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Opiate Abuse Symptoms, Signs and Addiction Treatment

opiate-drugOpiates cover a huge variety of drugs, ranging from legal drugs such as fentanyl, codeine, and morphine to illegal drugs such as heroin and opium. Most opiates are illegal when used not as prescribed, and some are illegal no matter what. That said, it doesn’t stop millions of Americans from being addicted to opiates – indeed, an estimated 210 million prescriptions for opiates were dispensed in 2010 alone. Consequently, this isn’t a minor problem. This figure doesn’t include illegal drug use either. Opiate Abuse Quiz question 1 Unfortunately, there are a lot of sites that state you can’t get addicted to drugs as long as they’re prescribed, which is simply not true. Any long-term use (over three days) puts you at risk of addiction, and the vast majority of people who use opiates will develop a tolerance to them, which is the first sign of addiction. This means that the same amount of the drug no longer has the same effect as it once did.

Signs and Symptoms

Opiate Abuse Quiz question 2 There are numerous signs and symptoms of addiction, and tolerance is the first. Other symptoms include withdrawal symptoms when you’re stopping use of the drug – these can range from mild flu-like symptoms to headaches, vomiting and diarrhea – and an obsession with getting more of the drug.

Some people might even doctor shop in order to get more of the drug. This involves getting multiple prescriptions from different doctors. While it may sound quite hard to do, it is actually surprisingly easy, as the US healthcare system allows people to visit different doctors with relative ease. With the conversion to electronic medical records, this practice should be made harder over the next few years. Opiate Abuse Quiz question 3 Other signs include extra pill packets turning up in the trash. You might notice your loved one has been rather withdrawn or that money has gone missing. Perhaps things might be financially tight for no apparent reason. Either way, money could rapidly become an issue.

Effects of Opiate Abuse

addictOften, the facts about the effects of opiate use are misleading. It’s true, for example, that opiates often cause vomiting and diarrhea but that’s in the short-term. They can also cause sedation and delayed reactions. Opiate Abuse Quiz question 4 What’s not often mentioned, however, is that these are not long-term symptoms. Long-term symptoms include immune system destruction, gastric problems, blood disorders, and respiratory depression. The last one is the leading cause of death in opiate addicts. What happens is that the addict takes more of the drug to counteract the tolerance. Although the addict may not experience the effects as much, the lethal dose doesn’t shift to the same degree. Therefore, the more addicted someone becomes to a drug, the closer that person gets to killing himself with the drug.

That’s a pretty grim outlook, but fortunately, opiate rehab is available, even for those addicted to seriously addictive drugs life fentanyl and heroin.

Opiate Abuse Treatment

Opiate rehab typically starts with questions related to the nature of the addiction. How long have you taken the drug, when was the last time you took the drug, and how do you usually get your supply – from a doctor or from another source? These questions will help the clinic to decide what treatment approach would be most appropriate. Opiate Abuse Quiz question 5 There are three main sections of opiate rehab: detox, therapy and recovery. Detox involves withdrawing from the drug, often slowly with the use of medication. If you’re detoxing from powerful opiates, you’ll likely be prescribed methadone or buprenorphine to make the transition more manageable. The former is especially helpful in cases of long-term chronic pain, as it allows you a semblance of a normal life without too much sedation and without the high of a heroin or morphine dose.

drug abuse counselorTherapy is pretty self-explanatory; you attend counseling sessions with a therapist or counselor. This helps you to uncover the reasons for your addiction and identify when you’re likely to take the drug. It helps you to resist the temptation of drugs through cognitive behavioral therapy. It can also help you reconnect with your family and non-drug-taking friends.

Finally, the recovery stage allows you to reintegrate with society. For hard opiate abusers, particularly those on heroin, this might take the form of a halfway house, which gives former users the chance to get sober and rebuild their lives in a safe and supportive environment. Others may simply need the support of a peer support group, such as Narcotics Anonymous (not to be confused with Narconon). To help an opiate addict, call our helpline at (800) 943-0566 for more information.

Opiate Statistics

Opiate Abuse Quiz question 6 Over 210 million opiate prescriptions were given out in 2010, and around 12 million people admitted to abusing these drugs. Three out of every four prescription drug overdoses involve opiates.

Teen Opiate Abuse

Teen opiate use tends to be focused on Vicodin and OxyContin, as these are the easiest opiates for many teens to get hold of. Consequently, the most likely issue associated with Vicodin in particular is liver failure thanks to the acetaminophen in it. If it’s combined with alcohol, your teen can experience a wide range of effects, including severe respiratory depression.

Resources, Articles and More Information

The CDC has a number of articles on drug abuse, particularly with regard to prescription opiate abuse. In addition, the NIDA has an article on treatments typically used for opiate addiction.

Need Help Understanding Your Addiction Treatment Options? Call 1-800-943-0566.

Close Opiate Abuse Symptoms, Signs and Addiction Treatment
  • How many prescriptions for opiates were dispensed in 2010?
  • Which of these is not an opiate?
  • Why might a clinic ask you questions about your drug use?
  • What is doctor shopping?
  • Why is tolerance such a bad thing?
  • Which of these is not a part of getting sober?
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