what are opiates?
Opiates - often called simply “pain pills” - can refer to illegal drugs such as heroin and synthetic fentanyl, but also includes prescription pain relievers like oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, and others.
Opiates are generally safe when taken for a short time as prescribed by a doctor. Even used as directed, however, there is still the potential to develop a chemical dependence.
Additionally, because they can produce a sense of euphoria in the user, opiates are a common target for substance abuse. Misuse can result in addiction, overdose, or even death.
the extent of the opioid crisis in the U.S.
Healthcare providers began prescribing opioid pain pills at greater rates in the late 1990s, after being reassured by pharmaceutical companies that patients would not become addicted to them.
The corresponding increase in both demand and supply of opiates led to widespread misuse before it became obvious that they were, indeed, addictive.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the Opioid Epidemic a public health emergency after overdoses rose to over 42,000 deaths in 2016 alone - more than any previous year on record.
It is estimated that 40 percent of opioid overdose deaths involve prescription medication.
why do people abuse prescription pain pills?
Respondents of a survey on use and abuse of prescription pain pills listed their reasons for abusing a pain reliever to include motivations such as:
- Relieving physical pain
- Relaxing or relieving tension
- Feeling good
- To get high
- To help with sleep
- For help with feelings or emotions
- To increase or decrease the effects of other drugs, or
- Because they are hooked and feel they “need” the drug
About 21 to 29 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them. Furthermore, between eight and 12 percent develop an opioid substance use disorder (SUD), or addiction. Of those who abuse prescription opioids, about four to six percent will transition to heroin.
signs of opioid addiction
Someone abusing pain pills will often demonstrate physical signs such as:
- Restricted pupils
- Slower breathing rate
- Euphoria or extreme happiness after taking a dose
- Sedation or tiredness after the euphoria is gone
- Nodding off or loss of consciousness
Additionally, people who are beginning to use opioids may feel itchy, nauseated, and/or drowsy. They may also vomit, be constipated, or have slower reaction times.
Certain behaviors associated with addiction may become apparent before any physical symptoms are noticed or reported. Individuals in the beginning stages of an addiction often:
- Withdraw from previous activities and commitments, like school or work
- Lose interest in previous hobbies
- Begin different habits and routines
- Become angry and irritable
- Be anxious or nervous, secret or dishonest
- Neglect their physical appearance
- Go to increasing extreme measures in order to obtain more drugs
Symptoms of opioid withdrawal can begin as early as six hours after the last dose. This timing depends on whether the person has taken a short-acting (e.g. oral morphine, hydromorphone, oxycodone and codeine) or long-acting (e.g fentanyl patch, methadone, morphine, or oxycodone controlled-release) opioid.
Early withdrawal will cause tearing-up, muscle aches, agitation, insomnia, excessive yawning, anxiety, running nose, sweating, racing heart, hypertension, and fever. Someone withdrawing from opioids may also experience flu-like symptoms such as:
- Stomach cramps
- Drug cravings
Opioid withdrawal symptoms will reach their peak around 72 hours after dose and may last around a week.
rapid opiate overdose treatment
If an opioid overdose occurs, it can be reversed if naloxone (aka “NARCAN”) is administered immediately. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that binds to the opioid receptors to reverse and block the effects of other opioids in a person’s system.
Normal respiration can be quickly restored to a person whose breathing is dangerously slow or has stopped due to an overdose on heroin or prescription opioid medication.
Naloxone can be given in three FDA-approved forms: injectable (which requires professional training), auto-injectable, and prepackaged nasal spray.
Auto-injectables appear under the brand name EVZIO and are a pre-filled device that gets injected into the outer thigh. The device provides verbal instructions on how to deliver the medication once it is activated, like an automated defibrillator.
Naloxone or “NARCAN” is a prepackaged nasal spray and is needle-free, requires no assembly, and is sprayed into just one nostril while the patient lays on their back.
While the liquid injectable form needs to be distributed by a paramedic, doctor, or other first responder who is specially trained, the auto-injector or nasal spray (depending on state law) may be administered by anyone.
Some states require a physician prescription for naloxone while others allow pharmacies to distribute without one. Dosages depend on the formulation and some patients may need more than one dose to restart respiration.
Once the dose is given, the patient should be monitored until emergency services arrive. Medical professionals will need to watch them for an additional two hours following the last dose of naloxone to ensure breathing does not slow or stop.
opioid and opiate addiction recovery
Overcoming an addiction to opioids can be difficult. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, we can help.
NACA provides a safe place for detoxification while leveraging other resources that teach healthy ways to address underlying causes of addiction.
Our opiate addiction treatment center specializes in treating the patient with a comprehensive, holistic approach to addiction recovery.
Reach out to us today to find out how full recovery is possible with access to quality care and whole-person focused treatment.
Our treatment philosphy.
At Northern Arizona Center for Addiction, we believe that healing of the body, mind and spirit are all necessary to overcome substance abuse. We offer a wide range of rehab options in order to facilitate your personal recovery. Our clients can go through drug and alcohol rehabilitation in a safe, comfortable environment, with holistic plans customized to their needs.
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