There are both legal and illegal opiates. Legal opiates are prescribed by qualified medical professionals and used to help people cope with pain. They work by binding to the natural opioid receptors in the brain. In doing so, they actually mimic the chemicals that produce sensations of pain relief and pleasure.
As long as opiates are used as they are intended, they can be very effective at blocking pain and helping people feel better. It’s common for them to be prescribed following a serious injury or after a surgical procedure. They work quite well for all kinds of severe pain. Because of their effectiveness, prescription opiates were prescribed frequently for a period of time. The problem is that opiates are also some of the most abused drugs on the planet.
Perhaps you’ve been using opiates for some time, and you now believe that you’re addicted to them. Most people don’t mean to get addicted to Opiates when they start taking them, but when addiction occurs, getting professional help is the best way to stop. Top opiate rehab centers in the U.S. provide the help that’s needed to successfully recover from this type of addiction.
The terminologies ‘opioids’ and ‘opiates’ are often used interchangeably. Many people consider the two to be the same thing; however, there are actually distinct differences between the two. While both opioids and opiates are chemically similar, they are also quite different.
Examples of Opiates
Examples of Opioids
Did you know that approximately 21% to 29% of patients who are prescribed opioids or opiates will misuse them? Opioids and opiates are incredibly addictive because of what they do to the body. These chemicals and drugs will alter neurochemical levels in the CNS and the brain.
In particular, they usually target the dopaminergic system and the serotonergic system. They make such a huge difference that dopamine levels can jump 200% in the brain after 8 seconds of taking an opioid. Both of these neurochemicals cause the drug user to feel euphoric, happy and relaxed. These sensations are, ultimately, responsible for why these medications and drugs are so addictive.
Unfortunately, the change in dopamine and serotonin levels is not permanent. As the brain is flooded with these chemicals, it will naturally produce less of it. As a result, drug users will feel depressed and down once the drugs leave their system. They will require and yearn for the artificial stimulation. The brain also needs to maintain certain levels of these neurochemicals. The imbalance causes withdrawal symptoms to emerge.
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As dopamine and serotonin essentially play similar roles in the human body, the effects of low dopamine levels can look very similar to the effects of low serotonin levels. Those who have lower dopamine levels will experience more intense symptoms that make it harder for them to recover from an addiction to opioids and opiates.
Similarly, low serotonin levels can also cause some negative effects to emerge as well. They include:
Although low serotonin levels can cause a lot of harm as well, they are usually less severe than the effects of low dopamine levels.
Opioid abuse has also been linked to serotonin syndrome. Anyone who uses an opioid for over 30 days will be at risk for developing this medical condition. Serotonin syndrome can come with some potentially devastating consequences. This condition can be triggered even if the prescription opioids are being taken as prescribed.
Unfortunately, there is no test that can confirm serotonin syndrome. Instead, an addiction specialist or a doctor will diagnose each patient based on his or her medical history. Common serotonin syndrome symptoms include:
These symptoms will usually begin to appear 6 to 24 hours after the opioid dose is taken. In extreme cases, this can also lead to death. The treatment for serotonin syndrome involves discontinuing the opioid or opiate drug use. In the event of an addiction, it will involve professional addiction treatment. Most rehab centers will need to administer a serotonin-inhibiting medication.
Since opioid abuse will have a profound effect on the neurochemical levels in one’s body, it’s not surprising to learn that opioid abuse comes with many short-term and long-term side effects.
Short-term effects will usually disappear and subside once the opiates have left the body. It takes the body different lengths of time to clear different types of opiates from the body. Some opiates have shorter half-lives than others.
Below is a list of some of the common short-term and long-term side effects of opioid abuse to expect:
Some opioids and opiates may also cause unique side effects. For example, hydrocodone abuse can cause hearing loss that can only be fixed with surgery.
There are many different types of opioid medications. The different types each have unique chemical structures, which contribute to their potency and their overall effects. Each type of prescription opioid will also come with its own unique set of side effects.
“80% of heroin users started off abusing prescription opioids.”
Depending on your situation, your doctor may decide to prescribe various prescription opiates. There are so many options to choose from that it would take us forever to describe them all. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular and common opioid medications prescribed in America.
Carfentanil is an opioid medication that is basically a stronger version of fentanyl. Synthesized in 1974, this opioid is designed to immobilize large animals, like elephants. It’s a drug that can usually be found in most zoos. This drug is not designed for human use. Due to this reason, even a small dose of carfentanil can be extremely lethal for people.
