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The Profile of an Opiate Addict | Signs and Stages of Abuse

How to Identify an Opiate Addict and Help Them Begin Recovery from Addiction

What is the profile of an opiate addict? You might be surprised to find that it's much different than it was just a few years ago. It’s helpful to recognize someone who is abusing this type of drug, so you can work towards getting them help. You may also want to use this information to identify whether you have a problem and how serious it is. This information can also help you decide how and when you need to get treatment.

An opiate addiction is very dangerous. In fact, it might be the most dangerous of all the addictions. There are many good reasons behind this.

Many times, people get addicted to opioid drugs purely by accident. They may be taking a prescription opiate for pain relief. They assume that the drug is safe because they got it with a doctor's prescription. However, what many people eventually find out is that the drug is not safe at all. They usually don't discover this until they're already in the throes of addiction. This type of addiction has slowly crept up on America, and turned into a full-blown opioid epidemic.

Maybe you have a loved one who could be suffering from an opiate addiction. Or, perhaps you are concerned about your own drug use. Once you know and understand today's profile of an opioid addict, you'll have the information you need to act.

In this guide, you'll learn about the physical and behavioral signs associated with an opiate addiction. You'll also learn how to identify it within yourself or your loved one.

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What are Opiates and Who Uses Them?

Opiates are a class of drugs derived from the poppy plant. They include synthetic substances, as well as natural ones. 

Opioids are the synthetic versions of opiates. These drugs are mainly used to control pain after surgery or from an injury. They are mostly meant for short-term use. Doctors who prescribe an opiate for a medical condition usually monitor the patient closely and take them off the drug in a few days or weeks. 

People who are taking an opiate for pain may need to be weaned off slowly to prevent withdrawal symptoms. The body can become addicted to this type of drug even when taking it as prescribed. If they have a history or family background of drug abuse, it’s best that they do not take these types of drugs at all because they are more likely to become addicted. 

Some opiates are more addictive than others, but most have the potential for addiction. The drugs in this category that are most often abused include the following: 

  • Heroin – an illegal substance with no recognized medical value. It’s a synthetic opioid that is often associated with drug overdoses.
  • Morphine – a painkiller that is a natural opiate. It is often prescribed for treating pain in terminally ill patients and may be given orally or via an injection.
  • Vicodin – often prescribed after surgery. This prescription is highly addictive. It’s one of the most abused prescription drugs in any category.
  • Hydrocodone – this drug is found in pain medication and cough syrup. It can be abused at high dosages.
  • Fentanyl – this opiate has become more popular as a drug of abuse; it’s used in pain relief and as a sedative.
  • Codeine – an opiate that is used for pain and is in cough suppressants. 

People who begin drug abuse with a prescription medication often move on to an illegal substance like heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to get. It also provides a more intense high when other drugs no longer have that effect. 

Many times, a person will crush the pills or mix them with liquid to get faster results. They may take them with other substances, so they can feel a more intense high. Even if they begin taking the drugs as directed by a doctor, the euphoric feeling can make them feel good, which will then lead to drug abuse.

Which People Are More Likely to Become Addicted?

Some people are able to use opioid analgesics without falling into the trap of addiction. Unfortunately, a large majority of opioid users get hooked. 

The question is, "what separates someone who may get addicted to opioids to someone who doesn't?" There are some risk factors that are involved. Understanding whether you possess any of these risk factors can help you determine your risk level. There are many risk factors that may make a person more prone to addiction. Some of these risk factors include: 

  • Past or current substance abuse. If you have ever abused any type of substance in the past, you'll be more likely to get hooked on opioids. After all, you're no stranger to addiction. It's not unusual for some substance abusers to move from one substance to another.
  • Untreated psychiatric disorders. Those with a mental health condition are more vulnerable to self-medicating using opioids. These individuals may need opioids to feel whole or self-confident. Individuals with a co-occurring untreated psychiatric disorder will need dual diagnosis treatment.
  • Younger age. It appears that younger generations are more likely to abuse opioids. This could be due to the many pop culture references of these drugs.
  • Social or family environments that encourage misuse. Those with family members who are addicts are more likely to abuse opioids themselves. 

The Opioid Risk Tool (ORT) can also provide you with more insight as to whether you have a high risk or a low risk. Use this tool to learn more about your risk level. It will help you determine whether you should stay away from opioids and whether you should seek professional assistance.

So, what do people who are more likely to overdose on opioids look like? Surprisingly, this profile is slightly different than people who are likely to get addicted. 

Opioid morality prevalence is actually highest in middle-aged individuals. That's right. Although younger generations are more likely to get addicted, middle-aged individuals who are addicted to opioids are more likely to overdose. These individuals often have a co-occurring mental health disorder or engage in polysubstance abuse. 

It's also important to note that many of these individuals may be suicidal due to their psychiatric comorbidities. It can be difficult to differentiate between an accidental opioid-related poisoning death and an intentional suicide using opioids.

Opiate Addict Profile

How the Opioid Epidemic Began

So, how did we get to this point? Why are so many people abusing prescription opioids? The opioid epidemic can be broken down into 3 different timelines: 

  • 1991. This is when the first wave of Americans became addicted to opioids. There was a sharp increase in doctors prescribing opioids. Many were unaware of the fact that these medications were so addictive. There was also an initiative to promote opioids to patients who were struggling with non-cancer related pain. By 1999, 86% of patients who were prescribed opioids were using them for non-cancer pain. Opioids became readily available, and they were also prescribed rather liberally.
  • 2010. This is when the second wave started. There was a huge increase in heroin abuse. As communities realized the dangers of prescription opioids, fewer and fewer doctors would prescribe these medications. Those who were addicted to prescription opioids would have no choice but to seek out heroin instead. Heroin is a much cheaper and easily available alternative. From 2002 to 2013, heroin-related overdoses increased by 286%. Over 80% of heroin users reported abusing prescription opioids first.
  • 2013. Fentanyl became the star in recent years. There has been a huge increase in opioid-related deaths thanks to fentanyl. Fentanyl is illicitly manufactured in many countries and used to replace other drugs of abuse.

