Opiates And Opioid Addiction
Opiates And Opioid Addiction
Opiates are among the most addictive and misused drugs on the planet. Anyone who takes opiates is at risk of becoming addicted. Misuse can lead to serious long-term health complications and even accidental death by overdose.
In the United Kingdom, opiate addiction is one of the most common addictions because opiates and opioids are available illegally on the street and darknet market. These illegal opiates are even deadlier than prescription drugs because they are often unbranded. This means you cannot know with accuracy what’s in them.
Some opioids, such as oxycodone, codeine, and morphine, are prescribed as pain medication. They are useful in a medical setting to manage pain. The issue comes in using these drugs and other opiates for recreational use.
Opiates and opioids are extremely addictive. It only takes a few weeks for an addiction to take hold. Once you are addicted, your brain demands the drug, and if it doesn’t get it, then your body starts to go through physical withdrawal.
Opiates are powerful narcotics that can create dependency within just days. If you or someone you love is showing signs of dependence, you must get help as soon as possible. Call us on [number] for free advice.
What Are Opiates?
Opiates are natural drugs derived from the opium poppy plant. They are classed as “sedative narcotics” and are used in the medical field to manage pain.
The earliest reference to the opium poppy was from the Sumerian people of the Middle East 6,000 years ago. We also know that the Ancient Greeks used opium for medicinal and recreational use in the 7th and 8th centuries AD.
The opium poppy plant has been used in medicine for a very long time, and people have been getting addicted to opium for thousands of years. So, opiate addiction is by no means a new phenomenon, but it is a modern problem.
Today, the opium poppy plant is used to make “opiates”. The most commonly abused natural opiates are morphine, codeine and thebaine.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are semi-synthetic and synthetic drugs created in labs from natural opiates. The terms “opiates” and “opioids” are used interchangeably in the medical field, but opioids are different in that they are made by synthetic means.
The first fully synthetic opioid was meperidine, created by German chemists in the 1920s as an antispasmodic. Its powerful analgesic effects were only discovered several years later in 1939. Meperidine is still used in medicine today.
Because they are created in a lab, opioids have the potential to be several times more powerful than natural opiates. For example, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is often mixed with heroin or cocaine.
The most commonly abused opioids are fentanyl, oxymorphone, Carfentanil (Widnil) and Buprenorphine (Subutex).
Opioids vs Opiates – What’s The Difference?
The difference between opioids and opiates is opioids are semi-synthetic and synthetic narcotics made in a lab. Opiates are natural narcotics made from the opium poppy plant.
Opioids are formulated to mimic the effects of opiates, and because they are made in a lab, they can be up to 100 times more potent.
Opiates were the first sedative narcotics. They have been used in medicine for several thousand years. In ancient times, they used opium, which is the white liquid in the poppy plant. It can also be dried for transportation.
Examples of opiates include Morphine, Heroin, Codeine and Thebaine.
Examples of opioids include Fentanyl, Oxymorphone, Carfentanil and Buprenorphine.
The effects of taking opiates and opioids are the same – they are sedative narcotics designed to manage pain. Painkillers work in different ways and some are more powerful than others, which is why some addictions happen faster.
If you have been prescribed an opioid by your doctor, they should have warned you about the addictive effects. However, it is up to you to follow the instructions on the packet. Misuse can lead to opiate dependence in just a matter of days.
List of Opiate Drugs and Medications
- Heroin (which is made from morphine)
Most opiates are prescribed to manage severe pain, such as cancer treatment pain and surgery pain. Others, such as co-codamol (which contains codeine), are used to treat general pains like aches, migraines and toothache.
Mixing Opiates Together
The most powerful and dangerous effects of opiates come from mixing opiates or mixing them with a stimulant.
Using an opiate with a stimulant such as cocaine is commonly known as ‘speedball’. Combining opiates, like methadone and heroin, or fentanyl and heroin creates an incredibly powerful and addictive substance.
The main danger comes with the dosage. Most of the fentanyl and other opioids on the street and darknet are made illegally. This means you never know what’s in them – they could be 100x more potent than you have been led to believe. This would get you addicted very quickly, and it could very well kill you.
