A medication or illegal drug that is either derived from the opium poppy, or that mimics the effect of an opiate (a synthetic opiate). Opiate drugs are narcotic sedatives that depress activity of the central nervous system, reduce pain, and induce sleep. Side effects may include over sedation, nausea, and constipation. Long term use of opiates can produce an opiate addiction, and overuse can cause overdose and potentially death.
One of the biggest problems facing in the medical community today is the problem of opiate abuse–not by patients, but by doctors. Few would disagree that opiate drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and methadone are being over-prescribed, but there are also few that would do anything about it.
A large part of this problem stems from doctors lacking time or resources to treat a number of their patients. When someone is suffering from chronic pain or a similar ailment, it can be hard and time-consuming to find a proper course of treatment. Many doctors don’t know how to effectively manage their patients’ pain, and many more simply don’t have the time to be able to attend to these patients in detail. As a result, physicians will prescribe potent painkillers for patients to anesthetize the pain. This makes the patient’s pain go away, but is often a solution that reeks of overkill. Patients then take the painkillers, unaware that their doctor has no clear objective of how or when to end the course of narcotics, and the patient is soon dependent on the drug.
Opiate addiction is characterized by behaviors of the individual which include lack of control over drug use, compulsive use of the specific drug, continued use regardless of the physical, emotional and social consequences and continued craving for the drug. A state of tolerance exists in that the addict adapts to the effects of the drug over time and consequently, higher doses are required to provide the needed results.
Some of the signs and symptoms of opiate addiction include restlessness, hyperactive behavior, poor physical coordination, inability to concentrate, poor judgment, slurred speech and euphoria. The danger of accelerated heartbeat can result in coma or death. The addict displays marked changes in attitude and behavior and relationships with family members deteriorate. Performance at work and/or school decreases. Lying and stealing may occur. Individuals may steal money from family members to finance their drug use and may also steal and pawn or sell objects like television sets, jewelry, etc.
Opiate addiction is believed to be a disorder of the central nervous system resulting from continuous use of opiates. Because of prolonged opiate use, natural pain killers, known as endorphins, no longer function normally. Endorphins are no longer produced by the body because it is instead receiving opiates. Since these nerve cells in the brain have degenerated, a physical dependency results wherein the body must have a supply of opiates from an external source. If and when the individual no longer has a supply of opiates, the body experiences the trauma of withdrawal symptoms.
When you are addicted to drugs, the opiates in the drug stimulate “receptors” in the brain. When those receptors don’t get the opiates they crave, the brain tells the body and the body responds by going into “withdrawal.” These symptoms, i.e., anxiety, sleeplessness, muscle aches and pains, diarrhea, etc., are often accompanied by physical and psychological cravings for opiates. The package is most unpleasant and symptoms can last, in many cases, for weeks.
Withdrawal symptoms vary among people, even those addicted to the same drug. However, it is certain that these will include intense anxiety and a craving for the drug. As this craving is not met, withdrawal symptoms will become more severe, possibly even including depression. In short, withdrawal is a dangerous state, and it is both dangerous and ineffective to try to detoxify “cold turkey” and without medical supervision.
Opioid withdrawal can be dangerous and painful. Symptoms include: cramps, muscle and bone pain, chills, sweating, restless leg syndrome, flu-like symptoms, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, dizziness, restlessness, nausea and depression. It is recommended to detox under the care of a licensed physician or treatment facility like the Lakehouse Recovery Center.
Opiate dependence is characterized by the inability to stop using opiates, including: morphine, heroin, codeine, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, etc. Opiate dependence in this setting is defined as a combination of physiological, behavioral, and cognitive activity in which the use of a psychoactive drug becomes paramount to the user, especially in comparison with all other responsibilities and activities. It is characterized by an incessant need to obtain and use the drug. The World Health Organization and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders diagnose “dependence” as a condition including three or more of the following characteristics: a strongdesire or compulsive need to use a substance, difficulties controlling the amount or frequency of drug use, a physiological withdrawal state when drug use is stopped, evident tolerance to drug effects over an extended period of time, increasing neglect of responsibilities and hobbies due to drug use and/or obtainment, or persistence of drug use after negative physical affects have started to occur.
Opioids are typically prescribed for pain. The anti-depressive, anxiolytic and antipsychotic effects of opiate derivatives are believed to be why they can be so addictive. Addiction, as opposed to dependence, refers to the changes in the brain once opioids are used for an extended period of time. Studies show that the circuitry of the brain actually changes in response to the use of opioids. Our brains are trained to recognize life-sustaining activities, ensuring that we will perform them again. It associates these activities with pleasure or reward. This reward system can “hard-wire” such memories in the permanent wiring of the brain’s function. Over time, the brain teaches itself that this opioid use is necessary for survival, such as eating and breathing. The effect of this reward memory is that the person will continue to repeat this action of use or abuse, although it is evidently harmful. Simultaneously, the brain attempts to adapt to the extreme stimulation of this pleasure pathway. The brain tries to reduce the highs and lows that can happen during the cycles of opioid use and withdrawal. As a result of this problem, the user may experience lessened pleasure and joy from regular life activities. After a period of time, even their opiate addiction will not spark this reward memory. A user will get to a point where the opioid is only used to function, not to experience a high. The portion of the brain involved in judgment and decision-making is also negatively affected. The impairment of this function is so impaired that an addict may not even recognize their addiction, justify their Opioid abuse/opiate dependence to family and friends, or minimize the consequences of their opiate dependence. The addict may also find themselves lying, stealing and committing crimes in order to obtain their opioid. These changes in the body and brain can result in cravings and memory recall for months, even years after Opioid withdrawal and termination of use.