Opiate & Opioid Addiction
Opiates and opioids are a family of drugs that are commonly used to relieve pain. Some are directly derived from opium, found in the poppy plant – these substances are called opiates. Others are made synthetically, mimicking the chemical structure of natural opiates. They are called opioids. Opiates and opioids are some of the most addictive drugs out there, because they create an impenetrable sense of well-being, happiness, and euphoria in the user. Traditionally, opiates and opiods have been used to treat physical pain in medical settings. While they are still used today for this purpose, dependence can develop as a result.
Common Opiates & Opioids
The following are some commonly-used opiates and opioids.
- Morphine naturally occurs in the opium poppy plant. It was the first opiate isolated and used in medical settings to treat moderate to severe pain. It is commonly given through an IV. It carries the second highest risk of dependence of all the opiate and opioid drugs, after heroin.
- Heroin is an opioid drug that is synthesized from morphine. It is the most commonly-abused and the most addictive substance within this drug class.
- Codeine can be found in the opium poppy plant in trace amounts. Because of this lack of availability, it is usually synthesized from morphine. Codeine may be combined with other medications as a pain reliever; for instance, Tylenol combined with codeine is a commonly-prescribed pain reliever.
- Oxycodone is the generic name for common prescription drugs OxyContin, Percocet, and Percodan. It is a synthetically produced drug also used to treat pain, often for patients following surgery. Its effects are not as intense as morphine.
Opiate and opioid dependence occurs after regular use of a particular or several different drugs. After prolonged use, the individual becomes both physically and psychologically dependent on the drug. The drug becomes the center of their existence, appearing constantly in their thoughts and driving their emotions and activities. Use becomes compulsive over time. When physical dependence is present, the individual may exhibit severe withdrawal symptoms should they stop taking the drug. Withdrawal symptoms include sweating, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal upset, runny nose, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and others. Even if the individual wants or desires to quit, physical withdrawal symptoms make stopping difficult.
Treating Opioid Dependence
Opiate and opioid dependence is treated much like any other chronic disease, with the long-term health and well-being of the patient in mind. The goal of treating opioid and opiate dependence is to reduce dependence, identify strategies for dealing with relapse, reduce the potential for contracting infectious diseases related to drug use, improving health, and facilitate social re-integration. While relapse is extremely common, combining treatment techniques and procedures has proven effective in decreasing the likelihood that an individual will relapse right away. Detoxification and abstinence-based treatments are essential elements of combined treatment. As rates of heroin use continue to rise in the United States, prevention, education, and therapy for opioid-dependent individuals should be top priorities.