Many people who started using prescription opioids had a doctor's prescription. They were unaware that their usage of opioids could lead to addiction. Unfortunately, even those who were taking their prescriptions properly became dependent on these medications. This is why many addicts are functioning members of society. They could be doctors, teachers, accountants and more. 

The fact that opioids were prescribed so liberally in the 90s has had a huge effect on the opioid epidemic. In fact, it has snowballed the entire situation.

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Statistics on Opiate Abuse

You may be surprised to see what an opiate addiction looks like and what can happen when someone is addicted. The statistics around this topic can be quite shocking. 

  • At least 50 percent of major crimes in the US involve opiate use
  • Half of the people arrested for a violent crime were under the influence of an opiate drug at the time of their arrest
  • About 314,000 people in the US used heroin at least once in the past year
  • The age range most likely to be addicted is those between 20 and 29
  • Just over ten percent of those who need addiction treatment will receive it
  • The number of prescriptions for opiates nearly tripled in 20 years from 76 million in 1991 to 210 million in 2010.
  • A person will abuse an opiate on average for 14 years before they seek treatment
  • A person will have an average life span of ten years after their first use 

These statistics should show the seriousness of drug abuse when opiates are involved. They show the myths surrounding the safety of drug use for prescription medications. There is no such thing as a safe drug when it comes to an opiate. 

What is Opioid Abuse?

It is very important to understand that there is a difference between drug addiction and substance abuse. These two terms are not the same, although they're often substituted for one another.

As far as opioid drugs are concerned, abuse refers to any use of the drug that contradicts the prescription. This means that there are many different actions and behaviors that can constitute as abuse. These include: 

  • Taking a prescription opiate for a long period of time
  • Taking doses too closely together
  • Taking more of the drug than prescribed
  • Chewing the medication instead of swallowing it
  • Grinding up the drug or liquefying it to increase its euphoric effects 

Opioid addicts do all of the above too. However, the difference is that those who are abusing the drug don't feel the need to do so. They don't experience cravings, and they don't have withdrawal symptoms. They don’t have a chemical or a physical dependence on the drug. They can stop at any time. Many times, abusers are only doing it for the euphoria the drug gives them. 

There is definitely a difference between abuse and addiction. However, addiction to these drugs always begins with abusing them first.

What is Opiate Addiction?

Now that you understand what abuse is, let’s see what constitutes as an addiction. 

When someone has an opiate addiction, his or her behaviors are slightly different. For them, using is something that is constantly on their minds. They may even think about using the moment they wake up in the morning. They experience a deep desire to use these drugs. Many times, it's for their pain-relieving effects. Other times, it's because they like the way it makes them feel.

One classic sign of opioid addiction is that addicts often just don't feel right without the drugs. They need to take them to feel normal. When there are no drugs in their system, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. Some of these opioid withdrawal symptoms might include: 

  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Other flu-like symptoms
  • Anger or agitation
  • Anxiety or depression symptoms 

Only a qualified professional can tell you for sure if you have an addiction. If you do, it's important to get treated for it right away. If you’re unsure of whether you are struggling with an addiction, get a free addiction assessment from our professionals.

How Can You Tell If Someone Is Withdrawing from Opioids?

Withdrawal symptoms are telltale signs of an addiction. These symptoms only appear if an individual has developed a chemical or physical dependence on the drugs. It’s one of the first signs that addiction specialists look for when assessing whether a person is addicted to opioids. 

The types of withdrawal symptoms experienced, as well as the intensity of the symptoms, can give experts a good indication of the severity of the addiction. 

So, what does someone who is withdrawing from opioids look like? Someone who is withdrawing from opioids will: 

  • Be more agitated than normal. They may explode at you for the smallest of things. For example, you may have simply not heard them ask a question. Or, you may have forgotten to do something that’s not too important, like picking up bananas on the way home.
  • Be more anxious than normal. They may seem jumpy or stressed for no reason at all.
  • Complain of muscle aches or pain, despite not having a reason for being achy or in pain.
  • Appear like they have the flu. You might notice them complaining of pain and having the sniffles.
  • Look like they’re always tearing up.
  • Be sleeping at odd times or not sleeping at all. They may even yawn a lot despite having had enough sleep the day before.
  • Complain of abdominal cramping.
  • Have diarrhea or experience vomiting. Often, they’ll also feel nauseous.
  • Have dilated pupils. This can be difficult to see. You’ll need to be up close to notice this symptom.
  • Have goose bumps all the time despite it not even being cold. 

Someone who is addicted to opioids will begin to exhibit these symptoms when the opioids are leaving their body. This is basically a cry for help from the body. It’s begging for more opioids. These symptoms cause many addicts to relapse even when they’re trying to get clean.

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When Do Withdrawal Symptoms Kick In?

If you suspect that someone is an addict, you want to keep your eye out for withdrawal symptoms. With that said, these symptoms will appear at varying times depending on the type of opioids that are being abused. Withdrawal symptoms are likely to kick in: 

  • Within 12 hours of when heroin was last taken
  • Within 30 hours of when methadone was last consumed
  • Within 4 hours from when the last oxycodone dose was taken
  • Within 12 to 24 hours for morphine
  • Within 6 hours for Percocet 

The withdrawal timeline will vary. It all depends on the dosage that the person took, how long they’ve been abusing opioids, and more. Some people may start to experience mild withdrawal symptoms in just a couple of hours. Other people may start to go through withdrawals after a day.

