Opiate addiction is a substance use disorder in which a person needs to use opiates and continues using them despite negative physical, mental, and social consequences. Opiates are a class of drugs derived from opium like morphine and codeine that reduce the sensation of pain by releasing dopamine and can be highly addictive. Opiate addiction treatment can help people stop using and begin on the path to recovery.
Opiate addiction treatment should be tailored to meet an individual’s unique physical and psychological needs and teach new coping mechanisms for stress to set them up with a solid foundation for recovery. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) has proven to be an effective way to help those addicted to opiates manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. MAT should be combined with behavioral health approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), done one-on-one with a psychologist along with group therapy and mind-body stress reduction techniques like meditation, mindfulness and yoga to address a full continuum of treatment needs.
What Are Opiates? Are They the Same as Opioids?
Opiates are substances that are naturally derived from opium, a drug which is extracted from the unripe seed pods of certain poppy plants. People have used opium for medicinal and recreational purposes for centuries. The potent painkiller morphine and cough suppressant codeine are two well-known opiates. Opiates are part of a class of drugs called opioids, which includes prescription painkillers like oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lorcet), and fentanyl (Actiq, Fentora). Heroin also falls into the opioid drug class as it is derived from morphine and was originally created as a cough suppressant.
Opiates are depressants, meaning they slow down the body’s systems, meaning that messages from the brain to the rest of the body are affected, including respiration. Opiates and opioid painkillers affect the mu-opioid receptors (MORs) in the brain and body to reduce the sensation of pain. Many opiates and opioids are used in the medical setting for pain relief during or after surgical procedures or to aid in a serious injury recovery. However, opiates and opioids are highly addictive substances, and some people are more prone to developing an addiction to these even if they have been prescribed by a doctor for pain relief. When misused—taking a prescription that wasn’t written for you or taking more than prescribed or for longer than prescribed—an opiate addiction or opioid use disorder can develop.
The body will adjust to operating with opioids in its system comes to depend on them to function normally. People may become both physically dependent on opiates, meaning their body needs the substances to avoid withdrawal symptoms like body aches, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, irritability, and anxiety. In addition to physical dependence, the person may be dependent on taking opioids as a way to deal with stressful situations or to escape emotional pain. Once addiction develops, the person may begin to display certain signs of an opioid use disorder and need professional help to recover.
Signs of Opiate Addiction
If you suspect that you or someone you care about may be addicted to opioids but aren’t sure, there are signs that may help you confirm. Often, opiate addiction and abuse begins after a person has been prescribed opioid painkillers for a surgery or injury, so it could be helpful to find out if the person had a prescription for opiates to begin with. People can also buy opioids online or from friends and dealers.
While it may be a hard topic to discuss with the person, or to even consider about yourself, there are signs of opiate addiction you can look for, including:
- Increased need for privacy or secretive behavior
- Money disappearing from the house or more urgent requests to borrow money
- Finding prescriptions for opioid painkillers around the house
- Going to multiples doctors for opioid prescriptions
- Digestive issues that could lead to long bathroom trips
- Trouble with speech or coordination
- Lying or stealing to buy the opioids
- Uncharacteristic mood swings or irritability/aggression
- Withdrawal symptoms or flu-like symptoms
These are just some signs a person may be addicted to opioids. If you are concerned yourself or a loved one after noticing these signs of opiate addiction, it could be time to consult a professional. You can always call to speak with a professional to determine if there is a need to intervene and find a treatment program.
How to Help Yourself If You are Addicted to Opiates
If you develop tolerance to opioids prescribed to you by a doctor—meaning you need to take more to feel the same effect—you should call the doctor right away to ask about this. Likewise, if you recognize that you are experiencing symptoms of opiate addiction like:
- Worrying you will run out of pills
- Trying to extend your prescription
- Spending more and more time thinking about or getting opioids
- Hiding your opioid use from loved ones
- Your opioid use is interfering with work or relationships
- You feel that you can’t control your opioid use
- You are behaving in ways that feel out of character because of opioid use
- You experience painful withdrawal symptoms when you miss a dose
- You have had legal issues or physical problems because of opioids but continue to use
Any of these signs should be red flags that something is wrong. If you are concerned about your opioid use, seek help right away. You can talk with your doctor or a loved one about getting professional help to treat an opiate addiction. You should get help finding a professional detox and treatment facility and start on the path to recovery and a life free from the opioid addiction. You aren’t alone and you can recover—you just need the support to recover and heal.
At DreamLife Recovery—in the beautiful nature of western Pennsylvania—our team of compassionate professionals are here for you and ready to help you start healing from addiction to opioids. Call us to begin your recovery and take steps towards a healthier, more fulfilling life where addiction is only a part of your past.