Mixing drugs is dangerous because the effects are intense. It can lead to overdose and can also create dangerous toxicity in the body and poison you.
The Dangers of Opiates
Opiates are dangerous because they are highly addicted. Anyone who takes opiates for longer than a few days is at risk of addiction.
It doesn’t take long for your brain to start craving the effects of opiates. When this happens, a habit can quickly become a dependency.
The scariest aspect of this is most people have no idea what’s happening. Opiates have a nasty trick where withdrawal generates pain. You then take an opiate to dull the pain, and in doing so, fuel your addiction.
Addiction to opiates on their own is very common, but mixing opiates with other drugs is even more common still. When this happens, there is a significant risk of overdosing and most of the accidental deaths related to drugs are from mixing opiates with other opiates and mixing them with stimulants like cocaine.
If you are abusing opiates that you have been prescribed or you are actively seeking out illegal opiates – please be aware that you are in danger of becoming addicted if you are not already. You must stop now or seek help.
Abuse of Prescription Opioids
Opiates and opioids are prescribed to manage pain. They are designed to be used in moderation to treat moderate and severe pain. The problem with these drugs is they are so addictive that you can quickly become dependent on them.
Your doctor will be very cautious when prescribing opioids. The addictive effects of opioids are well known. It is likely your doctor will alternate your medications to prevent addiction or they may wean you off the medication slowly after lengthy use.
The reason opioids are so addictive is because your body develops a natural tolerance to them within just a few days. This means in a matter of days you need to take more to have the same effects. This leads to drug abuse.
If you are using opioids for a long period, you are likely trying to manage chronic pain, perhaps as a result of surgery or illness. You should listen to your doctor and follow their advice with regards to this. They are in the best position to help you manage your pain and they can recommend alternative medications.
If opioid dependence occurs, it is essential that you seek advice from your doctor and DO NOT increase the dosage yourself. If you increase the dosage yourself, you will have crossed a line and your addiction to opioids could spiral out of control.
Another form of opioid abuse is lying to your doctor about your pain, so they prescribe more opioids. This means you are addicted – there is no other reason to go to your doctor and lie about your pain, other than you are craving opioids.
If you or someone you love is showing any signs of opioid abuse, you must seek professional advice right away. Please call us on [number] and we will provide free, confidential advice over the phone.
What is Opiate Addiction?
Opiate addiction is created through repeated exposure to opiates. Anyone who takes opiates is at risk of becoming addicted.
The effect of being addicted to opiates is you actively seek out opiates to satisfy your craving for them. If you do not satisfy this craving, then your body will go through physical withdrawal and cause you a lot of suffering.
The reason people become addicted to opiates is that opiates restructure the brain by interacting with opiate receptors. This reduces our perception of pain and has an immensely calming effect. This calming effect is addictive.
The horrible thing about how opiates restructure the brain is it is very difficult to reverse. Once addicted to opiates, the brain is usually made irreversibly receptive to opiates – meaning the addiction will be a lifelong addiction.
When people ‘overcome’ their addiction to opiates, what this means is they have been able to kick the habit and get their cravings under control. However, the addiction will still be present in the brain – it will just be lying dormant. Any reuse of opiates will reawaken the person’s addiction, and probably cause them to relapse.
Successful treatment for opiate addiction requires treatment for the physical and psychological sides of addiction. This means undergoing an opiate detox and therapy to resolve the habits and triggers that lead the person to abuse opiates. The recovery process takes several years with 3-4 weeks in rehab.
Opiate Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction – What’s The Difference?
When we discuss addiction, the words ‘tolerance’ and ‘dependence’ also get mentioned frequently. There are a few differences:
Opiate tolerance is when your body has built up a tolerance to opiates. This means you need to take more of the same drug to achieve the same effects.
Opiate dependence is when your body requires a certain opiate dosage to fend off cravings and opiate withdrawal symptoms.
Opiate addiction is when you go to extreme lengths to satisfy your cravings, such as lying to your GP to get more drugs or buying drugs on the street.
What Are The Characteristics of Opiate Addiction?