The Stages of Addiction

It’s important to realize that not all addiction look alike. People may be at various stages of drug abuse. You need to recognize where you are or where your loved one is and how to encourage them to get the help they need. 

What stage your loved one is in will impact how you talk to them about their drug use. If you’re the one using, understanding which stage of addiction you’re in can help you understand what you need to do to break the cycle of addiction.

This stage of addiction usually happens when you’re in your teens. Your friends want you to try a drug, so you agree out of curiosity. You may feel pressured to do it to fit in. This may be the start of a downward spiral or you may try it once and not be interested in doing it again. The typical age for someone in this stage is between 12 and 20. Whether you move on to the next stage or stop depends on several factors, including how many friends are using, your own level of self-confidence, any family history of drug abuse and the presence of any mental health disorders.

You reach this stage if you decide to continue using after your first experience. You may only use on occasion, such as at parties or when you’re feeling stressed out or anxious. You’re in control of when you use and you make the conscious decision to do so. Many times, drug use is social at this stage. You associate it with having fun. 

When you move on to stage three, you begin using on a regular basis. It may be on weekends or in the evenings, but you’re fairly consistent. It’s at this stage when you begin to associate drugs with your fun activities. You may avoid events where you can’t use because it doesn’t seem as much fun as doing drugs. You may also begin to use alone and skip work or school to use. This is the stage where drug use begins to be more about avoiding negative feelings than just the euphoric high. 

Many drug abusers have self-confidence issues. They feel like they don’t belong. Drugs can make them more open to others, and feel better about themselves. They may feel encouraged to regularly use drugs because they like who they are when they are under the influence. 

As you move into the next stage, your drug use becomes riskier. You may have family and friends telling you that you need to stop. You may have gotten into trouble with the law or had financial problems due to your drug use. You continue to use in spite of these issues, and you won’t listen when others tell you there’s a problem. You think you can still handle it, but your drug use has gotten out of control. 

At this stage, you’ve developed a tolerance for the drug. You need more to achieve that high you’re looking for. You may have developed a physical dependence on the drug where you experience withdrawal symptoms when you aren’t using. You may also have a psychological dependence for the drug and an inability to handle life’s stresses and negative situations when you aren’t using. 

There’s a fine line between dependence and a full addiction. At this point, you are unable to stop on your own. You’ll need professional help to get sober. You use drugs even when it hurts you and those you love. You appear not to care about others because your drug use comes first. You stop doing things with others and spend more time alone. You are willing to lie and steal to get and use your drugs. 

There is no set time on how long you will spend in each stage. It often depends on what opiate you’re using. Some are highly addictive and you’ll move through the stages quickly, becoming dependent in just a few uses. If you’re currently in one of the early stages, you need to look at where you’re headed and get help now. If you have a loved one in one of those stages, don’t sit back and wait to see what happens. Talk to them now about getting help. Try to talk to them about what will happen if they continue on their current path. 

For those in the later stages, realize it’s going to take more than just willpower to stop using. You will need to seek out treatment at a drug rehab facility.

Taking a Quiz to Determine Addiction

Right now, you might be feeling very concerned about your use of an opiate medication. You may have noticed some strange symptoms that you weren't expecting. You hate to think about it, but you're worried that you may have formed an addiction. It's important for you to find out exactly what that means. Taking a drug addiction quiz can give you some inside information on your own habits and behaviors.

If you're concerned that a loved one may be using opiate medications inappropriately, you need information too. This family member addiction quiz can help you. You'll gain a better understanding into your family member's behaviors. You'll also be directed on what to do based on the results of the quiz.

The DSM-5 Criteria for Addiction

Addiction is considered to be a chronic mental health disorder. This means that there must be an official criteria used by addiction experts as a diagnosis tool. This is where the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) comes in handy. It lists out a set of criteria that patients must meet in order to be diagnosed with an addiction. 

The criteria that patients must meet to be diagnosed with an addiction include: 

  • The need to take the substance in larger amounts or for a longer amount of time than it is meant for
  • A desire to cut down on overall usage, but being unable to
  • The need to spend a lot of time getting, using or recovering from the use of opioids
  • A strong craving or urge to use opioids and opiates
  • An inability to manage other obligations and responsibilities at work, home or school due to the substance use
  • An inability to stop using the substance even when it is causing a strain on other areas of one’s life
  • A desire to abuse opioids even when in dangerous or risky situations
  • The development of a tolerance to the opioids
  • Withdrawal symptoms that can only be relieved by taking more opioids
  • Psychological or physical problems that are caused by the substance or made worse by using it
  • The act of giving up important social, recreational or occupational activities in favor of using 

Those who meet two or three symptoms will be diagnosed with having a mild substance use disorder (SUD). Those who meet four to five symptoms will be diagnosed with a moderate SUD, and those with 6 or more symptoms will be diagnosed with a severe SUD. 

It’s important to note that these criteria are always changing. The latest criteria came out in 2013; however, it’s likely that further research will cause these criteria to change.

What Do I Do If I Think I Might be Addicted to Opioid Drugs?

Learning the various signs of an opioid addiction is the first step you should take. If you think you are an opioid addict, it's important to have this confirmed. Below, you'll find information related to the different physical and behavioral signs to look out for. You might find that you recognize many of your own symptoms here. If you do, it’s vital that you reach out for help. 

Contacting a drug rehab that offers opiate treatment is one of the first steps that you should take. These are professionals who understand the importance of treating this type of addiction the right way. They'll help you understand why you became an addict in the first place. It may have been accidental, or there could be underlying conditions that need to be treated. 

