Opiate Addiction Treatment Center in Orange County, CA
Opioids are a class of drugs that include illegal opioids like heroin, prescription opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Opiate, on the other hand, is a term that refers specifically to naturally-occurring opioids, such as heroin, morphine, and codeine.
Opiates are considered “naturally occurring” because they are derived from opium, a chemical that is found in the seed pod of the opium poppy plant and synthesized into drugs like heroin or morphine. By contrast, synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and oxycodone, are man-made chemicals that are designed to mimic the effects of naturally derived opiates.
When it comes to terminology, there is a difference between opiates and opioids, but when it comes to the side effects and abuse potential, all opioids are dangerous and carry a similar risk of addiction.
Understanding Opioid Abuse
Both illicit opioids and prescription opioids can be addictive. Even when prescription painkillers are prescribed for pain, patients can develop a physical dependence on their medication. For example, painkiller addiction often begins after an accident or injury for which patients are prescribed an opioid. The medication may work well at first, but the patient’s tolerance may increase over time, causing them to feel as though the medication is no longer working and that a higher dose is necessary.
Increasing the dose of an opioid can result in physical dependence. Physical dependence occurs when a person needs to continue taking a specific substance to feel normal and avoid going into withdrawal. This causes cravings which can encourage risk-taking behaviors as well as compulsive drug use and, ultimately, an addiction or opioid use disorder (OUD).
Most Commonly Abused Opioid Drugs
Some of the most commonly abused prescription opioid medications include:
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Codeine (many brand names)
- Morphine (Duramorph, MS Contin)
- Oxymorphone (Opana)
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 3.3% (or about 9.3 million people) reported misusing prescription pain relievers in the past 12 months.
The two most widely abused illicit opioids are heroin and fentanyl. While fentanyl is available in a prescription form, most fentanyl abuse occurs with illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
Heroin and fentanyl abuse has become a major issue across the United States. These drugs are considered the driving forces behind the opioid epidemic today. Research indicates that about 691,000 people ages 12 and older have a heroin use disorder.
Short-Term Side Effects of Opioids
Both heroin and prescription opioids have similar side effects, but some opioids are stronger than others. The primary side effects are pain relief and feelings of euphoria. People who are under the influence of an opioid may feel relaxed or happy, but they may also experience:
- Miosis (pinpoint or constricted pupils)
- Increased itching
- Slowed breathing
- Heaviness in the arms and limbs
- “Nodding out” or going in and out of consciousness
The majority of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. involve heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl. However, high doses of prescription opioids, even when prescribed by a doctor, may cause overdose if abused.
Understanding Opioid Overdose
More than 100 people die every day as a result of a drug overdose, and the majority of drug overdoses today involve prescription and illicit opioid drugs. While naloxone (Narcan) can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, the medication is only effective if it is administered quickly after respiratory depression occurs. As a result, it is vital to know the symptoms of an opioid overdose so people can react immediately.
Symptoms of opioid overdose include:
- Disoriented language or movements
- Constricted (pinpoint) pupils
- Limp body
- Pale face and skin
- Clammy, cold skin
- Blue-colored lips or fingernails
- Vomiting or making gurgling noises
- Slow or stopped breathing
- Weak pulse
If you suspect someone is overdosing on opioids, call 911 and administer naloxone if possible. Lay the person on their side so they don’t vomit and choke. Stay with the person until help arrives.
Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction
Opioid dependence and addiction can develop rapidly–sometimes in as little as 1-2 weeks after taking an opioid every day. People who get addicted to opioids may experience intense cravings for the drug that encourage them to act out in dangerous, impulsive behaviors.
Common signs and symptoms of opioid addiction include:
- Experiencing flu-like symptoms of withdrawal when the opioids wear off or when the drugs run out
- Developing a tolerance that requires higher and higher doses to produce the desired effects
- Lying to friends and family about opioid use
- Doctor shopping – going to multiple doctors to try and get multiple prescriptions
- Faking an injury or intentionally injuring oneself with the hopes of getting a prescription painkiller from the emergency room or family doctor
- Beginning to purchase opioids on the streets or starting to use illicit opioids like heroin or fentanyl after prescription opioids no longer feel strong enough
- Trying to cut back on drug use or stop completely but being unable to do so
- Continuing to use opioids even if they are disrupting your life or health
- Feeling as though you can’t function normally without opioid drugs
SAMHSA reports that more than 2.1 million people aged 12 and older have an opioid use disorder.
Long-Term Side Effects of Opioid Abuse and Addiction
Addiction and the potential for overdose are not the only reasons why opioid abuse and addiction are dangerous. Opioids are also associated with a range of long-term side effects that can impact your mental and physical health. Long-term dangers of opioid abuse include:
- Digestive issues such as constipation
- Sleep apnea
- Adrenal dysregulation
- Cardiovascular disease
- Lowered immune system
- Increased risk of infection
- Liver damage
- Cognitive decline
- Increased risk for anxiety and depression
Opioid abuse can also affect specific populations differently. In pregnant women, it can lead to miscarriage, low birth weight, and neonatal abstinence syndrome. In older adults, opioid abuse can increase the risk of drug-drug interactions and accidental overdose due to the number of prescriptions many older adults have.
People who use opioids intravenously may also be at an increased risk for:
- Infectious disease from shared needles
- Cardiovascular problems like endocarditis
- Skin infections
Opioid Detox and Addiction Treatment
There are many treatment options available for opioid addiction, but the most recommended treatment involves residential detox and treatment. Inpatient detox is encouraged because of how painful and irritating symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be. Many people who try to detox on their own find that their symptoms become so uncomfortable that they would rather continue using drugs than get sober.
During detox, medications can be prescribed to alleviate symptoms of withdrawal and make the detox process more comfortable. Then, once patients are medically stable, they begin engaging in comprehensive therapy sessions to address the causes of their addiction and develop healthy coping skills.
Find Detox and Treatment for Opioid Abuse Today
Long-term recovery requires more than just detox and inpatient treatment. For most people, it requires a long-term commitment involving outpatient rehab, support groups, sober living, and more.
Getting sober can be scary, but at Sheer Recovery, we can help make recovery more attainable by providing you with the resources and coping mechanisms that support sobriety. If you or a loved one are struggling with opioid addiction, call now to speak with a dedicated admissions coordinator about your treatment options.