Opiate Addiction

Opiate use disorder is the inability to stop using opiates despite harmful consequences to the individual. Learn more about opiate addiction and the dangers of opiates below.

Defining Opiates

Opiates are drugs derived from the poppy plant that are prescribed for the treatment of pain or as a substitute to heroin. They are sedative painkillers that depress your central nervous system, reduce pain (both psychological and physical). They activate opioid receptors in your brain and once activated, the receptors release endorphins which cause you to feel calm and relaxed.

Addiction potential

Opiates can be both physically and psychologically addictive, which leads to a high rate of abuse. They activate opioid receptors in the brain and trigger the release of endorphins. The resulting feeling of calmness and relaxation, and the absence of pain, can be addictive.

Having an opiate addiction can cause you to go ‘doctor shopping’, or consult with different medical professionals to get more. Some people will resort to buying heroin, a semi-synthetic opioid, off the streets because it is easier than sourcing prescribed opiates. Although opiates carry a higher risk of addiction, not everyone develops a substance use disorder.

Opiate Addiction & Dependence

When you develop an opiate addiction, your body doesn’t make its own endorphins (natural painkillers) anymore, because it has grown accustomed to getting them from codeine or morphine. Many people develop an addiction unintentionally after a narcotic has been prescribed following an injury or surgery. Opiates are intended for short-term treatment, but using them for prolonged periods of time causes a tolerance, which leads to dependency.

An addiction occurs when you can no longer control your use of codeine or morphine. The people who are close to you might be concerned about your slurred speech or drowsiness.

Opiate Addiction Symptoms

An addiction to opiates affects your mood and contributes to a loss of motivation to engage in activities you previously enjoyed. It also causes other debilitating symptoms such as

  • Confusion / disorientation
  • Clinical depression
  • An altered perception of reality
  • Concentration problems
  • Anxiety

Because opiates affect your brain chemistry, when you are addicted, you will carry on using them despite the uncomfortable physical symptoms you experience like

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhoea
  • Itchy skin
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting

When you first started using codeine or morphine, it numbed your physical pain but when you become addicted, you will experience increased sensitivity to pain.

If you are worried about a loved one developing an addiction to narcotics, you might notice concerning signs such as

  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Social withdrawal

The Dangers of Opiate Addiction

Even if you can’t imagine your life without codeine or morphine, we can help you to avoid the short- and long-term dangers of opiate addiction that compromise your health and mental wellbeing.

In the short-term opiate abuse causes

  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • A slowdown in heart rate and breathing

Abusing opiates also contributes to kidney and liver damage and causes muscle spasms. Psycho-emotionally, opiate abuse is associated with anxiety and depression as well as a dysregulated sleep cycle. If you buy opiates off the street, they may be laced with other toxic substances. This makes the effects much less predictable and more dangerous.

Addiction or Abuse?

If you have been abusing opiates you might be:

  • Only using them occasionally
  • Sourcing them from someone else
  • Using someone else’s prescription
  • Using a higher dose than you were prescribed
  • Dosing yourself more frequently than recommended.

It is possible to abuse opiates and not be addicted, but all addictions begin with abuse. Abusing them will cause you to develop tolerance and, the more frequently you use them, the more you will find yourself taking because you can’t achieve the same effects at the same dose.

Addiction is considered a relapsing and chronic disease that requires professional intervention for long-term sobriety from narcotic abuse. Our addiction specialists can help you to end the cycle of drug abuse and addiction, and regain your love of life.

Get Help Now

The effects of opiate abuse are far-reaching and can touch every aspect of your life. Opiate addiction can cause people to lose their jobs, be incarcerated, get involved in domestic violence and experience financial losses. Even if the effects have reached a crisis point for you, we can help you to overcome your addiction safely.

Physiological effects

Some of the devastating physiological effects of opiate addiction include

  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Bleeding ulcers
  • Major organ damage
  • Seizures
  • Damage to the structure and function of your brain
  • Overdose
  • Coma

Psychological effects

In the short-term, opiates block psychological and physical pain. They depress your central nervous system and activate the release of endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. Over time, your body stops making endorphins and adverse psychological effects are likely:

  • Depression
  • Loss of interest / motivation
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Cravings

Effects on relationships

An addiction is taxing on your personal relationships. Mood swings, bouts of depression, self-isolation and anxiety can make it difficult to maintain relations with the people you care about.

The loss of interest and motivation to do things and see people you previously enjoyed is part of the addiction cycle, and part of what makes an opiate addiction so devastating. You may find yourself in more conflict with people who do not support your habit, which exacerbates your isolation and stress levels.

Getting Help

Our treatment centre has been helping people recover from opiate addiction for over 25 years. Treatment includes a residential treatment programme and medically-assisted detox (if required).

To start the treatment and recovery process, contact us today and one of our trained counsellors will support you and your loved ones through the process.

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