A growing concern in our society is the increase of prescription drug abuse to painkillers containing opiates or synthetic opioid compounds. These are medications derived from substances like morphine, codeine, hydrocodone or oxycodone. In many parts of the country prescription drug abuse of medications containing opiate derivatives is the number one cause of accidental & preventable death. Opiate addiction is a treatable condition.
What Are Opiates?
Opiates are also called narcotics. They are prescribed to relieve pain and are central nervous system depressants. Two effects of these types of drugs are pleasure (euphoria) and pain relief. Prescription opiates that are often abused include morphine, Meperidine, paregoric (contains opium), and cough syrups that contain codeine.
There are three classifications of opiates. The first group contains morphine, which is a naturally occurring opium derivative. The second are partially synthetic derivatives of morphine called opioids. These include hydrocodone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone. The third are synthetic compounds. Fentanyl, alfentanil, levorphanol, Meperidine, methadone, codeine, and Propoxyphene are in this class of drugs.
Opiates slow down the respiratory system, which slows down breathing. Excessive amounts of these drugs can completely shut down a person's respiratory system, which stops breathing and causes death.
A person using an opiate will develop a tolerance to it and will then need more of the drug to produce the same effects. Nerve cells in the brain naturally produce opiates (natural painkillers or endorphins). But when a person continuously takes this class of drugs, the nerve cells are no longer able to produce natural opiates. If a person in this situation stops taking the opiates he will go through withdrawal and may not be able to stop using without the help of an addiction treatment program.
Heroin Illicit Opiate
Heroin, an illicit opiate, penetrates the brain quicker than other opiates. This is why addicts often prefer it. Most opiates are taken orally except for heroin, which is a powder. Heroin users generally begin by sniffing the powder and over time advance to injecting. The user dissolves the powder in water and heats it. It is then injected either subcutaneously or intravenously.
A heroin abuser may inject up to four times per day. Injecting heroin intravenously gives the user the greatest intensity and the most rapid onset of euphoria, within 7 to 8 seconds. Injecting heroin into the muscle gives a slower onset of euphoria - usually 5 to 8 minutes. When sniffed or smoked the euphoria peaks in about 10 to 15 minutes.
Heroin at the street level has usually been diluted or cut with similar powders (usually glucose). Sometimes it has been cut with caffeine, flour or talcum powder, which can be very dangerous to the user. Purer heroin is becoming more common. Heroin is sold as a white or brownish powder or as a black sticky substance known on the street as "black tar heroin."
Withdrawal and Treatment for Opiate Addiction
The continuous use of opiates leads to physical dependence. A person with a dependence on drugs will have withdrawal symptoms when he or she stops taking the drug. Physical dependence is expected after 2-10 days of continuous use when the drug is stopped abruptly. The onset and duration of withdrawal varies with the drug used. For example, Meperidine withdrawal symptoms peak in 8-12 hours and last for 4-5 days. Heroin withdrawal symptoms usually peak within 36-72 hours and may last for 7-14 days. Withdrawal symptoms include racing heart, diarrhea, runny nose, sweating, tearing of eyes, shivering, nausea, vomiting, gooseflesh, sleeplessness, and restlessness.
Methadone is often prescribed for persons addicted to opiates. Subutex and Suboxone are two other drugs sometimes used to treat opiate addiction and dependence.
Recovery from Addiction
Recovery from any kind of prescription drug such as opiates is a long process. An addict needs to learn new tools to deal with situations and problems when they arise, rather than looking to drugs. At Cirque Lodge, this begins with a personalized program. Individuals receive specific treatment for their situation. The purpose is to arrest the disease and provide the necessary means for support for the recovery process. During drug rehab, the recovering addict develops needed skills for enduring a long term recovery.
We are a leading rehabilitation center and care provider for prescription drug addiction. We offer treatment help to families and businesses as they work to help their loved ones and employees. Help is available by calling our addiction treatment center at 1-877-99-REHAB.