Opiate addiction can manifest itself in several different ways. Here are some of the characteristics of opiate addiction:
- Using opiates when there is no medicinal need to
- Obsessing over opiates
- Dreaming about opiates
- Increasing your dosage without consulting anyone
- Being secretive and deceitful about taking opiates
- Using opiates to relieve stress
- Using opiates to reduce anxiety and depression
- Making time to take opiates and enjoy them
- Researching more powerful opiates to take
- Buying opiates and opioids on the street or darknet
- Lying to your doctor to get a prescription
- Family and friends noticing you seem drugged up a lot
This list is not complete, but you get the idea – that obsessive, secretive, deceitful and noticeable behaviour are characteristics of opiate addiction. If you or someone you love is showing these characteristics, you should seek help immediately.
What Causes Opioid Addiction?
Opioid addiction has been proven to be a biochemical illness of the brain. It is a progressive illness, meaning it gets worse over time with continued opiate use.
The biochemistry of addiction is that it rewards the brain in some way. Whether that’s through the release of pleasure endorphins, or having a calming effect, the reason addicts do drugs is to satisfy and reward the brain in some way.
The cause of opioid addiction is a chemical change in the brain. This chemical change demands opioids to function. If a person addicted to opioids doesn’t take them, this results in mental and physical withdrawal symptoms.
Signs & Symptoms of Opioid Addiction
Someone who is addicted to opioids will have an excuse for everything. They will plan their excuses and make the time to do drugs. Their behaviour can be erratic but convincing. This often makes diagnosing a problem tricky.
Here are some of the signs of opioid addiction:
- Always being doped up
- Secretive and dishonest behaviour
- Taking medication very frequently
- Being obsessive over drugs
- Looking for ways to buy drugs
- Lying to a doctor to get a prescription
- Stealing other people’s drugs
- Mixing opioids
- Progressing on to smoking and injection
And here are some of the symptoms the person may go through:
- Heightened anxiety
- Heightened franticness
- Weight loss
- Bowel problems
- Frequent confusion
- Hypokinesis (slowed body movement)
These symptoms progress and get worse with continued opioid abuse. They also become heightened during periods of abstinence.
Am I Addicted to Opiates?
If you are doing any of these things:
- Taking opiates for the sake of it
- Increasing your dose yourself
- Obsessing over opiates
- Mixing opiates with alcohol
- Keeping opiates close
- Making excuses to use opiates
Then there is a strong possibility you already have an addiction.
However, the extent of your addiction depends on a few factors. The main factor is how long you have been taking opiates; the second factor is what opiate you are taking (some opiates are a lot more potent than others).
Here are some facts about addicts that may apply to you:
- An addict will crave opiates day and night
- An addict will get pleasure and relief from taking opiates
- An addict would rather take opiates than eat
- An addict will keep opiates on their person, “just in case”
- An addict will be dismissive about suggestions they are taking too much
- An addict will experience withdrawal symptoms, such as sweats, shakes and muscle cramps if they are unable to get a fix.
If you can identify with any of these behaviours, we would say you do have a problem and you do need to seek help as soon as possible. Please call us on [number] and we will provide free, confidential advice over the phone.
Opiate Withdrawal – Stages and Symptoms
If you are addicted to opiates, attempting a detox without help will cause you a great deal of suffering. The mental and physical withdrawal symptoms start small but get intense, becoming unbearable within just a few days.
Acute withdrawal symptoms
Acute withdrawal symptoms happen within 72-hours of withdrawal. They include:
- Muscle aches
- Cold symptoms
Long-term withdrawal symptoms
Long-term withdrawal symptoms happen 4-10 days into withdrawal. They include:
- Stomach pain
- Blurred vision
- Heightened sensitivity to light
- Heightened sensitivity to sound
- Extreme restlessness
These withdrawal symptoms will be intense if you attempt to withdraw from opiates without medical help.
‘Medical help’ comes in the form of a detox managed with medication. The medication will replace your opiate of choice to satisfy your craving and reduce dependency over time.
The key aspect of this is ‘managed’. Your medication will be managed by a medical doctor and your progress will be supervised by people who know what they are doing and what you are going through.
