What are Opiates?
Dangers of Opiate Abuse
Opiate medications, when used correctly, provide much-needed pain relief to millions. However, because of the way these medications work on the brain’s reward center, they are very addicting and are commonly abused. In fact, opiates are the most commonly abused substances in America today. When abused, opiates cause dependence, addiction, and even overdose and death.
Side Effects of Opiate Abuse
When used correctly, opiates provide pain relief. When abused, they cause a feeling of euphoria, as the brain is flooded with the neurotransmitter dopamine. The person craves that good feeling as soon as it is gone, causing them to want more of the substance. This quickly leads to physical dependence and addiction to the substance.
When opiates are overused, they cause the nervous system to become severely depressed, decreasing breathing to a dangerous level and causing extreme drowsiness, coma, and even death.
The History of the Opiate Epidemic in America
We can trace the modern opiate epidemic back to the 1990s, as pharmaceutical companies started producing medications that were finally able to help patients effectively manage pain. As their popularity increased, more and more doctors began prescribing these medications, which led to a higher supply to be abused by those who were addicted. Around 2010, public awareness increased about the dangers of these medications and they became harder to get. Opiate addicts found heroin to be an easier drug to obtain, and in many cases, a cheaper drug, so heroin abuse and overdoses skyrocketed.
Today, government and community agencies work to educate the public about the dangers of opiates, and stricter regulations on the prescribing and dispensing of these drugs have been implemented. Still, opiates remain some of the most effective forms of pain relief available, which means there are still many of these medications in circulation.
In order to battle the opiate addiction epidemic, it is important for those who need this form of pain relief to be careful and only use these medications as directed. Unwanted pills should be disposed of properly. Doctors should monitor patients on opiates closely for dependence and abuse. When used with caution, opiates continue to be beneficial to many.
Treatment for Opiate Addiction
Treatment for opiate addiction is effective. The first step in recovery is detox, which lasts from a few days to a week for most people.
Withdrawal symptoms of opiate addiction include:
Medication-assisted detox is often used for patients withdrawing from opiates. By using the drug Suboxone, the medical staff is able to provide much-needed relief for opiate withdrawal, reduce cravings, and help the individual focus on getting their life back together and staying sober.
Once the person has detoxed from opiates, it is important for them to participate in therapy and counseling sessions to help them identify and understand the causes of their addiction, as well as help build coping skills, learn stress-relieving techniques, and develop strategies to deal with difficult interpersonal relationships in their life. As the person learns and practices these skills, they heal from their addiction and take control of their life once again.