What are Opiates?

The poppy plant has the distinct reputation of being the source material for one of the most in-demand narcotics to ever be manufactured: opium. It is from this narcotic that opiates are derived. The highly-addictive narcotic properties of opium are passed on to the opiates made from it, hence the high rate of addiction to it.

Although they are often interchanged with each other in reference, opiates are actually different from opioids. Opiates are typically chemical compounds extracted from natural sources, such as plants.

Opioids, on the other hand, are mostly synthesized from other materials, much like most synthetic chemicals that are made in labs. Some opioids are partially synthesized from natural sources, but most are manufactured in laboratories. The differences between the two are further validated by how they are termed: there are synthetic opiates, but since almost all opioids are synthesized, it would be redundant to call them synthetic opioids.

Why Do People Overdose on Opiates?

The most common reason for addiction to opiates is exposure to them while taking them for pain relief. Not only is the relief from incessant pain uplifting, but there is the added property of opiates flooding the body with the organic chemical dopamine and hormone endorphin.

These two compounds work together in the body to not only inhibit pain but also produce a sense of euphoria and intense pleasure. For many people dealing with pain, the option to have relief by taking it from a simple source is not a difficult choice to make, which is why it is so easy to get addicted to opiates.

The problem here is that in many cases, people don’t wait to experience pain to want to take opiates. In fact, many people being treated for opiate addiction admitted to not having any significant instances of pain that required opiates. The sheer pleasure they derive from the experience is what drives them to take it even more regularly.

The need to experience the euphoria and pleasure given by opiates makes it quite easy to overdose on them. This is even more evident in people who experience bouts of sadness, disappointment, rejection, or failure. The need to find emotional relief pushes them to completely forego any thoughts of safety and take dangerous amounts of opiates, often with fatal consequences.

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What are the Signs of Opiate Addiction?

Opiates as an abused substance are quite powerful, and as such, tend to have quite obvious signs and symptoms on the user. Apart from the physical manifestations, some dramatic behavioral changes come with it. Some of the symptoms are so pronounced that it does not take an expert to spot them, and because of the lasting effects of opiates, most users are not really aware enough or have the mental clarity to try to hide the signs.

  • “Track marks”, or needle entry points
  • Small, unresponsive, and constricted pupils
  • A constant state of stupor or semi-consciousness
  • Incoherence or slurred speech
  • Lack of or compromised physical coordination
  • Aversion to going outdoors
  • Mood swings whenever they are conscious
  • Lack of interest in anything other than their next “hit”
  • Drastic weight loss
  • Pallid complexion
  • An unstable state of mind

How is Opiate Addiction Treated?

As with most substance abuse issues, the typical first step in treatment and rehabilitation is getting the patient to stop taking the substance. This is then followed by therapy designed to strengthen the patient’s resolve to stay off the substance, regardless of how difficult it might be. After a successful detoxification phase, the patient is assessed for the possibility of being allowed to live free of monitoring and check-ins with therapists.


Opiates stay in the system for quite some time even after the last use. While most normal substance abuse cases have a more manageable detoxification stage, those undergoing opiate detoxification require more attention and care. People who have opiate substance abuse issues are among those who have a great tendency to relapse into the habit once more, as they find it extremely difficult to kick the habit.
People with opiate substance abuse issues are particularly difficult to handle in the detoxification stage as the substance they use not only helps deaden the sensation of pain, but it is the only way they are able to experience anything close to joy or pleasure.

This is why trying to get anyone hooked on opiates to give it up is asking them to give up the only happiness they know. It is difficult for these people as being hooked on opiates has changed them so that they are only able to be happy through chemical means.

On top of that, they have been pain-free for so long that the realization of being exposed to feeling the pain once more without the opiate is enough to drive them to desperation. It is not uncommon for those unable to secure more opiates for themselves to resort to crime or even commit suicide, which is why the opiate detoxification phase comes with constant monitoring.

Therapy and Counseling

Based on the experience and observation of specialists who help treat people with opiate abuse issues, the worst thing to do with them is to assume they are fine after detox and leave them alone. Long-term opiate abuse tends to rewire how a person thinks, with most, if not all, of their reasoning, leaning towards getting back to using opiates. This situation requires intensive counseling and guidance, as their brain has taken on a one-track drive.
Withdrawal from any abused substance leaves the person in a very vulnerable state, as they feel that the one thing they have been living for has been removed from them. This is, even more, the case with people who have opiate substance abuse. Depending on the phase of therapy that they are in, their ability to engage in logic and reasoning could be anywhere from almost non-existent to being compromised. The irony of this situation is that these people are so afraid to get hurt once more without their painkillers, that they often end up hurting themselves even more.

As careful and considerate as therapists who deal with patients are, they are even more so when dealing with people undergoing opiate rehab. These people have a state of mind that is so fragile that it would not take much to break their will to recover.

Maintenance Medication for Opiate Abuse Recovery

There are also many cases where medication is needed to help the patient to cope with opiate withdrawal. Specific medications are used to help curb the urge and craving to take opiates, and the use of these medications is regulated by the clinic or rehabilitation center where the patient is receiving treatment.
While some medications target the same portion of the brain that opiates effect, there are also other medications that act to dull the opiate receptors. In effect, these medications prevent the person from getting high even if they take opiates once more. The realization that they don’t derive any pleasure from taking it is usually an effective, and long-term way to convince them to stop.

Whichever procedure or process is used in getting a person through opiate withdrawal, it is always done at a controlled pace and is never hurried. If not handled carefully and correctly, the patients could try to find an alternative to the opiate that they were using, as chemical dependency has become second nature to them.

There is More to Treatment Than Just Recovery

We here at Achieve Wellness and Recovery know how sensitive opiate rehab is. We have seen more than our fair share, and we understand how important caring and nurturing are to the recovery process. We don’t just provide opiate rehab, we help people get back on their feet, and teach them not to fall down again on bad habits because part of being sober is staying that way. Contact us today to start your recovery journey.

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