What Are Opiates?
Opiates are prescription drugs such as Morphine, Heroin, Codine, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone that are prescribed to relieve pain. They work by decreasing the intensity of the pain signals being sent to the brain. By decreasing the pain, they also affect the areas of the brain that control emotion. Opiates are being abused more and more frequently and they are quickly climbing to the top of the drug problem ladder.
Am I Addicted?
How do you know if you're addicted? The World Health Organization and the DSM-IV-TR clinical guidelines for dependence require that three of the six characteristic features be experienced or exhibited:
- A strong desire or sense of compulsion to take the drug;
- Difficulties in controlling drug-taking behavior in terms of its onset, termination, or levels of use;
- A physiological withdrawal state when drug use is stopped or reduced, as evidenced by: the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance; or use of the same (or a closely related) substance with the intention of relieving or avoiding withdrawal symptoms;
- Evidence of tolerance, such that increased doses of the drug are required in order to achieve effects originally produced by lower doses;
- Progressive neglect of alternative pleasures or interests because of drug use, increased amount of time necessary to obtain or take the drug or to recover from its effects;
- Persisting with drug use despite clear evidence of overtly harmful consequences, such as harm to the liver, depressive mood states or impairment of cognitive functioning.
If you can say that you have experienced three of those symptoms, it might be time to look into the option of recovery.
Withdrawal From Opiate Addiction
Opiates are dangerous to start but even more dangerous to stop taking. Physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal include: Chills, diarrhea, uncomfortable feeling of inner restlessness, cramps, crying, difficulty sleeping, fast heart rate, flu-like symptoms, hot flashes, headache, itching, joint pain, muscle pain, nausea, RLS, runny nose, skin rash, sneezing, sweating, tinnitus, tiredness, tremors, vomiting and weakness. Psychological issues with withdrawal can include: Anxiety, drug craving, confusion, depression, difficulty concentrating, feeling agitated, irritable or paranoid, feeling restless, sudden mood changes and memory problems. While the list of symptoms would be unpleasant, they would not be unbearable. In rare cases opiate withdrawal can cause cardiac arrhythmia's, dehydration, seizures, stroke, suicide or violent behavior. Every person and every case is different. The longer and more frequently the drug was ingested, the longer and more severe the withdrawal symptoms will likely be. Most withdrawal symptoms will last 2 to 7 days but some can persist for months after the drug is out of the users system.
Asking for Help
As with any addiction, admitting that you need help is the first step to recovering from the problem. Opiate users will often try to hide the behavior from family and friends due to shame. If nobody in your life knows what is going on, no one can help. Some signs of an addiction include drastic mood changes, lying, sneaking around, loss of money, loss of interest in anything but the drug, loss of job or poor standing in school and abrupt personality changes. Treatment centers are available on an inpatient and outpatient basis. Depending on the severity of your addiction, you may require counseling and drug replacements until your body can function without any medication. Certain medications that are being used to treat drug addictions.
Methadone and Buprenorphine are the most popular used by treatment centers. The drugs replace the illicit drug and serve as a buffer to ween the patient off of the addicting substance as gently as possible. Opiate dependency often requires inpatient care to remove the patient from the harmful behavior. Most programs last 30 to 90 days and some offer scholarships for low income patients while others offer care based on a sliding income scale. 12 step programs are also a great way to build a support system. With recovery, a support system is vital. Having someone you can call at any time to talk you through a craving or to just listen to you talk can make the difference in recovery. With the right combination of medical attention, Therapy, counseling and coping skills, anyone has the ability to get clean and to live a clean and productive lifestyle.