“Carfentanil is approximately 10,000 times more potent than morphine.”
Unfortunately, carfentanil is often added to illicit drugs, like heroin. It usually comes in the form of a clear liquid. This drug is water-soluble, and is odorless. This makes it difficult to detect. Many frequent drug users have no idea that this drug is being mixed in with their supply.
Discovered in 1832 by Pierre Jean Robiquet, codeine is an opiate that is mostly used as a mild-to-moderate pain relief medication. It can also be used as a cough medicine or to treat diarrhea. In many cases, many people will take codeine with acetaminophen or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). This medication is usually taken orally, and the effects of the drug will kick in after 30 minutes and last for 4 to 6 hours.
Once ingested, codeine breaks down into morphine in the liver. This opioid occurs naturally. It’s a chemical that can be found in opium. It’s important to note that codeine is not recommended for children, as it can come with a lot of side effects. This drug should only be used by adults.
Dilaudid, also known as hydromorphone, is another type of opioid analgesic. This medication is usually prescribed to treat moderate-to-severe pain. It’s easy to become dependent on this drug, as it is so potent.
Patients usually take the medication after having surgery. This opioid comes in two forms: an oral liquid or a tablet. Most patients will take a tablet containing 2 to 4 mg of hydromorphone every 4 to 6 hours. The effects of the drug should kick in within 30 minutes. Rectal suppositories may be used at night.
Many Americans are dying from drug-related overdose deaths. Fentanyl is a major player. This drug is easily accessible, and it’s also cheap. As a result, many drug dealers have started to mix fentanyl with other illicit substances. This enhances the potency of the drugs without raising the cost. Many substance abusers don’t realize that they’ve taken this drug.
“Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin.”
Fentanyl is usually prescribed in the form of either lozenges or transdermal patches. They are used for treating severe and chronic pain. Only several micrograms of this drug are needed for an overdose.
Hydrocodone is often sold under the brand name Vicodin or Norco. There are many different medications that contain hydrocodone. This type of medication is used to treat moderate-to-severe pain by changing how the body feels and responds to the pain. It can also be used as a cough suppressant.
In general, hydrocodone is used to treat pain or a medical condition for an extended period of time. This drug comes in the form of either an extended-release capsule or an extended-release tablet. Most patients will take the extended-release capsule once every 12 hours. On the other hand, they’ll take the extended-release tablet just once a day.
Morphine is a natural chemical substance derived from opium. This type of opiate can be used to treat both acute and chronic pain. It is either administered orally or via an injection. The effects of this drug should peak within 20 minutes if it is administered intravenously and 60 minutes if it is administered orally. The effects will last anywhere from 3 to 7 hours. Morphine comes in both immediate-release and extended-release forms.
Morphine is actually a very important opiate. This is one of the key ingredients needed to make other opiates. In fact, hydromorphone, heroin and oxymorphone are all derived from this drug.
Oxycodone is one of the most addictive opioids out there. Most people who start off taking this prescription opiate as prescribed will get addicted to it. This prescription pain pill is marketed under the brand name OxyContin. It is used solely to treat moderate-to-severe pain by activating the mu-opioid receptors in the CNS.
OxyContin is usually administered orally. There are two formulations: immediate-release and controlled-release. In general, the immediate-release formula will usually start to work within 15 minutes. Its effects can last up to 6 hours.
One of the benefits of oxycodone is that it can be safely used by pregnant women in early pregnancy. This drug doesn’t seem to affect the baby or the mother. With that said, since it is addictive, those who decide to take this drug will need to be careful. If they’re not, they may become both physically and chemically dependent on it.
In comparison to other opioids, oxycodone is also fairly cheap. In 2018, a single dose of this drug cost $0.30. This makes oxycodone one of the more affordable opiates to those who are in pain.
Tramadol has a chemical structure that’s a bit unique. The chemical makeup doesn’t look as similar to the other opioids. With that said, this is still a prescription opioid, and is actually one of the more popular ones being prescribed.
This drug is often sold under the brand name Ultram, and it is used to treat mild-to-severe pain, both acute and chronic. This prescription painkiller comes in an immediate-release formulation, which means that the effects will begin to kick in within the hour. It binds to the mu-opioid receptors in the CNS.
“More than 19 million prescriptions of Tramadol was written in 2016, making it the 39th most prescribed medication in America.”
