Opiate dependence is a growing problem in the United States, as not only is heroin use on the increase, but more people are becoming addicted to opiates commonly prescribed for pain relief. For instance, the results of the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health not only show that around 517,000 people suffer from heroin dependency, but close to 1.9 million are also dependent on prescription painkillers(1). Addiction to prescription opiates is just as dangerous as heroin addiction, with both forms of opiate drug carrying a risk of overdose and significant damage to physical and mental health. Opiate dependency can also take its toll on your personal life as well, affecting everything from your relationship with loved ones to your ability to work and your finances. While it is difficult to see a way out when suffering from opiate dependence, you can turn for help to Steps to Recovery, as our team of caring and committed therapists can give you all the support and assistance you need to escape the hold that these addictive substances have over you.
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Opiate drugs are produced from opium, which comes from poppies. The term opioids is also used and this refers to synthetic opiates. However, whether opiates are naturally derived or artificially produced, they are just as addictive. As opiates are prescribed for pain relief, many people who end up abusing the drugs start taking them legitimately to manage severe pain, but it is easy to develop a tolerance to them, so increasing doses are needed to produce the same pain relieving effect. However, opiates also induce feelings of euphoria and some people begin taking them illegally for their euphoric properties. It is possible to develop a tolerance to these feelings too, with greater doses needed to achieve the same high. An addiction develops once obtaining the drug becomes your main focus and takes over.
As it is so hard to stop taking opiates, you may need opiate addiction help if you have become dependent on any of the following drugs(2):
- Oxycodone – often prescribed as Oxycontin
- Hydrocodone – often prescribed as Vicodin
What makes these drugs so addictive though? To understand this it is important to consider the action that opiates have on your brain. Opiates mimic a group of chemical messengers that your own body produces known as opioid peptide neurotransmitters. These chemicals not only reduce feelings of pain, but also play a role in the reward pathway in your brain. When opioids bind to the receptors in your brain that recognize them, this produces feelings of euphoria and relaxation. This is down to the increased production of dopamine, which also encourages you to seek out this same behavior again and again to achieve the same positive effects(3).
Besides their addictive nature, one of the other factors driving opiate dependence is the rising number of painkiller prescriptions, which makes the drugs accessible to far more people. Indeed, earlier this year researchers from George Washington University found that opioid prescriptions in emergency departments had risen by around 10% over a decade, even though there was only a rise of 4% for people seeking treatment for painful conditions(4). Prescriptions for hydromorphone, morphine and oxycodone were exceptionally high and the team noted that the increase in prescription painkillers was seen across the age range and among a diverse range of patients. They also found though that prescribing rates were not consistent between states, which is supported by other recent studies. Indeed, USA Today reported this summer on findings from the CDC that showed that doctors in some states are prescribing almost three times as many prescription opiates as others(5). The states with the highest and lowest rates of opioid prescriptions are shown below:
You are more vulnerable to opiate dependency if you suffer from poor mental health, such as having depression or an anxiety disorder, or there is a history of drug or alcohol addiction in your family. However, anyone can develop a problem with opiate misuse and many people abusing these drugs are far from the typical stereotype. For instance, a piece of research published in JAMA Psychiatry found that heroin users today are not the young men from urban areas who were associated with drug abuse in the 1960s; today heroin users are most likely women and men approaching their late twenties who live in the suburbs or more rural areas(6). Heroin abuse is also now more likely to follow on from misuse of prescription painkillers. This is still a generalization about the sector of our population most likely to abuse opiates, so whatever your background you should not hesitate to make contact if you need opioid addiction help.
If you are wondering how you can recognize when you are suffering from opiate addiction, there are some key signs that you should never ignore. Identifying with any of the following symptoms is an indicator that you should strongly consider getting help from Steps to Recovery(7):
- You are using increasing amounts of medication
- You are attending multiple doctors to get access to extra prescriptions
- You experience drug cravings
- You are unable to stop or control your drug use
- You are putting increasing effort into accessing drugs
- Your use of drugs is interfering with your family and working life, as well as your usual interests
- You continue using the drugs despite noticing their adverse effects
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It is important to seek help with opiate addiction, as once you are hooked on the drugs and taking increased doses the risks of adverse effects increase significantly. While you may associate an overdose with heroin abuse, this is also a real risk if you take prescription opiates and CDC figures show that opiate painkillers account for almost three-quarters of fatal overdoses(8). When it comes to fatal prescription overdoses some states fare worse than others though, with rates highest in West Virginia, followed closely by New Mexico, Kentucky and Nevada(9). However, acting quickly can reduce the risks of a lethal overdose, so it is essential to spot the signs of an excessive opiate dose. Symptoms of opiate intoxication include breathing difficulties, tiny pupils, extreme fatigue and reduced consciousness(10). With a dose of naloxone it is possible to reverse the damaging effects that opiates have on your nervous system. The ability of naloxone treatment to save lives from an opiate overdose is clearly demonstrated in this video clip:
While this opiate antagonist is invaluable to prevent deaths from an overdose, seeking early opiate help can greatly reduce your risk of getting to this stage.
