Opiates are a group of drugs derived from opium, a part of the poppy plant and one of the oldest-known medicines in the world. Heroin and morphine are common illicit opiates, but lots of prescription medications include opiates, too. These drugs are simple to synthesize, relatively cheap, and highly effective — which is why they’ve been used, and abused, for hundreds of years.
ARE OPIATES ADDICTIVE?
Yes, opiates are heavily addictive. Opiate abuse wreaks havoc on the heart, the lungs, and the brain. Death can occur suddenly, in the form of overdose; or slowly as a result of long-time abuse.
Not all addicts have a genetic predisposition to addiction, nor do all genetic addicts wind up active addicts. Every year, for reasons not fully understood, hundreds of thousands of people, of all different races, ages, genders, and backgrounds, wind up hooked on opiates. Most begin by abusing their own prescription pills or those borrowed from a friend or family member under the pretense of a favor.
AM I ADDICTED TO OPIATES?
Opiate withdrawal is notorious for its intensity and ugliness, but that deterrent isn’t particularly helpful. Most opiate addicts fall into their addiction gradually. If you think you might have a problem, ask yourself whether 3 or more of the following criteria apply to you:
– Has your use of opiates increased over time, surpassing your doctor’s directions?
– Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking opiates?
– Have you experienced negative consequences as a result of your opiate use?
– Are you neglecting responsibilities due to your opiate use?
– Do you find yourself thinking obsessively about getting or using opiates?
– Have you tried to quit or cut down on your opiate use and failed?
Just because an addict is able to function normally doesn’t mean they’re safe from overdosing. They may have become tolerant to the high, but the high is just a byproduct of much more serious effects taking place.
The most important thing to remember is that opiate detox, unlike alcohol detox, doesn’t kill people. You will get through this, so long as you keep pushing forward. The first two weeks are the worst. Doctors call it acute withdrawal; patients describe it as a “super-flu.” Throughout this period you may experience:
– Low energy
– Irritability, Anxiety, Agitation
– Runny nose / teary eyes
– Muscle aches and pains
– Abdominal cramping, Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea
In addition to standard programs like psychotherapy, patients are sometimes given the option to include opiate agonists, a relatively new type of medicine, in their treatment regime. These medications essentially act like safety-nets in case of relapse. They literally block the opiate receptors in the brain, which prevents the opiates from working. The most commonly prescribed opiate agonists are suboxone and methadone. Although both of shown great success, they can also be addictive in their own right.
LIFE AFTER OPIATES
Following the first couple weeks of detox, these symptoms decrease dramatically. However, post-acute withdrawal lingers on for a long, long time – maybe the rest of your life. It’s imperative that every addict establishes a long-term recovery plan that involves serious effort from both themselves and their peers. Relapse prevention – group meetings, therapy sessions, and various other forms of aftercare—should become a way of life.
It can be tricky, balancing optimism and caution. Just don’t get too comfortable. Keep your guard up at all times. Following rehab, get yourself a sponsor, learn their phone number by heart, and get used to dialing it. As always, Blueprints is here to help if you have questions.