In recent years, the misuse of prescription opiates has caused an opioid addiction problem at epidemic levels in the US and the wider world.
Whether this is your first time taking opiates or you are a frequent user, it is essential to understand the side effects and the dangers of drug abuse. If you have immediate concerns, always seek professional medical advice to determine your treatment options.
What Are Opiates?
Categorized as prescription drugs containing naturally occurring opium derived from the opium poppy plant, opiates are a type of drug designed to relieve severe pain. Common opiates include opium, morphine, codeine, and heroin.
Opioids are a similar type of pain relief medication. However, they are synthetically made to mimic the effects of opiates. Common opioids include oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and fentanyl.
As opiates and opioids have similar effects and are prescribed for the same purposes, they are grouped together. As such, the terms opioids and opiates are often used interchangeably.
How Are Opiates Addictive?
Opiate use boomed in the late 1900s thanks to a nudge from pharmaceutical companies who sold prescription opioids to medical professionals as an effective, non-addictive pain relief option.
Although this was proven incorrect, the effects are still seen to this day. In 2017, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency.
Opiate addiction can be caused by misuse, such as taking a higher dose than prescribed or using the drug for a prolonged time. As opiates are mind-altering drugs, causing an artificial high and giving a rush of dopamine, drug misuse interferes with the brain’s natural reward system, causing the brain to crave them at all costs.
If you consume opiates for medical purposes, you may wonder what addiction is. Simply put, addiction is the compulsion to take substances despite adverse consequences. This is also known as a substance use disorder (SUD) which is a disease that requires medical intervention. Anyone can become addicted to opioids. However, it takes a strong person to get help. Although challenging, recovery is possible with addiction treatment and ongoing support.
How Long Do Opiates Stay in Your System?
How long opiates stay in your system varies depending on the particular drug in question, opiate use, and personal factors such as:
- Your age
- Body fat content
- Your liver and kidney function
- The length and severity of your drug use
- Your metabolism
Most opiates generally have a short half-life compared to other drugs. Opioids also tend to have a short half-life. For example, morphine has a half-life of approximately two to four hours. This means it takes four to eight hours for you to no longer feel its effects. This, of course, depends on your reaction to the drug. However, this does not mean it is no longer detectable in a drug test.
How Long Are Opiates Detected via Drug Tests?
Types of drug tests include blood tests, urine tests, and hair tests. You may also find yourself required to complete a saliva test if you are tested. However, the most common type of drug test is a urine test.
Blood tests detect morphine, for example, for only twelve hours after consumption. However, urine tests can detect morphine in the system for up to three days since your last dose. Saliva tests can detect morphine for up to four days, and hair tests can detect morphine for ninety days.
Drug testing does not prove you have an opiate addiction, only that you have taken an opioid drug. Addiction can only be confirmed by a medical professional.
If you have taken a short prescription of opiates at the correct dose, all signs of drugs should lose their effects quickly, eventually leaving your system altogether, causing no other concerns. For greater accuracy on how long it will take opiates to leave your system, you may wish to consult the medical professional who prescribed them to you.
If you have taken opiates for a prolonged time, even if they were prescribed to you, you may have a physical addiction. This is not necessarily a physiological addiction, as you may not crave them or take them at any cost to your wellbeing. But, upon ceasing opiate consumption, you may still suffer withdrawal symptoms.
What Does Addiction Look Like?
Addiction can be hard to spot, especially as many people hide their problems due to shame, social stigma, denial, or an unwillingness to stop. This means that you might know someone with a substance abuse disorder and not even realize it. You may even have an addiction and not know it.
If you are struggling with an addiction, it might take being caught out on a drug test to finally face the music. Other negative consequences, such as problems with your health, may signal that an addiction has developed.
If you spot the signs of addiction in yourself or a loved one, it is vital to act quickly and get help. Some signs of addiction include:
- Mood instability
- Heightened anxiety
- Denial and defensiveness
- Secretive behavior and lying
- Reduced personal hygiene and self-care
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Limited interest in hobbies and activities
- Stealing or other unlawful behavior
- Impaired judgment
- Being unable to stop using substances
What Does Addiction Treatment Look Like?
If you have an opiate addiction, you will need to complete addiction treatment through a rehab facility. No particular rehab program is suitable for everyone, so there are various treatment options available in all kinds of settings. It is important to do your research and find the right one for you to ensure the best chance of success.
In all addiction treatment, the first step is detoxification. Here, opiates will be removed from your body, and your physical dependency will start to alleviate. After the detoxification phase, it is important to work on the physiological side of addiction. Rehab is about more than just treating the body; the mind must also heal from trauma.
Therapy, including one-to-one talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and group therapy, are essential to learning healthy coping mechanisms. Ongoing support from medical professionals and family members is also necessary to stay on track, avoid relapsing, and successfully navigate life in recovery.
What Is a Detox?
Detox is the process of purging your body of all traces of alcohol and other drugs. You might choose a medical detox or a natural detox when it comes to treatment.
Natural detox is carried out in your own home without medications to relieve any symptoms. This is the least effective method of detox and can be dangerous. In contrast, medical detox is carried out via outpatient treatment with the approval of a qualified healthcare provider. Medical detox can also be completed at an inpatient treatment facility.
It is recommended that you detox in a safe environment such as a rehab treatment facility under the careful watch of specialized medical professionals. This is because detoxing often causes withdrawal symptoms that can be unpleasant and, on rare occasions, fatal.
What Do Withdrawal Symptoms Look Like?
Most people who stop taking alcohol or drugs suddenly experience withdrawal symptoms. This uncomfortable transition is your body taking back control over drugs and purging them from its system.
Withdrawal can be challenging, but help is available to alleviate some symptoms. At a treatment facility, medical professionals will be on hand to provide medications that will make you feel as comfortable as possible.
Your Journey to Recovery
The hardest bit is admitting you have an addiction problem. The detox process can be challenging, but it gets easier once the opiates are removed from your system.
Addiction treatment takes courage and commitment, but it is worth the effort.