Understanding Opiate Use, Abuse, Addiction & Recovery
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Facts About Opiates
- Opiates are a group of drugs that are usually prescribed for treating pain
- Opiates are created from the poppy flower, which is also used to make heroin
- Sometimes “opiate” is used interchangeably with “opioid” and “narcotic”
- In 2014, a survey on drug abuse found that 4.3 million Americans had abused prescription painkillers in the past month
- Drug overdose is a leading cause of accidental death in the US.
- 47,055 lethal drug users overdosed in 2014, many of them on opiate drugs.
Usually, the word ”opiate” used to refer to drugs such as codeine, morphine and heroin that originate from the poppy. However, sometimes people use it to describe synthetic opiates such as Oxycontin. Both synthetic opiates and regular opiates are dangerous and highly addictive drugs that can cause many problems for users who become dependent on them.
Commonly Prescribed Opiates
- Oxycontin, Percocet (oxycodone)
- Vicodin, Hycodan (hydrocodone)
- Duragesic (fentanyl)
- MS Contin Kadian (morphine)
- Dilaudid (hydromorphone)
Opiates Are Also Called
- China girl
- China white
- Miss Emma (morphine)
- M (morphine)
- Monkey (morphine)
- Vikes (hydrocodone – for Vicodin)
- Vik (hydrocodone – for Vicodin)
- Norco (hydrocodone)
- Hydro (hydrocodone)
- Schoolboy (codeine)
- Cough syrup (codeine)
- T-three’s (Tylenol #3 with codeine)
- Oxy or Oxies (oxycodone)
- Oxycet (oxycodone)
Symptoms/Signs of Opiate Abuse
Many people who become addicted to Opiates first began abusing the drug when it was prescribed to them legally. Opiates give the user a feeling of euphoria and a sense of well-being that the user quickly becomes attached to. As a user begins to abuse an opiate, they will need more of the drug to get the effects they’re looking for. This tolerance can often lead to addiction and the danger of overdose.
A person who is abusing opiates may be sleepy, “nod off” or seem “out of it” in general. While high on an opiate, they may throw up or have trouble with coordination and balance. They may slur their words or speak unintelligibly.
Long-Term Dangers of Opiate Use
When opiates are used as prescribed, it’s usually on a short-term basis. Because of the addictive nature of opiates, long-term users develop a tolerance to the drug, requiring more and more to get the same pain relief or euphoria.
When a person has been using opiates on a long-term basis, they will run the risk of overdose as well as damage to their body. All opiate users run the risk of overdose. An overdose can cause cardiac or respiratory arrest, leading to a coma or death. An overdose can prevent oxygen from reaching the user’s brain, and it can cause short- and long-term psychological and neurological effects. Many people who overdose suffer permanent brain damage.
Heroin, a close relative of opiates, has been shown to negatively impact a user’s decision-making abilities. It can also damage a user’s the ability to regulate behavior, making them more impulsive.
Signs and Symptoms of Opiate Dependency/Addiction
Users who become addicted to opiates will experience an increase in “drug-seeking” behavior. They may start to hoard stashes of pills around the house, or crush their pills and snort or inject them. They may get multiple prescriptions for the same drug or seek it out on an underground market. Opiate abusers typically will end up breaking the law to support their addiction, as they lose more control over their drug use. They will often stop participating in activities they once enjoyed, or cut off contact with their family or friends as they isolate themselves. They may experience financial issues and have trouble keeping a job.
A person addicted to opiates may feel sick or panic when they are unable to obtain the drug. Their health will suffer and they may become malnourished. Often, opiate users suffer from skin problems and infections such as staph or MSRA. Physically, they may have poor grooming and seem to be in poor health with no obvious medical issues.
A chronic opiate user may experience painful withdrawal effects such as stomach problems or muscle cramps. They may also feel lethargic, anxious or depressed as they withdraw. Some opiate users will experience insomnia. These symptoms can last up to a month.
Opiate dependent individuals may have chills or experience a fever. Because these symptoms of withdrawal or so intense, it’s highly recommended that users “taper off” or withdraw from opiates in a safe, supervised environment where they can be monitored for any complications and get help with some of the discomfort involved.
How to Get Help for an Opiate Addiction
If you think you have a problem with an opiate or other drug, we’re here to help. We’ve helped many addicts get clean and reclaim their lives from the darkness of addiction. Not sure which treatment will fit your needs? We’re standing by to answer any of your questions. The phone call is 100% free and confidential.