Tramadol comes in the form of an oral tablet or an injection. When combined with acetaminophen, the formula is longer-lasting. With that said, Tramadol may not be as addictive as other opioids. However, it does come with a lot more side effects. Those who take Tramadol have an increased risk of serotonin syndrome.
Tramadol is not recommended for those who are at risk of suicide. It is also not recommended in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It’s possible for the drug to travel into the breastmilk.
In comparison to many other opioids, Tramadol is incredibly cheap. It cost less than $0.50 per dose in 2018.
If you’re abusing opiates, or if you’re using them inappropriately, you are abusing the drug. Abuse can quickly become an addiction, and you may find yourself on the verge of having a serious problem. Look out for these signs of abuse if you are concerned that someone in your family might be struggling with opiate abuse:
Once opiate abuse has become an addiction, you will start to notice additional symptoms. It’s very common for people who are addicted to opiates to become constipated to the point of needing medical attention. Nausea and vomiting, confusion, chronic fatigue, and respiratory difficulties are also very common symptoms of an addiction.
If an opiate addiction continues for too long, the results can be catastrophic for the user. These drugs are very powerful and potent. They’re not intended to be used for a long period of time. Prolonged use can result in chest pains and even death. That’s why seeking opiate addiction treatment is the best course of action once an addiction is recognized.
Perhaps you’ve been using Opiates for a long time, but you’re not really sure if you’re addicted to them or not. You may feel as though they’re giving you the relief you need from pain, but how do you know if you’re actually addicted to them?
These Opiate addiction behaviors are excellent indicators:
Many celebrities have battled with an opiate addiction. This is one of the easiest drugs to get addicted to. While some were misusing and abusing the drug, others may have gotten addicted even with a proper prescription.
This shows that anyone can get hooked on opiates. After all, this type of addiction does not discriminate. It can affect your family members, your friends, and even professionals in almost every field.
Let’s take a look at some notable celebrities who have abused or are still abusing opiates today.
Best known for his role in Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. has struggled with addiction almost all his life. He first tried heroin in 1995. Not long after, he realized that he was out of control and couldn’t stop. The addiction had complete control over his life. He was bouncing from rehab to film set to drug binge.
”I believe the most difficult situations will resolve themselves if you are persistent and you don’t give up entirely. And that’s what I never did. I never gave up.”
Robert Downey Jr
His addiction ended up ruining his marriage.It also led to public arrests and jail time. It wasn’t until 2003 that Robert Downey Jr. first had a hold on sobriety. By that time, addiction had almost had a grasp on his life for 10 years. Nowadays, he has spoken out on the importance of getting help and to never give up. Relapses happen. The key to sobriety is persistence.
Jamie Lee Curtis has never been shy about talking about her past addiction to opioids. Unlike many other celebrities, she did not seek out the drugs. Instead, they found her. Jamie Lee Curtis is a part of the huge majority of Americans who were prescribed opioids. She was prescribed opiate painkillers by her doctor after undergoing a cosmetic procedure.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life… It is a most human thing to say, ‘I am in trouble. I need help.’”
Jamie Lee Curtis
Soon, she found that she was addicted to the pills. She realized that she needed help when she stole all of her sister’s prescription painkillers when visiting her in 1998. Once she realized that she had a problem, she sought help. Curtis claims that getting addiction treatment helped her get sober. She is now an outspoken advocate for drug misuse awareness. She also lobbies extensively for changes in opiate policy.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Matthew Perry for his role in Friends. Many people don’t realize that he has actually struggled with a painkiller addiction. He was prescribed the painkillers after being involved in a jet ski accident in 1997. One pill was all that it took to get Perry hooked. Once he started abusing the pills, he would move onto other prescription opiates that were obtained illegally.
"I did and I felt better than I ever felt in my entire life. I had a big problem with pills and alcohol, and I couldn't stop."
Soon, Perry was unable to hide his addiction. In February of 2001, Perry went to rehab for an addiction to Vicodin, methadone, amphetamines and alcohol. He’s now sober and an advocate for nonviolent drug offers to being rehabilitated as opposed to being incarcerated. He uses his experience to help other addicts. In fact, he turned his Malibu mansion into a sober living home for men.
Did you know that approximately 64% of all Americans who seek addiction treatment were polydrug users? This means that they abused more than one substance at a time.
This isn’t unusual. Someone who is abusing opiates may be interested in mixing the opiates with other substances in order to get a more potent high.
