Opiate Addiction Treatment

Drug AbuseOpiate addiction is one of the oldest, and most widespread, drug addictions known to man. The only one older or more common is alcohol. However, unlike alcohol, there are no known benefits. The main similarity is that an addiction is notoriously hard to shake. Opiate withdrawals are not something a patient can hope to shake on their own. Inpatient treatment for opiate addiction is a must. According to Harvard Medical School, there are over a million people struggling with opiate addiction just in the United States.

What Are Opiates?

Opiates are drugs derived from the seeds of poppy flowers, or have been created synthetically in laboratories to mimic the effect of opium on the brain. Morphine and codeine are examples of drugs derived from the poppy seed, while oxycodone and heroin are examples of synthesized opiates. Drugs that have different chemical structures than opiates, but have the same effects on the body, include methadone and propoxyphene, among others. Opiates enhance endorphins and enkephalins, which are neurotransmitters and naturally produced by the body. The opiate acts directly at the nerve receptors of these chemicals and usually suppress pain as well as reduce anxiety. In large enough doses, the result is euphoria. Opiates can be smoked or snorted, as well as taken by mouth in pill form. However, many addicts prefer to inject it directly as that gives the most immediate effect. Therapeutic doses do not typically have serious side effects, but those with opiate addictions take far more than is safe therapeutically.

Opiate Addiction

Opiate addiction has a variety of effects on the person addicted. The overarching effect is that the person addicted needs to get the drug at all costs. This causes them to ignore typical physical warning signs, pain and the obvious risks of intravenous needles. Taking the drug intravenously, in the absence of a medical professional, carries the risk of overdose, which can quickly lead to respiratory failure. Addicts routinely take more of the drug than they intended, despite other intentions to cut back or stop. More and more of their life is taken up by obtaining the drug, using too much, then recovering from the effects. They may give up their other pursuits in life, including their jobs, and get involved in crime in order to pay for the drugs. As they take the drug for long periods of time, higher doses are needed to feel the same high. This is due to receptors becoming adapted to the drug.


Treatment for opiate addiction should always take place in an inpatient setting with professional medical supervision. Withdrawal from opiates is severe, as nerve receptors must adapt to a lack of the drug. Some symptoms can include anxiety, nausea, muscle aches, hot flashes and chills. While obviously not life-threatening, they are uncomfortable enough where the addict is likely to resume taking the drug if not supervised. There are various methods of detoxification as there is not one method to fit every addict.

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