Overdose isn’t the only risk associated with abuse of heroin and other opiates though. Long-term use of opiates makes you more likely to suffer from the following medical problems(11):
- Chronic constipation and an obstructed bowel
- A heart attack
- Reduced bone mass and fractures
- Tooth decay
- Reduced immune function
- Erectile dysfunction
- Male and female infertility
If you inject opiates you are also more likely to develop infections at the injection site, as well as an infection that affects your heart valves. Sharing needles adds to the risks of infection further, leaving you vulnerable to hepatitis B and HIV. The sooner you get help for opiate addiction the greater the likelihood of preventing lasting damage to your physical and mental well-being.
One of the factors that makes it so hard to give up opiates on your own is the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms you experience when you deny your body a supply of the drug it has become accustomed to. These withdrawal symptoms include aching muscles, tremors, going hot and cold, and digestive upset, as well as feeling anxious and agitated(12). Typically the intensity of your symptoms depends on the doses of opioid you have been taking and how quickly you withdraw. Unlike undergoing an alcohol detox these symptoms are not potentially deadly, but they are very uncomfortable to go through, which can see opiate addicts returning to their habit if they try to withdraw on their own. However, when you turn to Steps to Recovery for help with opiate addiction, we can help you to detox more comfortably with the assistance of medication to relieve your symptoms.
One of the effective treatments available to help opiate addicts successfully detox and escape from drug abuse is Suboxone. This single tablet contains both buprenophine and naloxone, which work together to help you kick your habit. Firstly, buprenophine is an opioid, so reduces the likelihood of withdrawal symptoms. It is an alternative to methadone and is preferred by some users as it has less impact on your mental function and is typically easier to come off at a later stage. Secondly, naloxone blocks the action of opiates, so if you are tempted to inject heroin or take a painkiller during treatment, you won’t experience the usual euphoric effects, deterring you from further abuse. Research certainly shows that an extended course of Suboxone and counseling offers positive outcomes for people suffering from opioid dependence, with rates of drug use lower among clients receiving this treatment regimen(13). With the help of this medication for opiate dependency you are a step closer to kicking your habit for good.
Methadone treatment is another option open to you. While this is sometimes used as a maintenance therapy by addicts unable to kick their habit, as it is preferential to heroin or uncontrolled use of prescription opioids, it is also an option for help with opiate addiction. Methadone is available through specialist opiate addiction centers and your dose is adjusted to strike a balance between reduced withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and the need to avoid over-medication that can lead to euphoria and drowsiness(14). Your symptoms will be monitored and further dose adjustment carried out as necessary. While methadone maintenance can be continued for as long as you receive benefit, once you are abstaining from opiate abuse and have received additional support through counseling, it is possible to consider withdrawal from methadone and further options for onward recovery.
If you recognize that you have a problem with opiate addiction and you would like professional help, our friendly team is just a phone call away. We can offer you free and confidential advice on the available help for opiate addiction. We will discuss the various treatment options for opiate dependency with you, so you can decide for yourself whether Suboxone therapy or another form of opiate help is right for you. It is reassuring to know that whichever treatment for opioid dependence that you choose, your health insurance should cover the costs of your therapy. Your insurance plan therefore should not stand in the way of you beating your addiction, particularly as Medicaid covers treatment using buprenophine or methadone across all states and the Affordable Care Act now means that even more people have access to the addiction care that they need(15).
Although there are various treatment facilities across Pennsylvania offering opiate addiction help, the care you will receive from Steps to Recovery stands out, as our opiate detox and rehab programs are unique from many of those available elsewhere. Just some of the key features you can benefit from include:
- We remove the stigma associated with opioid addiction and attending rehab. This helps you to comfortably and confidently seek and participate in treatment.
- We always place your needs first. This allows us to offer you a treatment plan for opioid addiction tailored to your needs, increasing your chances of successfully quitting your habit for the long-term. By offering customized care this is one of the reasons why our clients have a lower relapse rate, as with a personal action plan they are better prepared to avoid triggers and resist temptation to misuse opiates.
