Welcome to the beginning of your journey to recovery from opiates, a class of drugs with a wide range. All opiates come from the poppy plant, which leaks a resin-like substance called opium. Opium is a natural pain reducer, but can also produce euphoric effects. Opium has been abused in one form or another by humans for over 5,000 years.
Over the millennia, opium has evolved and synthesized into a palate of different drugs, many of which you are likely familiar with. Some are used medically as prescriptions for pain, and some are illegal altogether, distributed only on the street. However, they all come from one plant, and they are all dangerous when abused.
The opiate family includes, among others, morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, heroin, and resinous opium itself, which is dried and smoked. These seven will be the focus of this article. All opiates are highly addictive, having the potential to form a habit in a user as quickly as after the first dose. Also, all opiates are extremely dangerous when abused. Over 30 American people die every day from opiate overdoses.
While it is true that a hydrocodone pill is significantly less potent than, say, an injection of heroin, the link among all opiates is inherent. Actually, the vast majority of heroin addicts began their use with opiates, up to ninety percent. It makes sense if you think about it… Prescription painkiller opiates were abundantly over-prescribed during the last decade (and still are), leading to widespread opiate abuse. Addictions are created, but prescriptions run out and cannot be refilled. Heroin becomes a cheaper alternative, and you do NOT need health insurance to buy it.
This is a comprehensive article that takes you through the signs and risks of opiate abuse in general, and will show you how to recognize abuse signs and risks in order to help someone in need. We’ll also cover what opiate withdrawal can be like, (there is a wide range of severity), and finally what The Haven Detox has to offer in the way of detoxification, the extremely important first step toward recovery.
If you wish only to read about our detoxification process itself, please scroll down and begin reading at the section titled About Our Opiate Detox Program. Otherwise, please continue to read on. We wish you the absolute best of luck, but with help from us here at The Haven, luck is something you may not need! Our ample staff and top-notch doctors are ready, willing and able to help you today.
Signs of Opiate Abuse
In recognizing signs of opiate abuse, it’s important to understand not just how many different opiates exist, but the differences between them. The signs themselves are similar, but will be more apparent as opiate strength increases.
Codeine is the weakest opiate. It is prescribed as a painkiller, but also as a cough medicine and as a diarrhea suppressant. Just because it’s the weakest does not mean it’s not dangerous. Nearly 2,700 people died from codeine overdoses in the year 2015. This was over twice as many deaths as in the year 2000.
Fentanyl is considered the strongest opiate in use by mankind. It is prescribed in rare cases of extreme pain. It can be up to a hundred times stronger than heroin itself. Fentanyl is currently being used to spike heroin batches, creating a deadly mixture. (There is a derivative of fentanyl called carfentanil which is used for large mammal tranquilization. It is fifty times stronger than fentanyl. One grain the size of a sand grain can kill a full grown adult. It too has been found in batches of heroin.)
The remaining opiates discussed within this article that are prescribed legally in this country, in order of ascending strength, are hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone. Hydrocodone’s main trade name is Vicodin, and also comprises Lortab. Morphine you are likely aware of. It is a strong painkiller used for cases of severe pain. Finally, oxycodone’s main trade names are OxyContin and Percocet. Heroin and opium remain illegal in the US, the former of which has become America’s leading killer of those under the age of 50.
If you suspect someone of abusing opiates, signs include:
- Fatigue and/or abnormally low energy
- Slurred speech
- Constricted pupils
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Lack of appetite
- Mental confusion
- Falling asleep easily or anywhere, AKA ‘nodding out’ (with heroin especially)
Risks of Opiate Abuse
Because all opiates act similarly, just in varying degrees, the risks associated with abuse, both short-term and long-term, are the same for all opiates. However, heroin and fentanyl present their own additional risks, due to extreme potency.
The short-term risks of opiate abuse include:
- Rapid heartrate
- High blood pressure
- Tremors and/or convulsions
- Coma and/or death
Long-term effects of opiate abuse are more severe than the short-term ones. They include but are not limited to:
- An overall weaker immune system, and possible dysfunction
- Stomach issues, ranging from diarrhea to bowel perforations
- Respiratory depression
- Liver damage and/or failure (especially with drugs containing acetaminophen)
- Brain damage
- Coma and/or death
Heroin and Fentanyl
Over the past handful of years, a growing problem in the drug world is the substance fentanyl. It’s an extremely strong painkiller, and a few grains can literally kill a man. Fentanyl, up until very recently, was legal in China, and it was being sold online to Mexican drug cartels. Then, cartel members were spiking heroin batches with fentanyl, which is cheaper and stronger than heroin.
