Opiate addiction has risen to epidemic levels in North America. As President Trump stated in his remarks on the subject, “Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States by far.”
Many opiates are prescription drugs prescribed by doctors for pain relief. The main ingredient in most opiates is oxycodone, a chemical that is powerful, effective, and addictive. Many people who were legitimately prescribed an opiate like OxyContin at first become addicted to it over time. Unfortunately, addiction to an opiate can be very dangerous, in part due to the danger of overdose.
It’s important to understand that addiction is not the fault of an addict. In the case of opioids in particular, there are a number of other factors that come into play. According to the Global Commision on Drugs Policy, “The [current opioid] crisis was spurred by a broad expansion of medical use of opioids, which began in the 1990s as a legitimate response to the under-treatment of pain, but which was soon exploited by the unethical behavior of pharmaceutical companies eager to increase their revenue.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 20% of all drug treatment admissions are opiate-related. In other words, one in five individuals getting help for drug addiction are there because they got addicted to some form of opiate, including prescription painkillers like Percocet, OxyContin, and Vicodin.
How do you know whether you’re addicted to an opiate?
Many people become addicted to prescription opiates after using them for a legitimate, doctor-mandated reason (such as a painkiller). For example, you may have needed an oxycodone such as Percocet or OxyContin to help you recover from a surgery. This can make it confusing when it comes to understanding whether you are addicted.
The first step of addiction comes in the form of tolerance. This is when your body becomes used to the effects of a drug. In time, tolerance can lead to dependence, which is when you need a higher dose of the drug to get the same result you got before.
Another sign of addiction is using the drug in a way other than it was prescribed or intended. For example, since OxyContin is a time-released substance, abusing it can take the form of crushing pills to inhale the powder, or mixing the powder with water to inject it with a syringe. This speeds up its release, giving the user a sudden euphoric high. However, this kind of use can also result in coma or even death. Mixing OxyContin with alcohol is another extremely dangerous combination that can result in death. Never mix opiates with alcohol.
The final step is addiction, which is when you are out of control. You can't stop using no matter what you you try (even if you know it’s wrong). Common signs you’re addicted to an opiate include:
- Constantly thinking about how you’re going to get more (especially so you don’t run out)
- Using different doctors to get your opiate (doctor shopping)
- Fighting with friends and family over your use (including denying that you have a problem)
- Borrowing, begging, stealing, or engaging in other illegal activities in order to buy the drug
- Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using the drug, including flu-like symptoms like nausea, vomiting, coughing, joint, muscle, and bone aches
Why go to an opiate addiction rehab center?
Someone taking an opiate for more than a few weeks will often develop a physical dependency on the drug, leaving them vulnerable to addiction. Once you’ve formed an addiction to an opiate, you usually require help to handle the withdrawal symptoms. This is one reason to seek an opiate-specific rehab center.
Abusing opiates also leads to a dependency similar to heroin addiction. In addition to the support you get during the detox process, a quality opiate treatment center will give you behavioral therapy to help you deal with the cravings of the drug so you can avoid a relapse.
way you do can lead to closer connections and a better shot at lasting sobriety. For example, many of those who end up addicted to an opiate have experienced a lot of conflict with family and friends as a result of the addiction. Dealing with the stress, shame, and ramifications of such conflict is enhanced in a community atmosphere where others are going through the same thing.
Similarly, therapists at opiate treatment centers rehab are experienced at dealing with the issues unique to this kind of addiction. Having access to mental health professionals who know how to address and support this precise issue is both helpful and healing.
What happens during treatment?
If you attend an inpatient opiate addiction rehab treatment center, you will stay at the center for the whole duration of your program (usually 30, 60, or 90 days). You’ll have medical tests done, then go through the detox process.
After detox, which can last anywhere from several days to weeks depending on the severity of the addiction, therapy and the rest of the treatment begins. In both individual and group therapy, you identify and address the root causes of addiction, which may not be what you had predicted. Alongside others who are also rebuilding their lives, you learn about yourself and build new ways of handling stress and challenge. You develop skills, explore resources, and create connections that will help you stay sober and feel a sense of belonging.
There is no shame in seeking treatment for opiate addiction. In fact, it’s a brave and intelligent decision. If you or a loved one needs help for addiction to opiates, you should know that you’re not alone. Full recovery is possible, and every step towards that goal is a good one.