Opiate Addiction

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Condition updated on June 10th, 2019

Opiate Addiction

Opiates are a dangerous and highly addictive drug to use. They are considered a narcotic drug and are often used recreationally. People may also be prescribed certain types of opiate medication to relieve pain. Opiates cause permanent changes in brain function. These changes happen quickly and cause addiction.

Millions of people addicted to different forms of opiates, including prescribed medication. Opiates create a euphoric high that makes them appealing to recreational users. They cause a similar high for people who are prescribed, and many people mistakenly believe that addiction is not a hazard if it comes from a doctor.

What Is An Opiate?

Opiates can either be natural or synthetic, and they are made of the seed pods of opium poppy plants. It is currently legal to grow opium poppies for harvest in India and Australia. These countries are the source of most opiate trades.

There are several different kinds of opiates. Some are legal to use in the United States with a prescription. Others are illegal to use or possess at any capacity. The most commonly known opiate is heroin. It is widely known that heroin causes severe addiction and health issues.

The different kinds of opiates include:

  • Heroin
  • Oxycontin
  • Oxycodone
  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Morphine

Symptoms Of Opiate Addiction

Opiate addiction is a severe addiction that happens quickly. Many people suffer from addiction without even realizing it is happening until it is too late. People are addicted once the need to get high negatively affects their life.

There are mood, behavior and physical health symptoms of opiate addiction. Such symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Needing more of the drug to feel the same effects
  • Having obsessive thoughts about finding the drug
  • Feeling anxious when running low on the drug
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Lying about, minimizing or hiding drug habit
  • Using the drug more often, longer or in greater quantity than intended or prescribed
  • Difficulty with stopping or reducing drug use
  • Withdrawal symptoms (chills, body aches, irritability, heart palpitations, High blood pressure)
  • Spending excess money, time and effort seeking out and using the drug
  • Engaging in illegal activity to obtain the drug
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Changes in appetite
  • Insomnia

Causes Of Opiate Addiction

People become addicted to opiates as a result of misusing the drug. It begins with being exposed to the drug, and it does not take long for the body to become physically addicted. This is because opiates severely impact the chemistry and functioning of the brain. An addict will experience severe withdrawal if they go too long without using.

The following are the two main causes of opiate addiction:

Prescription Use Of Opiate Medication

With present-day pharmaceutical companies, access to opiate medication is at an all-time high. Many cases of opiate addiction is due to people being prescribed opiate medication for pain relief. Many people do not have proper supervision while on these medications. This leads to them to use more or for longer than intended. They quickly develop the need of the drug to function. Many even become desperate and begin using heroin because it is cheaper than their medication.

The Environment

The environment is a major cause of many people who become addicted to opiates. Recreational use of opiate medication and heroin is the main path to addiction besides prescription use. The following environmental factors significantly increase risk of exposure to opiates and addiction:

  • Growing up in a household where drug use was present and modeled by caretakers
  • A genetic predisposition to addiction
  • Residing in a community where there is a high crime rate and drug use
  • Suffering from other mental health issues (depression, anxiety alcoholism, etc.)
  • Poor access to resources for people who are suffering from mental health issues
  • Attending a school with a high rate of drug use
  • Being exposed to negative influences that glorify drug use
  • Peer pressure
  • Using opiate drugs to cope with mental health issues and emotional pain
  • A personal or family history of alcoholism

Treatment Options For Opiate Addiction

Like any addiction, treatment for opiate addiction will take time and patience. There are different levels of treatment that the addict may need to recover. Their level of treatment depends on the severity of the addiction. The recovering addict’s unique circumstances may also be taken into account. They will need to complete some or all of the following levels of treatment:

Inpatient Detoxification

Inpatient detoxification (‘detox’) helps with managing the symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal from opiates is extremely uncomfortable. Many people need the medical assistance that inpatient detox provides. The time it takes to complete inpatient detox is different for everyone, but it can take up to 2 weeks to complete.

Inpatient Rehabilitation

Inpatient rehabilitation (‘rehab’) is where the recovering addict lives in the treatment facility. They can typically expect to reside at inpatient rehab between 1-4 months. Upon completion, they will continue with outpatient treatment. While in inpatient rehab, the recovering addict will participate in the following services:

Medication management

People in treatment for opiate addiction may be prescribed medications (suboxone or methadone). The medication aids in the recovery process.
Medications help by reducing cravings and stopping the drug from producing a high. They also ease the symptoms of withdrawal.

Therapy groups

Therapy groups focus on relapse prevention and the development of vocational skills. The inpatient community also helps to strengthen basic life skills and social skills.

Individual counseling

In individual counseling, the recovering addict creates a treatment plan with their substance abuse counselor. They also attend regular therapy sessions.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Intensive outpatient treatment requires 10-12 hours of treatment per week. In intensive outpatient treatment, the recovering addict resides at home and commutes to therapy. This provides freedom to attend work and school.

During the designated hour’s treatment, the recovering addict attends group and individual counseling sessions. Group sessions last around 3 hours a day. Upon completion, the recovering addict will graduate to outpatient treatment.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment programs offer different forms of therapeutic programs. These programs include both group therapy and individual counseling. In these settings, clients establish a treatment plan with their substance abuse counselor. They engage in relapse prevention counseling, and cognitive and behavioral therapies. They may also receive vocational counseling, if needed. Outpatient programs typically require between 2 to 4 hours of therapy per week.

Aftercare

An affected person may be referred to aftercare services. In aftercare, the recovering addict will meet with their substance abuse counselor 1-3x per month for check-ins.

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