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How to Help an Opiate Addict

  1. Table of ContentsPrint
  2. Help for Opiates Addicts
  3. Approaching a Loved One About Opiate Addiction
  4. Opiate Addiction Treatment
  5. Are Opiates Addictive?
  6. What Are the Signs of Addiction?
  7. Am I Addicted to Opiates?


Help for Opiates Addicts

Opiates are some of the most abused drugs in America, with prescription opiates accounting for up to 5.1 million cases of addiction.

Around 210 million doses of opiates, including morphine, OxyContin and Vicodin, were prescribed in the US in 2011, so it's not surprising that the problem is extensive.

Opiates are any drugs that are derived from the opium poppy. Effectively, all opiates affect the body in the same way. Opiates are prescribed for treating moderate to severe pain, such as post-operative pain, back pain etc. They can also produce euphoria, which makes them potentially addictive if used over longer periods of time. Consequently, they should be prescribed sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.

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Approaching a Loved One About Opiate Addiction

Opiate overdose accounted for more deaths in 2014 than car accidents (Rudd, 2016). If someone you care about has a problem abusing these drugs, it is very important for you to offer your non-judgmental concern, while discontinuing enabling behaviors. Provide ongoing support and encouragement for them to enter treatment, but set healthy boundaries and do not help them to obtain or use drugs.

Provide ongoing support and encouragement for them to enter treatment, but set healthy boundaries and do not help them to obtain or use drugs.

There are certain methods you can use to help your loved one decide to pursue addiction treatment. The first and most well-known is an intervention. It’s important if you take this approach to plan it well and only include those who can offer loving support and concern for the addicted individual. Avoid including people who cannot contain their judgment or temper their emotions. If you need, you can enlist the help of an interventionist who can take the reigns in the planning and implementation of the meeting.

Another method that has shown success in getting those who need help it to accept treatment is Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). This therapy type is intended for those closest to the addicted individual and teaches positive communication and other tips in managing the relationship and encouraging treatment.

NOTE: If your loved one has been in rehab for opiate addiction and relapsed, continue to assure them that you will support them through additional recovery efforts. Many people relapse several times before successfully getting sober. You can help your loved one go back to treatment by reassuring them that there are many reasons a treatment program may not have worked the first time and they might benefit from a different approach.

Opiate Addiction Treatment

Opiate addiction treatment follows a fairly standard regimen, but the specifics depend on the particular drugs and the amount of drugs you've been abusing as well as your health and addiction history. You may be switched onto an alternative opioid like methadone or buprenorphine; alternatively, you might simply be weaned off opiates altogether.

Before beginning the process of detoxification and treatment, a medical professional will likely create an individualized treatment plan for you. This plan may be changed continually to make sure it is meeting your needs.

Medically assisted detoxification is helpful in achieving long-term sobriety from opiates. Withdrawal from opiates can be uncomfortable, and in some cases, distressing enough to trigger relapse. Supervised detox provides supportive care to manage the withdrawal syndrome and a sober environment in which to focus on recovery.

In treatment, doctors may prescribe you medications to help prevent relapse. The following medications can play an important role in treating opiate addictions:

  • Methadone: Methadone is long-acting synthetic opioid agonist. It reduces cravings and alleviates symptoms of withdrawal in order to prevent relapse.
  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is a synthetic opioid medication that works as a partial agonist at opioid receptors, partially activating opioid receptors to produce a safe level of opioid effects. The drug has a ceiling, meaning effects only reach a certain point. This discourages abuse of the drug for a “high.”
  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone is a synthetic opioid antagonist, meaning it blocks opioid receptors in the brain. This drug works to prevent opioid abuse by blocking the euphoric effects.

Understand that detoxification alone is rarely enough to prevent relapse. The most successful treatments combine medication and behavioral therapy to ensure that you succeed in your recovery. During therapy, you'll discuss and uncover the reasons for your addiction and be taught methods to reduce the risk of starting the abuse again. You'll also be encouraged to build up a supportive network outside the center.

Finally, you'll go through the recovery stage, but you won't be on your own. Your family can help you through this difficult stage, or you can use the support networks you've built up while recovering from drug abuse. These networks help to prevent you from relapsing.

Addiction treatment professionals are a vital part of recovery

What’s better for opiate addiction recovery: a hospital or an addiction treatment center? Despite the incredible medical care that a hospital can provide, opiate users who were treated at a formal treatment center had significantly lower rates of death, according to a 2017 study. Identifying addiction and receiving treatment that not only addresses the medical needs, but also the psychological long-term needs of those addicted to opiates, is an important aspect of recovery.

Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017). Opioid Abusers at Higher Death Risk When Addiction Specialists Not Part of Care. Medline Plus.

Are Opiates Addictive?

Because opiates cause sedative and euphoric effects, they can be addictive to users, even when taken as prescribed. Many users end up taking higher doses than those prescribed and continually increasing the doses as their bodies become tolerant to the effects they produce.

Once the opiate is withdrawn, withdrawal symptoms kick in, with very unpleasant flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • Cramping.
  • Nausea.
  • Fever.
  • Runny nose.
  • Sweating.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Cravings.

What Are the Signs of Addiction?

The main symptom of opiate abuse and addiction is that you keep taking the drug no matter what.

The main symptom of opiate abuse and addiction is that you keep taking the drug no matter what, even despite consequences to your health, your family, or your work obligations.

While it may be sensible to take the drug after surgery, if it's several months after the surgery and you keep on refilling your prescription, you may need to talk to someone about a possible problem with your use.

Am I Addicted to Opiates?

Having a prescription for an opiate prescription medication does not guarantee the safety of that medication. You can still become addicted to it, especially if you do not take it exactly as directed.

Signs that you might have a problem with opiate addiction include the following:

  • Taking drugs well after you medically need to and be afraid of running out.
  • Taking the drugs for the euphoric high.
  • Obtaining supplies from friends, family members or even from dealers.
  • Stealing drugs or money to buy drugs.


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