An out-of-control dependence upon opiate drugs can be one of the most difficult and painful addictions to overcome. Many people don’t realize they are opiate dependent until it is too late and they have already experienced withdrawals in one form or another. Opiates can come in the form of prescription medications like Oxycontin or Vicodin, prescribed for an injury or after surgery. Or they can be found in street drug varieties such as heroin or opium. Aside from the risk of overdose and dangerous blood toxicity, the withdrawal symptoms of opiate addiction are some of the most uncomfortable and painful to experience, making it difficult, if not sometimes impossible for the user to quit and come clean. Of all intravenous drug addictions, opiates, such as heroine, make up 83 percent of those admitted for treatment. It takes, on average, roughly 14 years for an addict to admit to the addiction problem and seek out a treatment program. Over three million people in the US and Europe have some type of opiate addiction or abuse problem, according to the World Health Organization. The US accounts for over two million prescription opiate addicts. Getting clean is possible and likely if the addict enters a professional treatment program with the intention of following the course and graduating clean and sober.
Common Opiate Drugs
In today’s drug-obsessed society, there are hundreds of varieties of opiate-based drugs, both legal and illicit, that a person can easily gain access to. The number of overdoses and deaths from these drugs has increased exponentially in the last decade, with no clear solution in sight. Some of the most commonly abused drugs in the opiate class are as follows:
Vicodin is prescribed by doctors for pain relief after surgery or injury, is the most common and plentiful prescription opiate drug that is abused. Vicodin deadens the nerve pain receptors offering relief from chronic or temporary pain. The problem starts when the user continues to use the drug after their symptoms and pain have disappeared, leading to a dependency on the drug. Vicodin can also be obtained from family, friends or relatives who have active subscriptions, and it is not uncommon to see it sold for profit at enormous markups.
Oxycontin, sometimes referred to as the “Hillbilly Heroin” is commonly abused by the public as well as emergency room and treatment workers. It is a prescription painkiller similar to Vicodin but is designed to time-release its ingredients over a specific period. The problem lies with users who modify it by injecting it or snorting it after they have broken down the capsule. This delivers all the powerful opiates at one time, risking server illness, side effects and overdose. Oxycontin can be sold illicitly on the black market or traded like Vicodin among family, friends and relatives.
Heroin ranks as the most dangerous opiate in the world. It can be found on just about every continent and in any cultural setting. Heroin’s relatively cheap cost and availability make it popular, but it is sold illegally on the street which makes it hard to track. Different variants and strengths of heroine, such as China White or Black Tar, are subject to different processing and ingredient strengths, adding to its danger. All forms are made from a white secretion in poppy plants. Heroin can be smoked, injected or snorted, making it convenient to ingest in any environment or setting. Intravenous injection is by far the most dangerous method of introducing it into the system since the chances for overdose, injury and death are that much higher. Dirty hypodermic needles can also transmit hepatitis or HIV/AIDS.
The Behavioral Highs and Lows
The high or good feeling associated with opiate drugs results from the drug’s ability to link opioid receptors to the brain’s nerve receptors, producing a feeling of euphoria, along with the painkilling quality. A sense of warmth and well-being comes over the user, elevating both neurological and physical parameters. It also has a calm inducing effect, slowing time and mirroring a trance-like state. Since the brain is not required to produce endorphins organically, it conditions itself to feed off the synthetic chemical reaction of the opiate. The high, depending upon the dosage and method of entry into the systems, can last several hours or longer until another dose is needed to reach that favorable plateau.
Obviously, these drugs are extremely powerful, leaving it impossible for anyone to simply “deal with an opiate addiction”. The most important thing they can do is seek professional treatment in an inpatient facility where they can gain the skills to avoid opiate dependence in the future.