Detoxification takes anywhere from 2 to 5 weeks in clinical care. You will then graduate onto outpatient care. This is when you continue your abstinence with the help of medication for several months, before becoming completely clean. During this period, you may experience ‘post-acute’ withdrawal symptoms.
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms happen several months into withdrawal. They include:
- Mood swings
- Sleep disturbance
The good news is these symptoms can be managed with therapy and medication. This is why it’s important to seek the right help.
You will also experience ‘protracted’ withdrawal symptoms during your recovery. These are symptoms that come and go in waves. They include:
- Reduced motor skills
- Poor concentration
- Spells of dizziness
These symptoms come and go but will subside as your withdrawal progresses.
Reducing Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms
The only way to reduce the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal in the acute and long-term stage is with withdrawal medication.
Here are some of the medications approved for use:
- Buprenorphine (Subutex)
Withdrawal medication is a substitute for the opiate you are addicted to. It will be chosen based on your gender, age and medical history.
In addition to medication, it’s also important that you receive a high standard of care. You will experience physical withdrawal symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness and insomnia during your withdrawal. You will need help to manage these symptoms, and the best way to get this help is with a rehab centre.
At Sensatori Space, we provide opiate and opioid addiction programmes for people from all walks of life. Our rehab centres offer the safest and most secure environment for your detox, with nurses and experienced medical doctors on hand to help you.
It’s important that when you do experience withdrawal symptoms, that you have the support in place to help you get through them.
How Long Do Opiates Stay In Your System?
The majority of opiates stay in your system for 2 days to 1 week. The length of time opiates will stay in your body depends on:
- The strength of the opiate
- The dosage of the opiate
- Whether the opiate was mixed
- Whether the opiate is quick or slow-release
- Your organ efficiency
- Your gender, height, weight and age
Here are some timeframes for different opiates:
- Codeine – 2-3 days
- Dihydrocodeine – 3 days
- Heroin – 2-3 days
- Methadone – 3 to 7 days
- Morphine – 2 days
- Fentanyl – 3 days
The main testing method for opiates is a urine test. Urine tests give accurate results but often take a while to come back.
If you or someone you love is addicted to opiates, you must seek professional advice and get the right treatment. Please call us on [number] and we will provide free, confidential advice over the phone.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Opiate Drugs
A dual diagnosis is when you are addicted to more than one drug. For example, you may be addicted to heroin and cocaine, or methadone and heroin.
Double diagnosis is incredibly common with opiates and opioids because these drugs are frequently mixed with other drugs. ‘Speedball’ is particularly common – it is created when you mix an opiate such as heroin with cocaine.
You may even be addicted to alcohol and opiates. In rare cases, people can have a triple diagnosis with an opiate, a stimulant and alcohol.
Treatment for double diagnosis requires separate treatment for both drugs and a comprehensive recovery programme. The strength of the addiction with a double diagnosis is massive, so the recovery programme will be lengthy.
It is impossible to treat double diagnosis as an outpatient because the risk of relapse during detox is too great. You will have to stay in clinic accommodation.
What Is The Treatment For Opioid Addiction?
The treatment for opioid addiction involves firstly undergoing a supervised, medically-managed detox to address your immediate physical addiction.
The second stage of treatment, which should be introduced during your detox, is behavioural intervention and psychotherapy. The purpose of behavioural therapy is to help you abolish the habits and behaviours that foster your addiction. The purpose of psychotherapy is to resolve the complex mental health problems that addiction creates, such as anxiety, depression and thoughts of self-harm.
The importance of psychosocial and behavioural therapy when treating opioid addiction cannot be overstated. Detoxing alone does not resolve the social and behavioural aspects of addiction. This is why going cold turkey doesn’t work.
It is also crucial that any recovery programme is personalised to the needs of the patient. No two people experience addiction the same. Most people need the same kind of intervention, but all people need the nuances of their treatment to be different. This makes the importance of choosing a reputable rehab centre even bigger.
Evidence-Based Treatments For Opiate Addiction
Here at Sensatori Space, our treatment philosophy is based on evidence-based treatment. Simply put, we believe in the science to help people overcome addiction – and we have an outstanding track record to show for it.
