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Facts About Opiate Addiction

About Opiates and Addiction

Drugs classified as Opiates are responsible for the current drug epidemic sweeping across the United States. The rate of overdose deaths directly linked to opiates has increased at an alarming rate over the past 20 years. With OxyContin prescriptions flooding drug cabinets since 1996, illegal distribution and abuse have skyrocketed. The facts are clear, prescription opiate abuse has caused a huge increase in deaths and addiction.

Drug use and abuse have been on the rise, but the increase in opiate-related addictions is second to none. So commonplace is this disease, popular culture has accepted opiate addiction rates as the new reality in a fight against prescription drug abuse. One does not have to look very far to find sobering statistics regarding opiates and the plague they are causing on men, women, and children.

The Beginning of a Public Health Crisis 

This public health crisis started with seemly innocent pain prescriptions handed out in shocking numbers through the late 1990’s and 2000’s. Many addicted began as patients seeking pain relief following injury or illness. Pain management became a booming business and access to Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin was relatively unrestrained. As the medical community began to realize the need for stricter distribution protocols, the number of addicts had become almost unthinkable. Faced with increased scrutiny, many turned to cheaper painkillers such as heroin, and the war against opiate abuse rages on today.

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The following are some facts regarding Opiate Addiction:

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Opiate medications are painkillers. Prescribed under the brand names such as Hydrocodone, Codeine, Morphine and Methadone, Opiates can be found in many drug cabinets. These medications are prescribed for post-operative, illness-related, or accident-related pain control. Many addicts were prescribed long-term pain management, often self-regulated.

Opiates are very effective in controlling moderate to severe pain.  The effectiveness of opiates is unfortunately also their downside as they are highly addictive and easy to abuse.

Opiates can cause major, life-threatening issues even when used properly.  It is important to understand that opiates, whether taken in their natural state or synthetically derived, are very powerful medications. Patients taking opiates should be forewarned of blood pressure and cardiac complications, as well as respiratory issues, before taking any prescription opiates.

Opiate addiction is a disease. While not curable, addiction is treatable and manageable. Individuals addicted to drugs with the opiate class, as well as street drugs such as meth, crack, and cocaine, are all fighting a disease. The stigma with drug treatment can be the biggest obstacle to seeking treatment. More needs to be understood about this disease if we are to work to help addicts looking for recovery.

Most teen addicts admit to taking opiate drugs available in their own medicine cabinets. The first line of defense in homes should be locking up prescription painkillers and other medications that are attractive to youth. Many youth start using at home, or in another family member’s home, and soon resort to cheaper, street drugs when prescriptions are used up.

Some Historical Facts About Opiates

Opiate medications are derived from the opium poppy plant. The use of opium for recreational and medicinal uses has been in practice for thousands of years. Some prescription opiates, such as Morphine, are considered natural opiates. Others, such as heroin and OxyContin are synthetic opiates, meaning the natural product is often remade in a manufacturing laboratory, creating stronger, more controlled dosing.

Opiate addiction has been around for a long time.  For as long as opiates have been used recreationally, individuals have become addicted. Well before the addictive nature of the opium plant was understood, abuse of this drug was documented.

Opium dens were commonplace in America.  Immortalized in movies and books, opium was an escape drug for many overseas before making it to the United States in the 1830’s.

Morphine was once considered a miracle drug. During the Civil War, morphine was doled out to the injured without much consideration for their addictive qualities. Many did not understand this fact as its potency was kept from public knowledge, and as a result, many that had served our country became abusers.

Opiates Are Powerful Drugs

Opiates can permanently rewire brain neuron function.  Chronic use of opiates, even within prescription dosing, can cause lifelong brain chemical changes that increase tolerance to natural chemicals such as dopamine, which can lead to opiate abuse by individuals seeking to feel ‘normal’ again.

OxyContin manufacturers reformulated their product to deter illicit use.  Responding to the resounding outcry following the surge in medication abuse including snorting and injecting, the manufacturer reformulated the tablets making them harder to use illegally.

Many opiate overdoses are unintentional.  Noted in the overdoses of both chronic users and addicts, the tolerance built when using opiates such as Morphine, Hydrocodone, Heroin, Suboxone, Methadone, and Percocet reduces the drug’s effectiveness. To achieve the same “high”, users constantly increase their doses. This leads to fatal overdosing, almost always unintentional.

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About Opiate Addiction Withdrawal 

Opiate addicts avoid treatment because of withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from opiate addiction can be very painful and involves cravings, nausea, vomiting, muscle contractions, bone pain, sweating, and insomnia. Let untreated, it is almost impossible to manage symptoms without professional help and medical intervention. Withdrawal without supervision can be dangerous and is never suggested.

Opiate withdrawal symptoms can last up to two weeks. While some in detox report that troublesome withdrawal symptoms lasted for months, most experience a peaking between 48-72 hours of quitting.

Opiate addicts can relapse more than other recovering drug abusers. Because of the basic brain chemical changes in a recovering opiate addict, relapse is not uncommon. This should not be viewed as a failure but as a part of long-term recovery. Sobriety is a life-long battle for opiate addicts.

 Opiate withdrawal medications can help detox significantly but are also addictive.  Drugs like Suboxone are often a part of drug detox treatment for opiate abuse, but since this drug is a synthetic opiate, addiction is possible as a result. Care must be taken when using another opiate to treat existing addiction.

Looking for more information about opiate addiction? Coastline Rehab Centers has resources available for addicts and their family members. Contact us directly today and let us help get your recovery journey started.

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