patients in opiate addiction treatment program

What Are Opiates?

Opiates are a class of controlled prescription medications or illicit substances derived from opium. Opium is a compound naturally present in poppy seeds and plants. Opiates are widely prescribed as painkillers, and they tend to be abused heavily due to their sedative effects. If you or someone you know is struggling with opiate addiction, reach out to our caring team at North Jersey Recovery Center for confidential help today.

Opiates alter the nervous system to numb pain and induce feelings of pleasure. Thus, they have a high potential for misuse. At an increasing rate, these legal medications get diverted to people who do not have prescriptions. Opiate addiction is a chronic disease with serious health, social, and financial ramifications.

Opiates and Opioids

The terms “opiates” and “opioids” are often used interchangeably, but they are different. Opiates are naturally occurring compounds such as codeine, morphine, and heroin. Opioids include opiates in addition to semi-synthetic, and synthetic substances. Common synthetic opioids are hydrocodone (Vicodin), fentanyl, methadone, and oxycodone (OxyContin).

So, while every opiate is an opioid, not every opioid is an opiate. Both opiates and their synthetic counterparts are widely abused. If any of these drugs have a grip on your life, let North Jersey Recovery Center help you break free today.

Abuse of opiates and opioids affects over 2 million Americans and 15 million people around the world every year, and this epidemic is steadily rising. Opiates are among the most commonly abused drugs in New Jersey. Overdose is the leading cause of accidental deaths here in the Garden State.

Developing an Addiction to Painkillers

Many people who have become addicted to opiate or opioid pain relievers started out simply following their doctor’s prescription. After a period of time, the original dose no longer seems to alleviate the pain as before. This means that the individual has built up a tolerance to the substance, causing them to require larger doses to obtain the relief they want.

Increasing the painkiller dosage often leads to a physical dependence characterized by growing cravings to continue using higher amounts of the medication, in addition to uncomfortable symptoms that arise when medication is stopped. Dependence does not equal addiction, however. While taking opiates for an extended time typically results in dependence, relatively few people with dependence experience the symptoms of addiction.

For those people, unfortunately, opioid tolerance and dependence spiral out of control into addiction or substance use disorder (SUD) – a neurological illness that requires professional treatment to overcome.

What Causes Opiate Addiction?

Scientists agree that biological and lifestyle elements play a major part in the development of opiate addiction. The body produces its own internal opioid substances, called endogenous opioids, that regulate pain and reward behaviors. Exogenous opioids such as prescription medications and illicit drugs act on the body’s natural opioid receptors, causing chemical alterations that induce feelings of pleasure and pain relief

Other factors associated with opiate or opioid addiction include:

  • Poverty
  • Easy access to opiates
  • A history of substance abuse
  • Childhood trauma or neglect
  • Co-occurring mental disorders
  • Personality traits such as sensation-seeking and impulsivity

Opiates and Overdose

Abuse of opiates and opioids all too often results in overdoses. This happens when people take too much of a substance at once or combine it with other substances such as alcohol and benzodiazepines. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the US, and prescription opioid overdoses resulted in 218,000 fatalities from 1999 to 2017.

Signs of opiate overdose include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Constricted pupils
  • Shallow breathing
  • Cool or clammy skin
  • Going in and out of consciousness
  • Profound sleepiness or inability to wake up

Although some who survive an overdose use again, many individuals take this life-threatening crisis as a wake-up call to seek treatment. Please don’t allow fear of criticism and embarrassment to keep you from getting the help you need and deserve. We at NJRC are here to support you so that you don’t struggle alone

Reversing an Opioid Overdose

Naloxone is an emergency medication that can potentially save the life of someone who has overdosed on an opioid. It acts as an antidote to opioids by helping a person wake up and continue breathing. Medical professionals have been using this drug for decades.

In New Jersey, even a bystander can legally and safely administer naloxone. People can purchase Narcan or Evzio kits from local pharmacies or attend training through the state’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Types of Opiates


Codeine is a narcotic prescribed in pill or liquid form to relieve mild to moderate pain and coughs. It goes by street names such as cough syrup, coties, t-threes, and schoolboy. Codeine is not as potent as other opiates, leading many people to consider it relatively harmless.

