Opiates are a type of drug that is often used to relieve pain. Types of opiates include Morphine, Codeine, and Thebaine. Opiates are prescribed by doctors to treat pain in many cases. It is easy for a person taking opiates to get addicted because they may start to develop a tolerance and need more to get the same effect. A person that is addicted will obsessively look for ways to get more opiates including buying them illegally on the streets or going to multiple doctors for prescriptions.
Opiates can produce a sense of euphoria or a sense of well-being, making it very addictive. A person who starts to develop a tolerance for opiates keeps taking them because it makes them feel good. Opiates attach to the opioid receptors found in the spinal cord, brain, and gastrointestinal tract. The attachment to the opioid receptors block the transmission of pain to the brain and can create a pleasurable feeling.
Users of opiates may experience a variety of other symptoms listed below:
- Warm feeling
- Overall contentment
- Relief from stress and discomfort
- Feeling of a relaxed detachment from desires, activity, and pain
- Reduced heart rate
- Widening of blood vessels
- Decreased breathing and coughing reflexes
Once a user has become addicted to opiates, it is often hard for them to stop. The body develops a physical dependence on the drug, and the body adjusts to having the drug in the system. Withdrawal symptoms can occur as early as four to six hours after the last dose was taken. A reduction of the opiate in the system causes the body to readjust, causing negative effects in the way the user feels and acts. Users experiencing withdrawal will be uncomfortable, which is why addiction to the drugs are hard to overcome.
Some of the symptoms of withdrawal include the following:
- Low energy
- Hot sweats
- Cold sweats and goose bumps
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches and pains
- Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting
- Teary eyes
Users who go through opiate withdrawal will experience these symptoms for one week or up to a month depending on how long they have been addicted and how much they were taking. The emotional symptoms including insomnia and low energy may last for a few months. Withdrawal from opiates is not life-threatening as long as the user is not addicted to any other drugs or alcohol at the same time.
Effects of Opiate Abuse
The effects of opiate abuse are harmful and can be difficult to combat. Also, negative impacts can be both short and long term. In particular, certain opiates, such as OxyContin, morphine, and heroin are abused more than ever, as various users may sometimes have little knowledge or concern with abuse consequences. Whether smoking, popping, sniffing, injecting, or ingesting these substances in other ways–abusers risk their immune systems, their brain functioning, and also increase incidences of other disease or disorders. Since opiate abuse occurs because of the severely addictive characteristic of these opiates, often a comprehensive treatment plan, requiring both medication and behavior therapy, can be the best way to fight opiate abuse.
Short term effects frequently experienced by users include euphoria, excessive sleepiness or insomnia, constipation and nausea, dry mouth, and difficulty in performing daily living tasks. Some more permanent symptoms include vascular inflammation, collapsed veins, various infections and abscesses, cellulitis, pulmonary complications, liver and kidney damage, and depressed respiration. Also, altered brain chemistry will usually lead an abuser to want more and more.
As for treatment, it isn’t always successful, and sometimes must be repeated.
Withdrawal for heavy users can also be dangerous, if medically unsupervised. In addition to behavioral interventions, specific pharmaceuticals can be prescribed to fight this addiction. Some of them can even be combined. Methadone has been used for many years, since it sharply decreases desire for other opiates, and also alleviates symptoms of withdrawal. Buprenorphine has been used more recently, since it is easier to taper off from than is the methadone. Another newer drug, naltrexone blocks opiate sensation but also because of this feature, it has a poorer compliance rate among addicts. Finally, though, in whichever therapeutic direction one goes, it is always life saving and life changing, to commit to fighting opiate abuse.
Long-Term Effects of Opiate Addiction
There are serious long-term effects associated with opiate addiction. Some of the effects depend on the type of opiate used and the way that the user is introducing the drug into their system. A user who injects the opiates into their system may have needle tracks or collapsed veins. Continual use may cause other serious complications including death.
Another serious effect of opiate addiction is that the user may just nod off and go to feeling alert and drowsiness. This can be a grave effect if the user is driving or engaging in any other activity while they are experiencing the consequences of the drug. They may nod off while driving and get into an accident, or they may be relaxing in a pool or bathtub and drown when they nod off.
Other serious effects of using opiates are listed below:
- Infections from using dirty needles
- Heart and valve infections
- Liver problems
- Weakened immune system which prevents the body from fighting off infections
- Respiratory depression which may cause the user to stop breathing
- Pulmonary and respiratory problems
- Bronchitis and pneumonia
Seeking Help for Opiate Addiction
Even though it is not dangerous for users to go through opiate withdrawal, it is still hard for users to take the steps necessary to beat their addiction. The best way for users to overcome their addiction is to attend an inpatient treatment facility. The staff members are highly qualified to help patients overcome their addictions so that they can get back to their lives.
Being in an inpatient facility, the users addicted to opiates can focus on recovery without being tempted to seek the drugs to relieve their withdrawal symptoms. The staff members also have the knowledge and ability to help patients with their withdrawal symptoms so that they can deal with the symptoms better. If you know anyone addicted to opiates, it is best to get them help as soon as possible.