Opiates are depressants. They help the user feel relaxed and drowsy. Those who are involved heavily in the party scene may mix depressants and stimulants together, so that their effects cancel out. This will allow them to take more of each drug in order to party longer.
Polysubstance abuse is dangerous. It can lead to some pretty serious consequences. Check out our drug mixer tool to get a better idea of the interactions between different substances. We’ve also compiled a table below that can give you more insight into the interactions between opiates and other substances.
Opioids and Opiates
|LSD||Low risk and no synergy|
|Mushrooms||Low risk and no synergy|
|DMT||Low risk and no synergy|
|Mescaline||Low risk and no synergy|
|DOx||Low risk and no synergy|
|NBOMes||Low risk and no synergy|
|2C-x||Low risk and no synergy|
|2-C-T-X||Low risk and no synergy|
|5-MeO-xxT||Low risk and no synergy|
|Cannabis||Low risk and synergy|
|MDMA||Low risk and no synergy/ Caution|
|Caffeine||Low risk and no synergy|
|SSRIs||Low risk and no synergy|
Drug users will experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to get sober. This is because their body has already developed a chemical and physical dependence on the drug. Opiate and opioid withdrawal symptoms are all very similar. This means that heroin withdrawal symptoms are basically the same as oxycodone withdrawal symptoms.
Most drug addicts think that withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable, but not dangerous. Unfortunately, it is possible for opioid and opiate withdrawal symptoms to lead to death. Those who attempt to get sober on their own are more likely to struggle with dangerous withdrawal symptoms than those who get professional help.
The two main withdrawal symptoms that can lead to death include vomiting and diarrhea. Those who die from opioid or opiate withdrawals will have experienced persistent diarrhea and vomiting. These individuals become dehydrated. They will develop hypernatraemia, which can result in heart failure.
These withdrawal symptoms almost look like flu symptoms. The intensity and severity of the withdrawal symptoms will vary from one drug abuser to the next. It all depends on the type of opioids being abused, as well as the length of abuse. Each drug user’s biological makeup will also play a significant part.
Physical symptoms will usually appear and subside first. It’s the psychological symptoms that are the most troublesome. These symptoms are responsible for the high relapse rates among opiate addicts. Medical detox will help with opiate withdrawal symptoms.
So, how long will it take for each opiate abusers to withdraw from their drug use? The answer will vary, once again, from one individual to the next. There isn’t a concrete timeline; however, drug users can expect an approximate timeline based on the type of drugs that they’ve been taking.
For example, heroin withdrawal symptoms will usually peak in 36 to 72 hours. The physical symptoms will also usually linger around for anywhere from 7 to 10 days. On the other hand, prescription opioid withdrawal symptoms will peak much sooner at the 12-hour mark. They will also usually subside within 5 to 10 days,
In most cases, all of the physical withdrawal symptoms will subside within 2 weeks. It’s the psychological withdrawal symptoms that can linger around for months, and even years!
One unique thing about opioid and opiate withdrawals is that substance abusers are at risk for developing post-acute withdrawal syndrome, also known as PAWS. This syndrome is also likely to affect those who have an addiction to alcohol or benzodiazepines. It is also most likely to affect those who have struggled with prolonged opioid or opiate use.
“Approximately 90% of recovering opioid addicts will experience PAWS to some degree.”
PAWS is due to the physiological changes that happen in the brain. This syndrome can manifest itself in a wide range of symptoms. They include:
These symptoms can flare up in the face of stressful events. They will also linger around for years to come. Those who have PAWS may want to consider seeking long-term therapy to deal with the consequences. They can even consider joining a recovery meeting, like Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), over 130 Americans die every day from an opiate overdose. This happens when the opiate dosage overwhelms the CNS and brain. This causes a wide array of symptoms to kick in. In particular, the opiate abuser’s cardiac and respiratory system will fail.
An opiate overdose can be difficult to detect. Often times, the overdose victim will simply look as if he or she is falling asleep. No one realizes that the victim has stopped breathing until it’s too late.
It can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours from the last dose before the user overdoses. It’s also important to note that it’s easy to overdose on opiates because most drug users will develop a tolerance to the drug. There’s a very fine line between getting high and overdosing. In many cases, that line is less than a microgram of the drug.
As many emergency responders will tell you, “Quick action can save lives.” When dealing with a potential opiate overdose, the first thing that bystanders should do is call 9-1-1.
Many people are hesitant to call for help because they’re afraid that they’ll get in trouble. However, the longer that you wait, the more likely that the overdose victim will die. It’s important to note that many states also have laws that protect the individual who called 9-1-1. He or she cannot be charged with possession of the drugs.