Codeine produces effects such as:

  • relaxation
  • euphoria
  • drowsiness
  • apathy

Many people use codeine to treat a legitimate illness but start abusing it as tolerance builds. At high doses, codeine intake can result in respiratory failure, coma, and death. This risk escalates when the drug is combined with other opioids, alcohol, or other depressants.

“Purple Drank”

Codeine is the main ingredient in purple drank, a recreational drug made by mixing prescription-grade cough medicine with sodas. This combination is constantly glorified in many popular songs and TV shows. Purple drank is also called syrup, sizzurp, and lean.

Side Effects

Short-term side effects of codeine use include:

  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • seizures
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • itchiness or rash
  • low blood pressure
  • constipation and stomachache

Extended, chronic abuse can lead to:

  • Death
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Muscle spasms
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Impaired memory

Clinicians and addiction specialists follow criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders when diagnosing codeine addiction. Signs include increasing consumption beyond prescribed doses and neglecting personal responsibilities to get more of the drug. The course of treatment depends on the diagnosis of mild, moderate, or severe addiction.


Codeine withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the severity of the addiction. However, the discomfort of weaning off the opiate often drives people back to it to deal with their physical and emotional pain. The timeline and intensity of a person’s withdrawal process can be impacted by:

  • Gender
  • Weight
  • Medical history
  • Mental health
  • Length of use
  • Frequency of use
  • Method of consumption
  • Average regular doses
  • Use with other substances

Withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, fever, dehydration, cravings, and depression. Without clinical supervision, these could escalate into serious or fatal complications. Don’t take the chance of trying to withdraw from codeine on your own. NJRC offers safe medical detox to guide you through this transition.


Morphine is often prescribed to alleviate moderate, severe, and chronic pain. It induces a dreamy, euphoric feeling. This Schedule II drug comes in tablet and syrup forms, but it can be injected, taken nasally and transdermally, or even smoked. Street names include Miss Emma, monkey, M, roxanol, and white stuff.

Morphine is also used to manage pain after surgeries, cancer-related discomfort, and for palliative care at the end of life. Its accessibility and pleasurable effects make it highly addictive. Prescribed morphine is now manufactured to deter abuse, but this does not impact illicitly produced morphine. Over 60% of morphine addicts reported that they obtained the drug from family or friends.

Side Effects

Short-term side effects of morphine use include:

  • Chest pain
  • Nervousness
  • Hallucinations
  • Decreased libido
  • Severe respiratory depression
  • A false sense of well-being

Long-term effects include:

  • Suppressed immune system
  • Restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Collapsed veins

Using morphine without a prescription is abuse and a criminal offense. It can be difficult to tell if a person is abusing it if they have a prescription. Look for these signs of abuse and addiction:

  • Slurred speech
  • Inattention
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nodding off
  • Shallow breathing
  • Mood swings
  • Doctor shopping
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Legal issues


Withdrawal from morphine feels similar to withdrawal from heroin, producing symptoms such as:

  • Irritability
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Chills and sweating
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Nausea and vomiting

Quitting morphine use cold turkey is quite uncomfortable. Research shows that sudden cessation also increases the risk of inflammation and damage to healthy brain cells. Clinical detoxification is the safest, more effective way to get clean. North Jersey Recovery Center can be at your side to support you every step of the way to morphine-free living. 


Heroin is one of the most addictive compounds known to humans. It hijacks the brain’s reward system by affecting the production of “feel good” chemicals dopamine and endorphins. People abuse the drug by smoking, snorting, and injecting. One out of every four individuals who try heroin become addicted immediately 

Heroin is synthesized from morphine. It goes by names such as smack, “H”, and junk. The illicit drug comes in fine white powder, black or brown powder, or as a sticky black gel called black tar. Street heroin is usually mixed with morphine or fentanyl.

This opiate is known to produce intensely pleasurable effects that can last for hours. New users often enjoy the drowsiness and dizziness it brings without a comedown or hangover that happens with alcohol or ecstasy. The feelings of contentment and relaxation are seemingly harmless snares that quickly take hold.

Heroin tempts users as an inexpensive, more accessible option to painkillers. Almost half of the young people who use heroin used painkillers first. Many of them reported seeing no, little, or moderate risk to using this dangerous chemical.

