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Hooked on opiates

Updated on July 14, 2011

When pills become the fuel.


Intro to opiate addiction

Addiction is something that we see throughout our lives around us and our families. Addiction to opiates is different than other addictions. Opiate addiction is classified as a physical dependence to opiates that lasts at least a year. It may take several days or months to get addicted to opiates, but it does happen. Their tolerance starts to increase and they need more of the drug in order to get high. Loved ones grieve to see their sons and daughters go through the awful withdrawals that occur with this. There are many treatment options available to people and they consist of many different modes of thinking. It is hard to see the opiate addiction coming. Many times it starts with a car accident and being on pain medications. The present day addiction to opiates is not only the Heroin user anymore. It consists of teachers, lawyers, construction workers, cab drivers and doctors. It is very diversified as to who succumbs to it. Are there things at home starting to disappear? Does your son appear to constantly be looking over his shoulder or have flu like symptoms often? When your friend visits, do you notice that pills in the house start to disappear? With many other substances, people can just quit. Opiates is a whole different ball game. People addicted to opiates after awhile are just taking it to not be sick, to be able to function, to get out of bed, and attend to their daily lives. The good thing about withdrawals is that it will not kill you. The bad thing is that it will not kill you, even though it sometimes may feel like it. It can become a constant cycle that goes on for years without the addict knowing what can be done to break the cycle. There are several ways in order to treat this and I will outline their effectiveness and strengths. I hope that some people find this a helpful resource in their combat of the addiction.

How does one get addicted?

Drugs come in all sizes


Treatment options

There are a variety of treatment options available for those addicted to opiates.  I am not endorsing any one particular treatment for it depends on your level of addiction.  There is a big difference for treatment needed for someone addicted 3 months, 6 months or 10 years. 

The first course that should always be tried is abstinence.  Do not use the drug.  Many people think this is the answer.  In a perfect world it might be so.  If we allowed people a few weeks to work through their withdrawals while being supported by loved ones it might work.  The truth is that people need to attend to their children, work and other obligations and do not tend to do well with this.  They know if they take a pill,  then they can function at work,  school and home.  Abstinence may work for some,  as long as they never pick up again or else they are running the addiction circuit again.  Abstinence means total abstinence.  Addiction is for life and there is no time that we have 'control over it.'  It will wait for that moment where it can rear it's ugly head.  Then when you work yourself back into your habit you start running into all the troubles that you once were.  The biggest fear that people addicted to opiates have is the withdrawal symptoms.  They want to feel good,  be able to function,  and become used to making things right by taking a pill.  This is prevalent in this society as many things are 'cured' by a pill.  This kind of treatment might do well by someone using very short term,  or even long term as long as they never touch the drug again.

Drug rehabs or rehabs are somewhere,  usually inpatient,  that people can not only gain help in detoxing,  but also gain the education about addiction that they need.  Rehabs may use a medical detox or they may use a dry detox where someone needs to suffer through the withdrawals.  This type of treatment is better from the first.  There is medical staff associated with the program and help to make sure that they are getting good solid medical advice as opposed to listening to their street pharmacist.  The big piece that separates this from the first way of abstinence is that there usually is group education that goes along with it.  People find that they are not the only ones dealing with this problem and that there are other people going through exactly the same thing as they are.  They start to get education about drugs and how they impair their judgement.  This is crucial.  Addiction has a physical piece,  but also a cognitive piece.  If the physical piece is dealt with,  but not the cognitive or mental one,  how can one expect a different result?  There are different time frames associated with drug rehabs.  Some are 7, 14, or even 28 day programs.  How do these usually fare?  Well the first thing that many patients from a drug rehab do when they get out is use their drug because they think they have a handle on it glimmering some semblance of sobriety.  It may work for some,  but ask anyone in a detox that sees the same people that go through the program over and over again throughout the years.  Remember it all depends on the level of their addiction and their level of commitment to recovery.  It may take 70 detoxes to finally have things click,  but they should be commended for trying to get help.

Something that has been reasonably new and developing attention is a certain type of medical detox called a rapid detox,  wherein,  while under sedation a patient's blood is filtered from impurities.  This can be a costly alternative and when they come to they will not have drugs in their system.  This may or may not work for someone.  The bottom line again is the cognitive work and what changes are placed in their life to prevent them from using again.  If they use again and the cognitive work has not been done,  then they are running their addiction again.  None the less it has been getting more popular in recent times. 

Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) is another treatment that is offered to those that face opiate addiction.  Generally speaking,  people tend to see their Suboxone prescriber once a month for a prescription.  It can be a costly form of treatment and primarily used short term.  One thing about Suboxone is that many insurances cover this form of treatment.  Please check with your insurance company to see if they do.  Suboxone has been effective for people that have been addicted to pills or short term users.  It is also a safer medication than Methadone. 

Not all treatments have been included.  These are some of the more well known treatments.  Definitely someone should try a variety of treatments to see what they respond best to.  Detoxes and rehabs should be considered before trying out Suboxone or Methadone. 

Methadone is another form of treatment that is available and widespread to people facing opiate addiction.  I know that there is a stigma associated with this treatment and that even professionals are split about its use.  Bottom line is that it tends to be very effective for long term users and especially Heroin users.  When people cannot stop themselves from using it can be a very effective tool,  especially when combined with counseling.  Methadone is a long lasting medication that has a long half life depending on the person.  For most people it is known to have a half life of 24 hrs or more.  It works by filling up the opiate receptors in someone so that on a therapeutic dose they are not able to get high from normal opiate use,  withdrawal symptoms are tolerable or nonexistent,  and have a cessation of physical cravings.  This would allow someone to work on their life.  They could work on their relationships,  careers, families or legal difficulties.  It can work very well with people facing these problems.  Methadone typically is a last line of defense for people who have tried previous treatments unsuccessfully.  Some people are on for a year or longer.  People that have been on Methadone for at least a year have a far better chance than those just using it as a quick detox or trying to make their drug habit cheaper. 

All of the treatments listed are ways to combat this battle with opiate addiction.  One may work better than another for some. There is not one sure fire way to combat this addiction.  Most methadone clinics for instance require at least a minimum of a year of addiction.  Only you know your level of addiction.  Loved ones of people that are addicted are able to get a glimpse of some of the treatments offered and the dual side of physical and cognitive dependence on the drug.

Medication replacement therapy

Heroin & needles


non-medical treatments

I have identified some of the medical treatments for the physical dependency of opiates.  Is there anything besides these treatment options?  Yes,  there is.  Do not forget that half of the addiction is physical.  There is a cognitive part to the problem.  One of the best tools to aid in the addiction is counseling.  Many people that use drugs would benefit from drug counseling or mental health counseling or even both.  Licensed alcohol and drug counselors(LADC) are specially trained to help those that face drug problems.  There is NA and AA meetings,  which are 12 step programs.  There are meetings worldwide and aid in helping to stay off drugs.  There are people that have gone or are going through the same thing that you are.  There are sponsors there to help you.  There are other peer support groups available.  Extending your support system,  getting rid of works and drug phone numbers and surrounding yourself with positive productive people are some of the ways in order to aid you on your quest of sobriety.  Put as much energy and emphasis on your sobriety as you did in your drug use.  It is about breaking the habits and breaking the old style of life that did not want you to break free.  It is up to you.  Seek the help if you want help.

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prevention of addiction

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    • wolfmonk profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Derry,NH

      Thank you! Yes it truly is a tragedy. Great input and a different spin on it than what I usually encounter.

    • profile image

      happy mummsy 

      7 years ago

      very informative indeed. i have worked with cancer patients for almost 21 years now and pain truly is such a catchy symptom to deal with -- by law & definition, pain is subjective and thus doctors have to prescribe these painkillers. the way i look at it, painkillers are not the enemy, the enemy is the human tendencies to get addicted to it, such an honest truth. nice hub! ~ m

    • wolfmonk profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Derry,NH

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, there definitely are many sides to the same problem. I have seen many people that will be on pain medications for a long time, especially people with fused spinal disks, etc. Great input!

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      A meaty and informative article on the subject. People, young folk in particular, who steal or buy prescrip. pain pills are playing with fire. Some people with chronic pain from failed surgerys and such that don't respond to other treatments may have to be on meds the rest of their lives. These are usually time-released and have given many back a good quality of life. After a while the only thing really felt is simply pain reduction. Good info hub wolfmonk.


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