- All of the treatments we offer are based on scientific evidence. This means that whether you receive drug treatment, specialist counseling or complementary therapies all of them are proven to help you give up opiate abuse.
- We take a holistic approach to care. This means we address your mental and emotional needs as much as your physical needs, and also make sure that you are ready to leave opiate rehab prepared with the skills you need to successfully function and contribute in your home and community.
- We provide compassionate care to all of our clients. With firsthand experience of addiction and rehab we understand the difficulties you face while battling drug dependency, so we are able to empathize fully with you. All of our therapists and support staff genuinely care for your needs and are here to encourage and assist you on every step of your journey to recovery.
- We operate with integrity, abiding by the highest ethical standards. This way you can be sure that we will always keep to our word, offering you the treatment and support you need to achieve lasting recovery.
With inpatient, outpatient and partial hospitalization available during rehab for opiate addiction, there is a style of program to fit in with your requirements. We also offer aftercare services to enhance your chances of lasting abstinence from opiates. If you would like to learn more about the unique programs that Steps to Recovery offers, we look forward to hearing from you, as we want to help as many people as possible to access the treatment for opioid dependence they need.
- 1. “Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National findings,” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, accessed October 2 2014
- 2. “Commonly abused prescription drugs chart,” National Institute on Drug Abuse, accessed October 2 2014
- 3. “The neuropharmacology of drugs of abuse,” Princeton University, accessed October 2 2014
- 4. “Researchers find significant increase in painkillers prescribed to US adults visiting emergency departments,” George Washington University, accessed October 2 2014
- 5. Kim Painter, “Painkiller prescription rates vary widely among states,” USA Today, July 1 2014, accessed October 2 2014
- 6. “Demographics of heroin users change in past 50 years,” JAMA Network, accessed October 2 2014
- 7. “Opioid addiction,” NYU Langone Medical Center, accessed October 2 2014
- 8. “Prescription drug overdose in the United States,” CDC, accessed October 2 2014
- 9. “Prescription drug abuse: strategies to stop the epidemic,” Trust for America’s Health, accessed October 2 2014
- 10. “Opioid intoxication,” Medline Plus, accessed October 2 2014
- 11. “Long-term opioid therapy reconsidered,” University of Pittsburgh, accessed October 2 2014
- 12. “Treating opioid addiction: detoxification and maintenance,” Harvard Medical School, accessed October 2 2014
- 13. “Extended Suboxone treatment substantially improves outcomes for opioid addicted young adults,” NIH News, accessed October 2 2014
- 14. “Methadone therapy for opioid dependence,” American Family Physician, accessed October 2 2014
- 15. Nora Volkow et al, “Medication-assisted therapies – tackling the opioid overdose epidemic,” The New England Journal of Medication, 370(2014):2063, accessed October 2 2014
Opioid addiction is a very dangerous and real epidemic in the United States. Millions of people every year abuse illicit opioid drugs and prescription medications. Opioid addiction is a serious medical condition that can be very damaging to a person’s mental, physical and emotional health and may even cause death. If you are suffering from opioid addiction, you are not alone, and you can turn to help by contacting the experienced and compassionate staff here at Steps to Recovery.
Opioids are among the world’s oldest known drugs, and are highly addictive. Opioids are well known for their ability to produce a feeling of euphoria, motivating many people to use them recreationally. This is a slippery slope, once you start using it’s very hard to stop, but you can turn to help for your opioid addiction at any time.
Also contributing to opioid addiction is the unpleasant withdrawal process from these drugs. People who are withdrawing from opioids may experience the following symptoms: cold sweating, uncontrollable diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, aching limbs, severe depression, mounting panic, strong cravings, cramps, chills, shakes, irritation, agitation, anxiety, muscle aches, insomnia and more. If you are addicted to opioids, you don’t have to go through this alone, there are many options available to assist you when you are ready to turn to help.
Suboxone is one of the treatments available to people who suffer from opioid dependence. Suboxone is a combination of 2 drugs that work together to help addicts get off opioids. The first drug is called Buprenorphine which is similar to other opioids such as morphine, codeine, and heroin however, it produces less of the euphoric effect and therefore may be easier to stop taking. The other is Naloxone, which blocks the effects of opioids such as morphine, codeine, and heroin. When these 2 drugs are combined as Suboxone and used only as directed, they are effective in helping addicts kick their opioid dependency.
You can turn to help for your opioid dependency today by contacting Steps to Recovery. We are here to listen to you and help you find the right treatment for your situation, and have the resources available to get you into Suboxone treatment if that is the right choice for you. You are not alone, we are here for you when you are ready to turn to help.