Opiate Addiction, Abuse and Treatment - North Jersey Recovery Center - 2 prescription pill bottles lay on their side some Oxycodone pills have spilled out of one.

What are Opiates?

What are opiates? What are opiate drugs’ negative consequences?

Opiates are a class of drugs that come from the opium poppy plant.

Opiates are also known as opioids, although technically, the two are different.

Opiates are naturally derived from opium. Opiates include codeine and morphine.

Opiates can also refer to semi-synthetic drugs.

What are Opiates Used for?

Opioids have the same effects as opiates. The main difference is that opioids are synthetic and include prescription pain relievers.

There are legal and illegal opiates and opioids. For example, oxycodone is legal with a prescription.

Heroin is an illegal opiate or opioid.

Opioids and opiates bind to specific receptor sites throughout the brain and body. When opiates bind to these receptor sites, effects include:

  • Pain relief
  • Euphoria
  • Constipation
  • Slow breathing and heart rate

Opiate Addiction, Abuse and Treatment - North Jersey Recovery Center - An Oxycodone bottle sits in front of a mans hand with several oxy pills in it.

Prescription Painkillers

When looking at opiate addiction and exploring the concept of what opiates are, it is important to talk about prescription painkillers. Prescription painkillers that are classified as opiates or opioids include:

  • Hydrocodone (brand-name: Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (brand-name: OxyContin, Percocet)
  • Oxymorphone (brand-name: Opana)
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl

These medicines have been commonly prescribed in the U.S. That gave rise, at least partially, to the opioid epidemic. People thought because these drugs were prescriptions, they were not harmful.

The result was an increase in addictions and dependencies on opioids. Opioids and opiates can also lead to overdoses, which may be deadly.

Opiate and Opioid Effects and Abuse

When you take opiates or opioids in the short-term, they bind to receptor sites in the central nervous system. That’s how they produce certain effects, including drowsiness and pain relief. At higher doses, opiates and opioids also create euphoria.

Opioid misuse can slow breathing. That’s called hypoxia. Hypoxia means there’s not enough oxygen reaching the brain. The results of hypoxia can include brain damage. If you take a dose that’s too high, you may stop breathing altogether. That’s an opiate overdose.

The euphoric effects of opiates are what makes them addictive. When your brain experiences something pleasurable, certain areas related to reward are activated. The activation of reward centers can cause addiction.

With opiate addiction, you can’t stop using drugs even if you want to. Signs of opiate abuse and addiction include:

  • Consistently taking higher doses than you intend to
  • Using the drugs only for certain effects, like relaxation or to get high
  • Taking drugs outside of how they’re intended to be used, such as snorting painkillers rather than taking them orally.
  • Trying unsuccessfully to cut down on or stop using opiates.
  • Developing tolerance and needing higher doses to get the same effects.
  • Continuing to use opiates or opioids despite negative effects.
  • Spending large amounts of time or money trying to get opiates.
  • Foregoing, other interests or responsibilities to use or recover from opiates.

Opium addiction or opioid addiction is a chronic disease. The key symptoms of opium addiction or opioid addiction are compulsive, out-of-control seeking, and use of drugs.

There is also dependence to consider. You can be dependent on drugs without being addicted. With dependence, when you stop taking a drug you’ve used for a period of time, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Opiate Abuse and Mental Illness

There are links between opiate abuse and mental illness. This is frequently true with all addictive substances. If you have a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, you may be at greater risk of becoming addicted to substances like opiates. One reason for this is the desire to self-medicate and deal with your symptoms.

Painkiller abuse or heroin abuse can also cause or worsen mental illness. These drugs have significant effects on the brain. If someone has an addiction to opiates and a mental illness, it’s called co-occurring disorders.

Someone with co-occurring disorders will likely need specialized addiction treatment that addresses both the addiction and the mental health disorder.

A treatment program also needs to address the links between the addiction and the mental health disorder and how they relate to one another.

What are Opiate Treatment Options if You are Addicted?

If you have an addiction to opiates, you aren’t alone. It’s one of the most common addictions in the United States, but treatment is available. The most important step you can make is seeking out treatment if you are dealing with opiate addiction.

Assisted Detox

With painkiller abuse or opiate addiction, the first step for many people is an assisted or medically supervised detox. Withdrawal from opiates can be severe and uncomfortable. Symptoms may include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Anxiety
  • Watery eyes
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Sleep problems
  • Restlessness
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

These symptoms can be difficult to deal with and can increase the risk of relapse in the early days of your recovery. Medical detox can help you overcome withdrawal before you begin your treatment program.

During medical detox, professional medical providers can monitor your symptoms.

They can help you be as comfortable as possible. Medical detox can increase your chances of successfully going through withdrawal so you can begin treatment.

Opiate Addiction, Abuse and Treatment - North Jersey Recovery Center - A small group in therapy listens to their therapist discuss coping mechanisms for their opiate addiction.

Inpatient Rehab

An inpatient rehab program is often a good option for someone with opiate addiction. You live on-site in a safe, supportive, and secure environment. Inpatient rehab helps you focus exclusively on your treatment and recovery.

You are surrounded by staff and other residents to have a network of people around you who can help when you need it.

Inpatient rehab also removes you from your environment of drug use. The change of environment can help you shift your mindset, which is important during treatment and recovery.

Inpatient addiction treatment at North Jersey Recovery Center will ensure that every aspect of your mental and physical health is addressed. Addiction is complex, which is why a holistic approach is important.

Outpatient Rehab

An outpatient rehab program is less intensive than inpatient rehab. You do not live onsite, and you can continue living your daily life if you participate in outpatient rehab. Outpatient rehab specifics can vary significantly.

Some outpatient rehab programs are intensive, meaning you commit to attending sessions several times a week. Other outpatient rehabs might focus on medication management, and they require very little time overall.

Starting opiate addiction treatment with outpatient rehab may be an option if you have a mild or short-term addiction.

If you have a more severe or long-term addiction, you may find inpatient treatment is the best first step for you. Then, you can continue to outpatient rehab when you are ready.

Using Insurance for Treatment

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about addiction treatment for opiates or other substances is that they can’t afford it.

Addiction treatment should be available to anyone who needs it, and we work hard to make that happen.

At the North Jersey Recovery Center, we take most types of insurance.

Our staff can verify your insurance and help you understand the costs of treatment.

What are Opiates and What if You’re Addicted?

Opiates are substances derived from opium.

Opiates include prescription pain medications. These drugs are highly addictive and also lead to physical dependence.

When you use opiates, they affect your brain and central nervous system. Short-term effects can include drowsiness, pain relief, and euphoria.

In the long-term, because of how they affect your brain’s reward centers, addiction may develop.

When you are addicted to opiates, professional help and treatment are often needed.

The North Jersey Recovery Center has a team of compassionate professionals who can help guide you through the addiction treatment process.

We encourage you to contact us to learn more or verify your insurance coverage.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Medical Reviewer

Laura comes to NJRC with 23 years of vast clinical experience in hospital, residential, outpatient, and community outreach settings where she has worked, supervised clinical teams, and volunteered. She has provided substance abuse and mental health counseling, clinical coordination, and advocacy to individuals, families and groups, and specializes in co-occurring disorders for both adults and adolescents.