So, what else should you do after calling 9-1-1? Well, stay with the overdose victim. Try to keep him or her awake for as long as possible. This can be very difficult as most opiate overdose victims will want to fall asleep.
If the overdose victim loses consciousness, place him or her on the side, like in the video below. This position is known as the recovery position. It opens up the airway, so that the overdose victim will not choke on his or her own vomit.
Finally, watch the overdose victim to see whether he or she is still breathing. Perform CPR right away if you notice that they have stopped breathing.
You want to collect as much information as possible for the 9-1-1 operator and the emergency responders. This way, these professionals can get right to work immediately. They won’t need to spend time assessing the situation or collecting evidence of their own. Some of the information that you should look for or should provide the emergency responders include:
Before the emergency responders arrive, try to find the overdose victim’s medical card.
Opiate overdoses can turn deadly quite quickly. With that said, a miracle drug has emerged on the market that can reverse the effects of the overdose. This medication is naloxone, otherwise known as “the rescue shot” or “the save shot”.
Naloxone is an antidote for opioid overdoses. This opioid-reversing medication comes in two forms. It can either be sprayed up the overdose victim’s nasal passage or it can be injected into a muscle, like the thighs or the buttocks. Watch the video below to get a better idea on how to administer naloxone:
This drug is extremely effective and will start to work its magic in as little as 3 to 5 minutes. If you don’t see any differences in the victim’s breathing patterns, administer another dose. Anyone can administer naloxone. They are protected from civil liabilities thanks to the Good Samaritan Law.
The effects of naloxone will last anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes. Once the drug has worn off, any lingering opioids in the CNS can attach to the opioid receptors and trigger another overdose. Due to this reason, it’s vital that you call 9-1-1 even if you have administered naloxone. The overdose victim needs urgent medical care. The idea is that naloxone can buy the overdose victim time to get the help that he or she needs.
As naloxone is such an important drug, it’s vital for drug users and their family and friends to know where to get naloxone. Those who have a high risk of overdosing on opiates should always have some naloxone on hand. It’s possible to purchase naloxone from most pharmacies. You don’t even need a prescription.
Generic naloxone can cost anywhere from $20 to $40, and Narcan costs about $130 to $140 for a kit with two doses. In most cases, your private health insurance should cover the entire cost of naloxone. Medicare and Medicaid also offerf some coverage.
It’s also possible to find naloxone at many outreach centers. Many outreach programs give naloxone out for free to high-risk drug users.
If you have an addiction to opiates, then you should highly consider seeking opiate addiction treatment. You’ll find and get the support that you need from an opiate rehab center.
Professional substance abuse treatment at a drug detox and rehab center can be broken down into two parts: the detox process and behavioral therapies or counseling. Both are key to your recovery. You cannot have one and not the other with an opiate addiction treatment program.
So, what do both parts consist of?
While you go through withdrawals, you’ll also go through a detox program. This program will usually take anywhere from 7 to 14 days to complete. Patients will enjoy both holistic and medical detox services. Holistic detox services use natural approaches, like dieting and exercise, to help patients wean off the drugs.
Once the detox process is complete, patients will go into the rehab part of the program. They will learn how to ‘reset’ their brain by taking part in behavioral therapy and counseling. They’ll work through any underlying issues that they may have. They will also learn how to identify triggers and avoid them. One of the main goals of behavioral therapy and counseling is to help patients change poor habits into good ones.
Each addict will need a different type of opium addiction treatment. A successful drug rehab will understand that there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to addiction recovery. As a result, each patient will receive an individually-tailored opiates treatment program.
An opiate detox treatment can consist of many different types of medications. The medical detox process involves using various medications to help opiate withdrawal symptoms subside at a much quicker rate.
There are two different types of medicines that help with opiate withdrawal symptoms. Some of these medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for treating opiate withdrawals. Most of these drugs are weak opioids. This is why opiate detox treatment is often referred to as Opiate Replacement Therapy (ORT).
Other medications are used by rehab centers to treat specific symptoms. For example, sleeping pills can treat insomnia among patients.
“In 2014, over 2.5 million Americans struggled with an opioid use disorder (OUD).”
These aren’t the only medicines used to treat opiate withdrawal symptoms. There are many other options and alternatives out there. The best option for you will depend on your circumstances. Speak with a doctor to get a better idea of what to try and what may work.