Opiate Addiction


(Note to the Reader:  Though not technically correct, in the following text the terms “opiate” and “opioid” will be used interchangeably)

The Opiate Addiction Epidemic

(Note to the Reader:  Though not technically correct, in the following text the terms “opiate” and “opioid” will be used interchangeably)

Opiate addiction has long been a problem in the United States, but in the last decade it’s reached epic proportions.  It is estimate that some two million Americans have a substance use disorder involving some form of prescription painkiller.  And out of the 47,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2014, opiate addiction has been tied to almost 19,000 of them.  That’s 19,000 human lives lost to the slavery of addiction.

The statistics are worth mentioning, however much they fail to tell the human part of this tragic story.  They’re worth mentioning because they tell opiate addicts that they’re not alone.  Many of these victims never knew they had a problem.  Many others  succumbed to the idea that opiate addiction was a moral problem.  They died because they were afraid to ask for help.


A Quick Look at the Opiate Family

             The opioid family includes drugs like Lortab, Vicodin, OxyContin, and methadone.      Most commonly prescribed for moderate to severe pain, at high doses opiate painkillers can mimic the effects of heroin.  Though recreational use of painkillers is common, many become addicted only after being treated for legitimate pain.

Not unlike heroin, opiates produce an intense euphoric high, accompanied by a sense of bodily peace.  All of them are highly addictive.  Opioid tolerance can develop rapidly, sometimes in just a few weeks.  This of course leads to increased use, as the addict has to ingest higher and higher amounts to achieve a similar effect.

Withdrawal symptoms from opioid abuse are agonizing.  They resemble a horrible bout of stomach flu, one that is combined with crippling emotional effects like depression, anxiety, and extreme agitation. Long term opioid use can lead to profound changes in brain chemistry.  This is one of the reasons they’re so difficult to stop.


Treating Opiate Addiction

            Treatment for opiate addiction must begin in a detox facility.  The withdrawal symptoms are simply too intense to do it alone.  Not to mention that detox is often the best way to transition into recovery, as it is an admission that the addict can’t stop on their own.  Upon finishing the detox process, the opiate addict has a far better chance to stay clean long term.

Opiate addiction is a medical fact.  In the end, it doesn’t matter how someone got started.  All that matters is how we can help them find recovery.  At one time, an opiate addict didn’t have much to choose from in terms of treatment.  But once the medical community began to understand the chemistry of opiate addiction,  the number of options began to increase.  Recovery from opiate addiction has always been possible.  If you or someone you love is suffering, please seek help immediately.