During drug rehab, you'll learn so much about your addiction. You'll receive individual counseling sessions that will give you a great deal of insight. You'll also participate in group therapy sessions and other types of therapy. 

However, first, let's talk about what opioid addiction looks like.

Learning the Physical Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

For someone who is addicted to opioid drugs, it's important to take notice of the following physical signs. These signs don't all occur with all types of opiates. However, with many of them, they're fairly common. If you or a loved one is addicted, you may notice: 

Opiate drugs can often cause drowsiness because they are depressants. This means that these drugs depress the central nervous system. It’s done to prevent the person from feeling pain when they are injured or when they’ve just gone through surgery. This same effect also causes the person to have a relaxed feeling when they abuse these drugs. 

If someone is addicted to opioids or opiates, he or she is probably taking them during the day. This allows them to make full use of the effects of the drug. This can cause the person to nod off during waking hours. Interestingly enough, opiates can also cause people to be restless when sleeping. Frequent, strange movements are quite likely. 

Mental confusion is another common sign of an opiate addiction. Opioid addicts may have a hard time remembering things they're told. They may suffer from temporary memory loss at times. They may also have trouble concentrating on tasks at any given time. 

As the addict may have slower cognitive function, they may be more likely to make wrong decisions or engage in risky behaviors.

This is in line with the fact that most drug addicts will feel like they’re ‘slowed down’ when on opioids. These drugs slow down the CNS and cause abusers to not only feel drowsy, but to have poor motor skills and coordination. This is because their nerves are no longer sending signals at a normal rate. They’ve slowed down considerably. 

As a result, the drug abuser may not act as quickly or swiftly. They’re reflexes may seem off. For example, they may not be able to catch things that are thrown at them. If they fall, they may not be able to cushion the fall with their arms.

If you're addicted to opioids, you may be noticing some changes to your eyes. You may find that your pupils are often constricted. They may tear up more than they normally do. They can even become red and bloodshot at times. 

Many opioid addicts complain of ongoing constipation. Sometimes, this can be difficult to resolve without a doctor's help. They may try over the counter constipation remedies like prune juice or laxatives. Sometimes these remedies work temporarily, but they often don't. 

If constipation is allowed to continue, it can lead to severe medical consequences. Opioid abusers have a higher risk of bowel blockages. Digestive issues like these are one of the more dangerous side effects of opiate addiction. 

Breathing may become more and more labored as opiate addiction continues. Addicts may find it difficult to take a deep breath. The way they breathe during sleep can also change dramatically. If this is not treated, or the drug abuse is not stopped, the individual’s life can be in danger. 

If you have noticed any of the above signs in yourself, or your loved one, an opiate addiction is probable. 

As neurochemical levels in the brain fluctuates, an opioid addict’s mood can change. Opioids affect dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. These neurochemicals are responsible for regulating one’s emotions and cognition. They’re also involved with feelings of pleasure and motivation. 

As these neurochemical levels fluctuate, the addict’s mood will also fluctuate. They may seem depressed and anxious at times, and ecstatic and overjoyed moments later. It all depends on whether there is an influx of neurochemicals in their brain. More often than not, addicts will feel depressed. Some may even become suicidal. 

It’s important to note that the brain will make less and less of these chemicals. This can make these mood swings more and more erratic.

Understanding and Recognizing the Behavioral Signs of Opioid addiction

Many of the physical signs of an opioid addiction are easy to notice. However, they don't always become obvious right away. You can also look for certain behavioral signs. 

People who become addicted to this kind of drug don't have much control over their behavior. They are driven to act differently because of the drugs they use. The following are some of the most common behavioral signs of an opioid addiction: 

An addict's doctor will only prescribe so many opiates at a time. Even if the person is on a long-term regimen, only a month's supply is allowed by law. Most of the time, addicts take more of their medications than they should. As a result, their prescriptions run out quickly. 

To counteract this, they will usually visit multiple doctors for prescriptions. They may go to another practice in town, go to the ER, or visit a walk-in clinic. Although some states have preventative measures in place for doctor shopping, not all of them do. 

Doctor shopping is very dangerous. If it's something you're currently doing, it is a sure sign that you have an addiction. It shows that you are willing to go out of your way to get a fix. 

If doctor shopping doesn't work, there are other ways that addicts can get their drugs. Many of the most common, popular opiates are sold illegally and are available on the street. This is very dangerous because many times, the pills are tampered with and may be mixed with dangerous ingredients. Many prescription opioids are mixed with fentanyl because they’re potent and cheap. 

Opioids are also available online. There are many overseas sellers who will ship them to the United States for the right price. Any illegal purchasing of these drugs is also a sign of addiction. 

As mentioned above, addicts frequently have problems maintaining steady moods. It is a known fact that long-term opioid use has a profound effect on the brain. If they run out of their medications, they may have mood swings. It's even possible for them to experience mood swings when they're high. It's not always even necessary for the individual to be provoked before acting out.

For most opiate addicts, it doesn't take long for the drugs to become their entire world. They are completely focused on using. Social withdrawal is very common. They stop spending time with friends and family. They may or may not start spending time with other opiate users. Some addicts may prefer to use when they're alone and to avoid being lectured about their addictions. They may even prefer doing drugs alone because they feel ashamed or guilty. They don’t want others to have a negative perception of them. 

It costs a lot of money to fund an opioid addiction. Health insurance companies will only pay for a certain number of pills a month. That means that any additional prescriptions need to be covered out-of-pocket. If opioids are being purchased illegally, the price increases even more. Financial problems are very common among those with addictions. 

