to heroin, they build up a tolerance to the effects of the drug, so they need to use more and more in order to get the same feelings. This results in a higher risk of overdose, which could lead to death. Even when used under the care of a doctor, opiates are highly addictive, and many users continue to seek opiates after their prescription expires. This leads to drug purchases on the street, where the strength and purity of the drug are not controlled. Every dose is different, and just one can be too much for the body to handle.

What are some of the symptoms of opiate usage?

Opiate usage slows down the central nervous system, which in turn slows breathing and heart rate, and lowers body temperature and blood pressure. In addition, it produces a feeling of extreme pleasure and euphoria, which leads people to keep using it. Some other signs and symptoms of someone using opiates are:

  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness, drowsiness, or intermittently losing consciousness
  • Noticeable euphoria

In addition, the behaviors of an addict may change as well. For example, an addict might always be on the hunt for a new doctor to prescribe pain killers, or may suddenly be in financial distress due to spending all their money on drugs. You may notice the person withdraw from social interactions and quickly change moods if their drug supply is running low.

If a person uses needles to inject the drug, you may notice the areas around injection sites become abscessed or infected. Intravenous drug use often leads to shared needles, which can pass on any blood-borne illness like hepatitis, or HIV.
Ready to get help?
Call now to be connected with a compassionate treatment specialist.
Call us now (24/7)
(888) 642-9705

Opiate withdrawal

One of the scariest parts of opiate addiction is the withdrawal. When an addict suddenly stops using the drug, their body starts to withdraw from the drug. Because users spend much of their time high on the drug, it's hard for them to feel normal without it. The chemistry of their brain actually changes, leading to mental and emotional changes in a person, in addition to physical changes.

Depending on how long the person has been using opiates, and taking into consideration other health issues, withdrawal can occasionally be life-threatening. Users do not simply crave the drug - they will feel muscle aches, have changes in digestion, anxiety, agitation, extreme sweating, shaking and nausea, and may have insomnia. 

Withdrawal symptoms start within a few hours of the last use of the drug, with the symptoms peaking after a few days. While the physical symptoms may start to subside after a week, the psychological symptoms of addiction might last much longer. 

Depression, paranoia, and a need to feel the pleasurable feelings related to the drug can lead to relapse at any time, even years after the last use of the drug. That's why it's always recommended to detox with the help of a professional.

Treatment for opiate abuse

There are several treatment options available. Here are some things that should be considered before deciding on a treatment plan.

  • How long has the person been using opiates?
  • Are there any other health problems
  • What method did you usually use to take the drug?
  • How did you usually obtain the drug?

More powerful drugs, or people who have used them for a long time, might need a higher level of care. Opiates should never be stopped suddenly, or without the proper emotional and medical supports in place. Medical professionals will slowly wean a user off the drug, and sometimes prescribe methadone, buprenorphine, or a similar drug to make the transition easier. While these drugs are opiates, they do not produce the same high, and therefore are not as easy to abuse.

Since it is so easy to relapse into addiction, it's often helpful to get psychological counseling as well. Sometimes addictions stem from emotional problems, and people turn to drugs to ease their pain. Keeping that in mind, a therapist or a psychologist may be able to help to heal mental illnesses, in order to lessen the chances of relapse.

The opiate crisis has gripped America tightly in the past few decades, and it's a complex problem that needs a multifaceted solution. However, there is help and hope for those who find themselves struggling with addiction. It is not shameful, nor is it a weakness. Addiction is an illness, and with the proper supports in place, can be overcome.

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