Here are some of the evidence-based treatments for opiate addiction:
- Guided self-help
- Motivational interviewing
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Psychodynamic therapy
- Dialectical Behavioural Therapy
- Interpersonal psychotherapy
- Wellbeing programmes
- 12-step therapy
- Educational workshops
- Peer-led therapy and sponsors
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
In addition to these evidence-based treatments, we also strongly believe in alternative therapies that bring freedom and enjoyment to the rehab process. As part of your rehab programme, you might take part in:
- Equine therapy
- Sound therapy
- Dancing therapy
Although these treatments will not help you overcome your addiction on their own, they bring freedom to rehabilitation.
You might also take part in holistic therapies, such as:
- Spiritual healing
These therapies can complement an evidence-based treatment programme by helping you focus on your mental health and state of mind.
When Should I Get Help For My Addiction?
You should get help now!
Opiate addiction is a progressive disease. As you begin taking more opiates, your body becomes resilient to them. This means you have to keep increasing your dosage to get the same effects. This trajectory only goes upwards.
The long-term effects of opiate abuse can be devastating. We have treated people who have been addicted to opiates for several years, and they have problems with their bowels, stomach, mental health and sleeping. Chronic depression and intense anxiety are also long-term symptoms with those in recovery.
The biggest danger to opiate abuse, however, is when the effects of one drug alone do not satisfy your cravings. This will invariably lead you to mix opiates with other opiates, or a stimulant like cocaine. This increases the risk of overdose immeasurably and could kill you.
This is an important point, so we will make it again – the biggest danger of misusing opiates is death.
The good news is if you get help now, you can overcome your addiction. But you will need to throw yourself into the process and commit to it.
We are here to help you when you’re ready. All you have to do is get in touch with us. We offer rapid and immediate admission into our clinics and can arrange a clinical assessment in under 24-hours. Call us on [number] to change your life.
Q&A on Opiates
Am I addicted to opiates?
If you have cravings for opiates or you have an urge to use them, then you have a dependency on them. If you actively seek out opiates, buy them, misuse them or obsess over them, then you have an addiction.
What is the treatment for opiate addiction?
The treatment for opiate addiction includes a medicated detox to cleanse your body, and therapy to resolve the habits and triggers that lead you to abuse opiates. You may need to stay in residential care during your detox.
What happens if I don’t get help?
People who think they can control their opiate misuse are deceiving themselves. Opiate addiction is a progressive illness that gets worse over time. This can lead to heavy addiction that ruins your life, health and relationships.
Could my addiction kill me?
Yes. Overdose is a serious risk of opiate misuse, and especially when opiates are mixed with other drugs and other opiates. Alcohol is also dangerous to consume with opiates because it can make you consume more than your body can take.
What is the best rehab for opiate addiction?
Opiate addiction is always best treated in residential care, which means staying in clinic accommodation during your detox. However, we recognise that this isn’t always possible, so an outpatient programme may be suitable.
How can I get help for opiate addiction?
Sensatori Space provides free, confidential drug advice about opiate addiction and can get you into clinical care in as little as 24-hours. Otherwise, a good place to start is your GP, who will refer you to someone who can help.
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Alcohol Addiction FAQ's
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Absolutely yes, so many people are not even aware they have a mental health problem and many people don’t make the connection in children and mental health. The alcohol can become a ‘solution’ for a persons mental health. At the start it will seem as if the alcohol is quieting the mind, but in time as the addiction progresses it will only add to any mental health problems the person has. It is also difficult to diagnose a person with mental health while under the influence of alcohol.
As well as being directly related to many serious diseases, drinking large amounts of alcohol can also lead to poor sexual performance, and it can harm an unborn baby. If you have an alcohol related problem, there are many ways in which you can get help to reduce your drinking, and there are also many services that you can use that will help you stop altogether. Definition The problems associated with alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, are wide ranging, and can be physical, psychological, and social.
There is no definitive cure for addiction. However, rehab can provide patients with the skills needed to successfully manage their addiction and remain sober. Recovery from addiction is never over and patients will need to work on their ability to avoid relapse for the rest of their lives. A high quality addiction rehab programme sets patients up for this process.
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