For many who are addicted to opioids, there comes a time when they realize they can't continue. They may no longer be able to get prescriptions, or they may find that illegal purchasing is too expensive. When this happens, they will generally start to think about using heroin instead. 

The CDC states that as many as three out of four heroin users were opiate abusers first. This is a shocking statistic. However, it proves that opiates are responsible for many heroin addictions. Heroin is much cheaper and easily accessible. It’s also even more dangerous because it may be mixed with other substances, including poisons. 

The price difference for OxyContin and heroin is quite huge. A 10-mg tablet of OxyContin can cost between $5 and $10 when purchased on the black market. This dose is usually too low to give most addicts the high that they need. They’ll usually need to take much higher doses because of their tolerance. An 80-mg tablet, on the other hand, can cost anywhere from $65 to $80. This is a one-time dose. 

Heroin is much cheaper. It’s also much easier to find. In Ohio, the average cost of a single dose of heroin, which is approximately 0.1 grams, is approximately $15 to $20. 

To get a prescription for opioids, one must be in pain. Many people who are addicted to opioids will over-exaggerate how much pain they’re in. They may get into a minor accident and still claim that they’re in a lot of pain. They may even lie that their prescriptions were stolen or lie about getting into an accident. Those who were prescribed opioids due to an accident will continue to claim that they’re in pain even when they aren’t. 

Another important thing to note is that some addicts actually will be in pain when they stop taking drugs. This is because their body has developed a physical or chemical dependence to the drugs. With that said, the abusers will be in denial that they have an addiction. Instead, they’ll continue to attribute the pain to the accident or injury.

Learn About Opiate Addiction Straight from the Horse's Mouth

One of the reasons why it’s so hard to come up with a concrete profile for opioid addicts is because there aren’t always any obvious outward signs. It’s also fairly easy for addicts to get the drugs for what appears to be genuine reasons. They may claim that they have intense pain and need painkillers from an accident or injury. No one, but the abuser, actually knows how severe the pain is. 

Prescription opioids are becoming some of the most prevalent drugs in pop culture. The fact that many celebrities are addicted to prescription opioids is coming to light. This shows that addiction can affect some of the most talented and bright individuals in the world. 

Fortunately, many celebrities are also willing to discuss their addiction and their personal journey to recovery in hopes of helping others overcome an addiction. To learn more about what an opiate addict looks like, you’ll need to hear straight from the horse’s mouth what other people’s experiences may be. Let’s take a look at some notable examples.  

Baseball fans all probably know who Darren Prince is. He started a multi-million dollar baseball card company when he was just 14 years old. By the time that he was 25, he was already doing deals with celebrities, like Chevy Chase, Pamela Anderson and Muhammad Ali. His company was an industry leader in private autograph signings and memorabilia. 

Although many people admire his journey and success, Darren Prince has had struggles of his own. In particular, he was addicted to opioids. He first abused drugs when he was 12 years old, but the abuse continued on for many years into his adult life. 

While he was making these multi-million dollar deals, he also had many close calls with opioid overdoses. There were times when he couldn't function -- or even get out of bed -- without a prescription. 

Since then, Darren Prince has come a long way. He's sobered up. You, too, can follow his journey in his podcast with Dr. Bond. He goes into detail on how he first got hooked onto his drugs, and his personal journey to recovery.

In the podcast, Darren Prince discusses how he grew up in special education classrooms. This led him to feel like he always had something to prove. He felt less than other people, and he never felt like he was part of any group. He struggled with many subjects in school, which led him to have low self-confidence. 

"I was at camp, and had stomach pains when I was 12 years old... [This nurse] gave me this clear, plastic cough syrup cup with this green liquid, and it tasted absolutely horrible. But, within a couple of minutes where I was walking across the softball field to get back to the bunk, I felt like superman. Every single of inadequacy, insecurity, feeling of less than, not being a part of, it all went away in an instant... I was the good looking one, the smart one, the popular one." 

This feeling gave him the confidence that he needed to socialize with other boys in camp and to even flirt with the girls. He loved the feeling so much that he claimed that he had a stomachache for the next day in order to get more of the prescription painkiller. In fact, he claimed that he had a stomach ache for 3 weeks straight until his parents visited him at camp. 

This is how most opiate and opioid abuse start. It’s difficult to identify an opiate addict because the addict may appear as if they have a genuine need for the prescription. They may not have any outward signs of abuse or addiction. The main difference lies in how that person feels about himself or herself.

Ever since then, he chased that high. The prescription opioids were able to make him feel more confident in himself. As he grew older, he would play up any pain that he had, so he would be prescribed a variety of prescription opioids, like Percocet and oxycodone. 

He was able to hide his addiction for the majority of his adult life. He perfected the technique of slipping a prescription into his mouth without anyone noticing. He was a functioning addict. Much like how there are high-functioning alcoholics, there are also high-functioning drug addicts as well. 

There aren’t many signs and symptoms associated with opioid abuse. It can be difficult to identify a high-functioning addict. These addicts can still succeed in life and complete their daily chores and errands. They can even live with other addicts and still be in denial of their own situation.

“These people in recovery that were recovering alcoholics and drug addicts made me feel whole for the first time in my life. I could identify with what they were saying. I could understand their thought process. They started to love me before I could love myself. They showed me love. They showed me faith. They showed me hope.” 

Unfortunately, while an opioid addiction may not seem too damaging in the beginning, it can quickly spiral out of control. The addict will become dependent on the drugs to the point where they watch the rest of their life pass them by. For Darren Prince, his saving grace was going to a 12 step meeting.

Macklemore and His Relationship with OxyContin

"Within a week I was isolated in my room doing [OxyContin] just to stay alive in a way." 