The picture above shows the amount necessary for a lethal dose. Notice how much stronger fentanyl is than heroin. Believe it or not, since 2015, fentanyl has claimed more lives than heroin has. Worse yet, fentanyl deaths doubled the next year, last year. The toll for this year is not even in yet. If someone takes a hit of heroin that is spiked with fentanyl, that someone is playing Russian roulette. It can and will kill you.
Recognizing Opiate Abuse & Stepping In
If you or someone you know is abusing opiates, now is the time to step in. You can intervene, and begin the process of helping. Of course, you can step in and help yourself too, if you’re the one with the problem. As with all illicit substances, abuse soon leads to addiction. One hit of any opiate could kill you. What high could possibly be worth that?
Stepping in and intervening to help someone we know has a problem is always easier said than done. We love these people, and we do not want to hurt them, but we love them enough to know they are hurting themselves, and perhaps at a deadly rate. In such extreme cases, professional intervention is recommended. When it comes to trying to help someone you love, keep these tips in mind:
- Do not call the person an addict or even accuse them of being an abuser.
- Do not demand the person seeks help. Simply state your concerns.
- Encourage the possibility of help, but do not be forceful.
- Maintain the rapport you already have with the person. Acting differently will likely arouse suspicion.
Withdrawal from Opiates
Opiate withdrawal typically lasts 1-4 weeks, which thankfully for recovering opiate addicts is shorter than some other drugs’ withdrawal periods.
Due to the extreme nature of some opiates, it’s recommended to endure the withdrawal process while checked into a professional treatment center. Also please be aware that it has become commonplace to use opiates such as buprenorphine as part of therapy for opiate withdrawal. This idea of fighting fire with fire is tested and true.
Opiate withdrawal symptoms include:
- Flu-like feelings
- Low energy levels
- Excessive sweating
- Body aches
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Withdrawal symptoms are much more likely to occur, and much more likely to be worse, if an addict stops using without help. Meth presents some seriously dangerous withdrawal circumstances, and The Haven can provide all of the help necessary for an opiate addict to begin the path to recovery. The first step, as mentioned, is detoxification, commonly called detox, which safely and effectively removes all traces of opiates from the body.
About Our Opiate Detox Program
Opiate detox treats chemical dependency on the variety of drugs and medications derived synthetically from opium; ranging from fentanyl, codeine, morphine, Vicodin (hydrocodone), Percocet, OxyContin, oxycodone, to illicit drugs such as heroin and opium. Commonly known as painkillers, they bind to receptors in the brain which decrease the perception of pain. A misconception about prescription pain medication is that because it’s prescribed by a doctor, and you’re not seeking it to get high, you’re not at risk for addiction. It’s important to note before taking an opiate medication that any use over three days will put you at risk of tolerance and dependence. The same amount of the drug will no longer have the same effect in relieving pain, and this is typically the point where individuals begin to seek out more of the drug. While drug dependence will begin within a week of taking opiates, addiction occurs when an individual who has been taking a medication displays psychological effects such as the compulsive need for the drug. It’s important in detox to treat both the physical dependence as well as the underlying conditions for needing the drug.
Safe Opiate Detoxification
We take a comprehensive approach to opiate detox providing our clients with the highest level of care and ensuring a successful transition from dependence to recovery. The Drug Enforcement Administration has classified opiates as high priority controlled substances due to the significant potential for abuse and dependence. Opioid dependence affects nearly 5 million people in the United States and leads to approximately 17,000 deaths annually. The signs and side effects of opiate dependence include sedation, dizziness, vomiting, gastric problems, blood disorders, and respiratory depression, which is the leading cause of death in opiate addicts. The main objective of treating opioid dependence is to improve physical and psychological health following a stepping down period of withdrawal. It is not recommended that anyone attempt to detox on their own from opiates, as the withdrawal symptoms can be severe; depending on the degree and duration of use. It is important to take necessary time to adequately detox and treat dependence of opiates. At The Haven Detox, we offer a comfortable environment where our clients can evaluate the steps necessary to manage life without addiction.
What to Expect During Detox
The Haven Detox begins with a comprehensive evaluation of each client by our clinicians to generate a working knowledge of medical history, history of abuse as well as personal well-being and psychological condition. Part of the initial health assessment involves a visual screening of the patient. Once the initial health assessment is completed, our clinical staff members work with clients to establish an effective treatment plan. Our team has experience working with patients prescribed opiates and are capable of assigning severity level based on variables such as age, number of years using, amount used per week, family history and any underlying mental or physical disorders. Withdrawing from opiates can be a challenging process, and at The Haven Detox, our clients receive 24/7 care. We are committed to providing a safe and comfortable treatment ensuring the ability of patients to successfully overcome their addiction.