Opiate use and abuse is a significant problem in America that has almost reached epidemic levels. Many people who go on to become dependent or addicted to opiate-based drugs are introduced to them by prescription to treat chronic pain. Traditionally derived from a substance called opium that is made from the juice of an opium poppy and has intoxicating narcotic properties, synthetic drugs that act in a similar way are now referred to as opiates or opioids.
One of the main reasons opiate drug addiction has spiraled out of control is that they are widely taken in prescribed medications which implies they are safe to use. Despite this serious issue, there are numerous options for treatment available at opiate treatment centers across America.
Among the most common prescription opiate drugs are:
The illegal street version of an opioid is heroin which is made from morphine.
How Do Opiates Work?
Effectively, opioids reduce pain and create pleasurable sensations by acting on the brain’s ‘reward center’ and effectively blocking the effects of the neurotransmitters sending out pain signals to the body.
There is estimated to be up to 36 million people affected by opiate abuse in America, having become dependent or addicted to medications used to help them manage chronic pain symptoms. The main reason this is happening on such a scale is that the body builds a natural tolerance to the effects of drugs over time, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effect.
For those people with long-term pain to deal with, they can soon find themselves shopping around physicians to get extra prescriptions in a desperate attempt to overcome their pain. When this becomes difficult or impossible, many find themselves buying drugs illegally on the street and it is usually when someone has reached this point that they are at a greater risk of overdose, which can be fatal.
While on the subject of opiate overdose, it is worth mentioning that more than 60,000 people die from fatal overdoses in America every single year – and that figure is rising. It is important to know what opiate overdose symptoms to look out for, particularly if someone is known to have a problem with drugs.
Opiate overdose symptoms include:
- Marked confusion or delirium
- Uncontrollable vomiting
- Constricted pupils
- Extreme sluggishness and possible unconsciousness
- Breathing problems and respiratory arrest
- Cold, clammy skin, or bluish skin around the lips or under the fingernails
The most dangerous opiate overdose symptom is depressed breathing as it reduces the amount of oxygen getting to the brain which can cause permanent neurological damage. It can also be accompanied by heart or kidney failure and failure in other organ systems in the body. When someone is showing the signs of opiate overdose, it is vital that they are not left to ‘sleep it off’ alone as they could easily die if their breathing becomes too depressed.
The Physical Signs of Opiate Addiction and Abuse
The more a person becomes dependent on opiate drugs, the less able they may become at concealing their habit, which can prevent them from seeking treatment at an opiate rehab center. There are some physical signs of opiate abuse to look out for including:
- They are likely to be noticeably euphoric shortly after using
- When the euphoria wears off, they will become suddenly tired or sedated
- They will appear confused and have constricted pupils
- Their breathing may have slowed and they may fall asleep randomly
- Some opiate users become nauseous or vomit and others feel itchy after use
- Their reactions will seem delayed and sluggish
Behavioral and Lifestyle Symptoms of Opiate Drug Abuse
Someone who is abusing opiates is likely to become very capable of concealing their drug use, making it hard for others to see that there’s a problem. However, there are also some distinct lifestyle and behavioral red flags that might be easier to recognize in these cases, including:
- A tendency to withdraw from activities and pursuits and can lose interest in things that they previously had enthusiasm for
- Mixing with different people, going to places that are new to them and following different routines and habits
- Angry outbursts and severe mood swings and a tendency to be secretive or dishonest
- A growing disconnect between the addicted person and their friends, family, and coworkers as they withdraw and become isolated by their issues
- Neglecting responsibilities at work or school and also their appearance and health
- Financial difficulties or reckless, potentially criminal activity as a result of drug abuse
Finding Treatment for Opiate Addiction or Dependence
There are numerous treatment options available to individuals who have developed addiction issues such as opiate rehab centers. For many, a fear of being judged harshly or the unpleasantness of detox can be a significant obstacle to reaching out for the help they need at an opiate treatment center. In some cases, it is the family and friends of addicts who take the first steps to get them treatment, especially if they know how to recognize the signs of opiate abuse in their loved one.
No matter how hopeless it seems for someone in the grips of opiate addiction, there is a very real opportunity for them to turn their lives around by attending an opiate treatment center and committing themselves to achieving sobriety. Addiction is an illness that doesn’t discriminate and that also impacts everyone close to the sufferer. The majority of good opiate rehab centers will offer family counseling to address the very real needs of those close to an addict, which also empowers them to encourage and support them in recovery.