If you're a fan of pop culture, you've probably heard of Macklemore. In fact, you've probably jammed to some of his hit singles, like Thrift Shop and Can't Hold Us. He has had many hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100

As talented as Macklemore is, he, too, struggled with drug abuse. While he abused all types of drugs, he has spoken out regularly about the times when he abused OxyContin. 

"OxyContin was the most intense drug, and I didn't even do it for long. Like, I did it maybe 3 times in increments of 5 days, 6 days and stop. 3 months later, 5 days, 6 days and stop." 

Opioid abusers are often high-functioning. They binge use drugs for certain intervals of time before resuming their daily lives. For Macklemore, 3 binges were all that was needed for him to realize that he had a problem and needed to stop. 

The allure of the opioids was just too much, and he could see himself slipping further and further into addiction. While he may have still been functioning, he would feel as if the happiness was sucked out of his life. He didn't feel happy with his life. 

Many opiate addicts start off using prescription opioids because these drugs fill a void in them. They felt incomplete even before using the drugs, and the drugs were able to make them feel whole. 

This is why many drug rehab centers treat not only the withdrawal symptoms, but also the individual’s mental health. Patients must learn how to find self-worth and happiness away from substance abuse. For Macklemore, rehab saved his life. He acknowledges that without rehab, he probably wouldn’t still be alive today.

Macklemore understands just how easy it is to hide an addiction. He also understands how difficult it can be to get sober. He’s had a friend who overdosed on a prescription opioid after celebrating two weeks of sobriety. 

The truth is that it is never easy to help someone who has an addiction. He or she may deny having a problem. On top of that, it can be difficult to spot an opioid addiction to begin with. 

While people abuse drugs for different reasons, they are usually trying to use the drugs to compensate for something that they’re lacking. Macklemore claims that the easiest way to help someone is to ask him or her the following questions, as he or she will usually already know the answer: 

  • Are you happy? How could you be happier?
  • Are you fulfilled?  
  • Do you feel connected? Do you feel supported?
  • What is your passion?
  • What do you want to do with the short time that you have on this earth? 

Once you’ve determined what the underlying cause pushing the addiction may be, you can help that person find a community that is supportive of his or her needs. This might include finding him or her new friends that are supportive of his or her recovery.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin: Her Mother’s Opiate Addiction

Perhaps, it’s the people who are closest to the addict who will recognize the signs of an addiction first. Children who have parents who are addicted to prescription opioids are often hit the hardest. They struggle because their parents may be incompetent parents -- not by choice, but because the addiction has taken over their lives. These parents may be unable to provide the attention and care that their children need. 

This topic hits a personal note for U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin. Her mother was a social worker who was involved with foster care services and more, but was unable to care for her due to an addiction to opioids. 

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin shares her story with her mother and her mother’s addiction below: 

The stereotype behind an addiction is that it turns a person into a horrible individual. But that’s not the truth. Those who struggle with an addiction can still have many ‘good’ sides. The completely negative stigma that comes with addiction is often over-exaggerated. 

With that said, due to her mother’s addiction, her mother was unable to care for her. Instead, her grandparents took care of her. 

“This was an issue that my mother dealt with only through the medical establishment.” 

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin saw that addiction does not always mean that the addict ends up on the streets. Instead, her mother would see doctors to get the prescription pills that she needs. Her mother was also struggling with bipolar disorders. 

She realized that her mother was sometimes incapacitated at times. She didn’t act like her friend’s parents, and appeared very ill. Money was always an issue, as her mother would spend a lot of money on drugs and would not be able to hold onto a job. 

As she grew older, she would have to take on household chores. She would also have to lend her mother money.

Many people don’t understand that their loved ones are addicted when they are abusing prescription pills. Instead, they think that their loved ones are taking the prescriptions in order to deal with an illness or another medical condition. 

When her mother was not abusing her prescription pills, she was fun and a lovely person to be around. And, that’s the scary truth about addiction. It can strip someone of his or her positive traits.

The Consequences of Ongoing Opiate Use

There are many medical consequences involved with continuing to use opiates. People believe they're safe, but this list proves otherwise.

Opiate addicts are in danger of:

  • Having weakened immune systems. This means that their bodies aren't as able to fight off infection as they once were.
  • Having digestion problems that can lead to bowel perforation and other issues.
  • Experiencing abscesses or infections if the drugs are being used intravenously.
  • Experiencing severe respiratory depression, which can lead to massive organ injuries.
  • Having a higher risk of kidney or liver damage. 

Long-term drug use weakens the different systems, which can lead to cardiac arrest, stroke and other medical emergencies. 

Opioid abusers are also at risk of overdoses and suicide or self-injury. Overdosing can happen by accident because your system craves more and more of the drug as it develops a tolerance to it. You must continue to increase the amount you use to get the euphoric effects. Sometimes the amount for an overdose can be only slightly more than what is required to get high. 

Your risk for an overdose goes up if you’re using two or more drugs. Many people who use opiates will take them with alcohol or another drug to increase the potency. When opiates are combined with stimulants, the high energy you get from the stimulant may mask the effects of the opiate. Your heart rate and blood pressure may drop dangerously low. 

You can have a similar problem if you take another depressant along with an opiate. Both drugs have the same effect on the system, which can be severe when you combine them. You may not be aware enough of what is going on to make the right decision and to stop using. 

Not all the side effects and withdrawal symptoms of an opiate are physical. Many times, the drugs affect your mental health as well. You may experience paranoia and hallucinations. You may become anxious or depressed. If this is the case, you may begin to have thoughts of suicide. You can’t find a way to stop these symptoms and you don’t know how to quit using. It may seem like the only way out is to end it all. 

If you are having these feelings or you’re concerned about a loved one who is abusing drugs, you need to take your concerns seriously. Get immediate help through suicide prevention or a drug rehab facility.