Side Effects

Effects of heroin addiction include:

  • Paranoia
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Criminal behavior
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Feeling “junk sick”
  • Needing more to get high
  • Inability to feel normal without using
  • Unsuccessful attempts to quit or cut back
  • Continuing to use in spite of heroin-related problems
  • Financial difficulties, borrowing money to support the habit

Heroin use brings its own health and social risks, but intravenous users have an even greater possibility of other serious complications. These individuals often share their needles, exposing each other to blood-borne viruses like hepatitis and HIV. Heroin users also tend to engage in risky sexual behavior that contributes to high rates of viral infections.

The number and severity of side effects build up with the length of heroin use. Prolonged consumption deteriorates the internal organs, leading to lung, liver, and heart disease. Heroin wears down the immune system, opening the door for communicable and noncommunicable diseases. Overdoses can cause permanent brain damage, coma, and death.


Withdrawal from heroin causes severe physical and psychological pain within just a few hours of the last use. It is typically more intense than weaning off prescription pain relievers. Discomfort may last about one week after the last use, but post-acute withdrawal symptoms may last much longer.

People withdrawing from heroin use may experience:

  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Panic attacks
  • Memory loss
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Depression
  • poor concentration 

Medical detox can reduce the risk of self-harm and relapse. This treatment can also save your life, as professionals supervise your medical status and help you avoid dehydration and other potentially dangerous conditions. Please reach out for help to beat heroin addiction. North Jersey Recovery Center is standing by, ready to help you win.

When It’s Time for an Intervention

People with substance use disorder are often unable or unwilling to acknowledge the severity and danger of their condition. Well-meaning but emotional confrontations rarely help these individuals take steps to change. However, a planned intervention can be a powerful strategic means to get through to the opiate addict and guide them toward the help they need.

An intervention is a meeting that brings together an addict’s loved ones to express concern and support for the addict. Research suggests that over 90% of interventions end with the individual agreeing to treatment. Ideally, this gathering should involve an experienced interventionist, a professional who can impart knowledge and training to the group beforehand, moderate the meeting, and assist in transporting the addict into a rehab program.

Opiate Addiction Treatment at North Jersey Recovery Center

You may hear about so many treatment options for opiate addiction recovery in New Jersey, that it’s hard to figure out what would be best for you or your loved one. We have found that intensive detox and rehab is most effective for this illness. These programs help patients as their brains and bodies adjust to sobriety.

Partial-Care Program

Our Partial-Care Program gives you a reprieve from temptations so that you can focus on recovery. With a low staff-to-client ratio, our professionals can provide a deep level of compassionate care and cultivate relationships with you that foster healing. We know that your background and needs are unique, so we devise your treatment plan accordingly.

Intensive Outpatient Program

Recovery is a journey, not a destination. Whether you are able to participate in most of your ordinary daily activities or have recently gone through inpatient rehab, you will likely still need professional assistance in your progress. North Jersey Recovery Center offers IOP – intensive outpatient programming – to help former opiate addicts acclimate to the real world. This level of care provides:

  • continued therapy
  • monitoring
  • relationship skills
  • financial education
  • career assistance

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Your opiate addiction rehab at NJRC will likely include medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which is the use of medications in conjunction with counseling to help you manage addiction. This protocol is widely implemented with growing evidence of its effectiveness. MAT works in inpatient and outpatient settings.

The prescribed medication in MAT helps normalize brain chemistry and body functions. It also reduces cravings and the euphoric effects of opiates and opioids. Under a doctor’s supervision, people can use these FDA-approved drugs for months, years, or even the rest of their lives.

Common pharmaceuticals used to treat opioid addiction include buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. These medications go by brand names such as Suboxone, Subutex, and Vivitrol. These drugs do not cure the addiction, but they have shown significant benefits in people with SUD.

Hope for Opiate Addiction in New Jersey

Knowledge becomes a powerful force when you act on it. Make the call for change in your life. Begin your journey toward sobriety at North Jersey Recovery Center, a Legit Script certified and monitored addiction rehab program. Reach out to us to speak with a compassionate representative and begin your journey to recovery. 

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Laura-Riley-Cropped-Profile-150x150Laura Riley, MA, LCADC, CCS is an Administrator with North Jersey Recovery Center.