Many people who begin abusing this type of drug have a mental health disorder. They started off taking the medication for pain or by using recreationally. Then, they see how the drug seems to treat the symptoms of their condition. They feel normal again. Or, in some cases, they feel like a better version of themselves. 

What people fail to realize is that the drug will only work for a short period. As the body develops a tolerance to it, they will need to use more to keep masking their symptoms. 

We can see an example of this situation in someone who has severe anxiety. Their anxiety may be so bad that they avoid social events and group activities. When they take an opiate, it helps them relax, so they can have a good time. Because it appears to work, they keep taking it whenever they face social situations.

Many mental health conditions can occur at the same time as an addiction. Some of these conditions include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia 

This is just a short list, but any mental condition can become more complicated with the addition of an addictive drug. The drugs cause neurochemical changes that exacerbate the mental health issue. 

A unique characteristic of opiates is the fact that a person can develop a mental health disorder from abusing this type of drug. They may never have experienced severe anxiety or depression until they started abusing the drug. Because opioids alter the chemistry of the brain, they can cause mental health problems to develop. 

Regardless of how the mental health condition developed, a dual diagnosis is a serious problem that requires special treatment. If you treat the addiction alone, the likelihood of relapse is quite high. However, you can find drug rehab centers that specialize in co-occurring disorders. Once you get the right treatment, you can begin to enjoy life again while managing both conditions in the correct way.

Steps Families Can Take to Help an Opiate Addicted Loved One

Families often feel heartbroken when they find out that a loved one is addicted to opiates. They're not sure what they can do to help. If that is the situation you're in right now, there are some steps you can take. 

Start by having a conversation with your loved one about the opioid addiction. He or she may have been trying to hide it from you. Get the problem out in the open. Express your concerns and your desires for your family member to get help. 

Consider setting up an intervention. These services are available for you through drug rehab facilities. Interventions can be extremely powerful. Your loved one's friends and family members will be able to come and share their concerns too. You will feel much better having the support of others you love. Also, your loved one is more likely to get professional help afterwards. 

Don't forget to get help for yourself too. It is difficult to live with any type of addict. Living with an addict can put a tremendous amount of strain on you. You may want to join Al-Anon, which is a support group for families of addicts. 

You could also consider going to a therapist who specializes in helping families of addicts. Talking about what you're going through will help you feel better. It will also aid you in coping with the challenges that are yet to come. 

Treatment for an Opiate Addiction

If you’ve been abusing opiates for whatever reason and may even be addicted, you need to get help. The process isn’t quick and it may be a bit frightening, but it’s necessary so you can reclaim your life. 

Before you can begin any kind of rehab, you’ll need to get the drug out of your system. This is a much more challenging process than some people might lead you to believe if you’re addicted. 

You’ve probably heard comments like “You could stop if you wanted to” or “Just quit using and it will be okay.” What these people don’t realize is that drug addiction isn’t a battle of willpower. It’s a condition that has occurred because the drugs have altered your brain. Your system has become dependent on the drug, so you can’t just stop because you want to. 

You must go through a detox program. This process is designed to cleanse your system from the drug and help it relearn how to function normally without it. Your body won’t accept this change without a fight, which means you will have to go through withdrawal symptoms. If you go to a detox facility, you can make it through the process with some valuable resources and continued support.

One of the biggest issues with detoxing from opiate drugs is the risk of relapse before you complete the process. The withdrawal symptoms can become quite severe, and the addict is more likely to attempt to find some more of the drug to stop the withdrawals from kicking in. 

Several medications have been approved for opiate detox because of the seriousness of this process. Some medications, like antidepressants, help minimize specific symptoms. Sedatives may help with insomnia. Antidepressants may prevent depression and anxiety, and other drugs may reduce other physical symptoms. 

Other medications have been used to mimic the effects of opiates and opioids. These medications come with a lower potential for abuse. These drugs will often create a high, which is not as euphoric as the substance you’re detoxing from. However, it’s usually enough to prevent your brain from sending out alerts in the form of withdrawal symptoms. The danger with this method is that many of these drugs do have moderate addictive tendencies. It also slows down the detox process because it may be weeks or months before you can stop taking these medications and learn how to function on your own.

Types of Substitute Opioids that Are Used

The opioids that are used as replacements are part of a treatment known as Opiate Replacement Therapy (ORT). These opioids are weaker, so they’re easier to withdraw from. They’ll fend off the more intense withdrawal symptoms for the time being. 

Some of the medications that are used in ORT include: 

  • Methadone, which is a full opioid agonist. This means that it works in the same way as heroin. This medication attaches to opioid receptors in the CNS. It will stimulate these receptors to trick the patient’s body and mind into believing that he or she is still using. This type of medication comes with a potential for abuse. It’s possible for patients to develop a secondary addiction.
  • Suboxone. This medication contains naloxone and buprenorphine. Unlike methadone, this medication is a partial opioid agonist. This means that it comes with a ceiling effect. After a certain dose, the medication will no longer affect the body. It doesn’t matter how much more the patients take. Due to this effect, Suboxone is harder to abuse. Most patients will be able to easily wean off of it.
  • Vivitrol, or naltrexone. This is an opioid antagonist. It doesn’t work in the same way as methadone or Suboxone. Instead, it blocks the opioid receptors in the CNS. This medication doesn’t come in the form of a pill, like methadone and Suboxone. Instead, it is administered as a once-a-month injection. This medication does not have a potential for abuse. 

Depending on your situation, you will be prescribed different medications. It’s important to note that while these medications are effective, they, alone, will not help patients get sober. Behavioral therapy and counseling, as well as other addiction treatment services, are also needed.

Another method of detox relies on a healthy body to help you through the process. Detox centers that use the holistic approach focus on nutrition and exercise. While you may be skeptical that this method really works, it has some strong statistics of success to support it. 

With holistic detox, a nutritionist will help you develop health meal plans that include vitamins and minerals, which can reduce symptoms of withdrawal. You’ve probably been lacking these nutrients because you’ve been more focused on drugs than food. Poor nutrition can make these symptoms worse while getting the right foods can reduce or even eliminate some of them completely. 

Exercise also plays an integral role by releasing endorphins that make you feel good. It acts as a natural drug for a healthy high. Working out also helps you deal with anxiety and depression and makes you feel better about yourself. 

When looking at a detox center to help you cleanse your body, you may want to consider a facility that offers both medical and holistic. This way, you can follow a plan that best fits your needs.

Going to Rehab

Once you complete detox, you’ll need to follow up with addiction treatment at a rehab center. You may feel really good now that the drug is out of your system, but you haven’t dealt with the addiction itself yet. If you stop with detox, you’re setting yourself up for failure. A comprehensive addiction treatment plan is needed for continued sobriety.

When it comes to addiction treatment, you have several options. However, for opiate abuse and addiction, inpatient rehab may be the best option. It allows you to focus solely on recovery with no distractions and no negative influences. You’re away from those who encouraged your drug abuse and those who put added stress on your life. 

Inpatient rehab usually lasts for a few weeks, up to 30 days. If you’re a long-term addict or you’ve been through treatment before and relapsed, you may find you need more time in therapy. If this is the case, you can find a residential rehab facility where you can stay for several months before you must go out on your own.

For those who cannot take time away from work or their family, outpatient rehab may be a much better option. If you choose this method of treatment, you’ll need a strong support system at home to be successful. 

You can also find intensive outpatient addiction treatment centers that provide even longer therapy sessions to help you deal with your addiction. You may spend several hours or all day in treatment before going home at night. 

When you’re doing your research and selecting the best rehab center to help you overcome your opiate addiction, you must think about what environment will be best for you and will work with your needs. You can tour the different centers to find one that makes you feel comfortable and offers you the services that you need.

Treatment Available at a Drug Rehab

When you decide to go for addiction treatment at a rehab center, you may wonder what will happen. Because opiate addiction is such a huge problem and often challenging to overcome, you may go through a variety of treatments during your recovery. 

The best rehab centers will conduct an evaluation and assess your needs before creating a customized treatment plan. This ensures that the approach works for you instead of being a one-size-fits-all method. Addiction is a personal problem and the solution should be just as unique. 

Some of the treatment options you’ll find at rehab centers include the following: 

  • Individual counseling – this is where you’ll work with a therapist to learn what led to your addiction and what you should do in the future instead of turning to drugs. You may need to address a mental health disorder or past trauma as part of your treatment.
  • Group therapy – this therapy allows you to talk and listen with others who are also recovering from drug addiction. You’ll find you’re not alone and you may learn some important tips to help you with your recovery.
  • Medication – you may be prescribed medications that can treat your addiction or mental health disorder. If you became addicted due to a physical condition, which required opiate pain medication, you may be given a new medication to deal with this issue.
  • Alternative therapy – other types of therapy may be included in your treatment. They are to be used in conjunction with traditional therapy. This may include yoga, outdoor activities, equine therapy and many others.
  • Fitness – many rehab facilities focus on treating the whole person and not just the addiction. This means helping them get healthy through exercise and good nutrition. They will feel more confident and be better at handling stress.
  • Socialization and community – rehab may include being active in social activities and learning to have fun without the use of drugs. It may also feature opportunities for the person to give back through volunteering and other types of community service. 

When looking at the services provided at a rehab facility, you’ll want to consider centers that go beyond the basics. A treatment plan created just for you will take into consideration your needs and how each method of treatment can help you overcome your addiction.

Drug Rehab Offers Hope to Those with Opioid Addictions

Perhaps you experienced some pain in your back that didn't go away. Like anyone would, you consulted your doctor. He gave you an opioid pain medication that worked wonders for you. It wasn't long before you were taking more of the drug than you should. Its effects were wearing off, so you felt like you didn't have any other choice. 

This is how many opioid addictions begin. People become addicted to opioids without realizing it. Even so, that does not mean you need to remain in this vicious cycle. 

It is important for you to get the professional help you need. Even though doctors prescribe them all the time, opiate drugs can be very dangerous. They are not intended for long-term use. Doing so can easily lead to an addiction. Have you noticed that many of the above signs of opioid addiction apply to you? If you have, please know that at Northpoint Recovery, we want to help you. 

Seeking Help for Opiate Addiction in Idaho

If you’ve read the information about what an opiate addict looks like and it sounds like you or someone you love, you need to seek professional help immediately. 

Northpoint Recovery is located in Boise, Idaho. We are a modern facility that offers 24-hour inpatient care for our residents. We treat opiate addiction along with other substance abuse disorders through individualized treatment plans to meet the unique needs of each person.

We can help you break out from the ugly cycle of addiction. We offer a variety of therapy programs, including holistic detox, medical detox, group therapy, individual counseling and education. Our goal is to help you learn how to enjoy life again and have fun through yoga, hiking, and exercise. We offer socialization through support groups and community outreach to help you give back and to strengthen your self-confidence.

Northpoint Recovery offers individualized treatment plans. Our goal is to help you achieve lifelong sobriety. We want to make you the best version of yourself, and will work with you to improve various aspects of your life. 

Would you like to learn more about getting treatment for your addiction? Do you fit the profile of an opiate addict? If so, please contact us today. We'd love to show you how we can help you overcome this addiction.

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