Opiate Addiction Treatment

More than 10 million Americans (aged 12 and above) use and abuse opiates yearly. That number is only growing. Understanding the effects of opiates is crucial to using them properly.

What are Opiates?

Opiates are a class of drugs derived from the opium plant. When consumed, opiates can influence and alter the way the brain responds to stimuli. Typically, opiates are primarily used to alleviate pain. For many years, opiates have served as effective painkillers. Nevertheless, their usage is strictly regulated and requires a doctor’s prescription due to their addictive nature.

What’s the Difference Between Opioids and Opiates?

Opiates, such as codeine and morphine, originate directly from the opium plant, containing the natural compounds found in the plant itself. These substances have been used for their pain-relieving properties for many years and have a long history of medical use. In contrast, opioids encompass a broader category of drugs. While they may have similar effects to opiates, opioids can be entirely synthetic or partially synthetic. This means they are chemically manufactured, either entirely in a laboratory or by modifying natural compounds.

Both opiates and opioids have the potential for pain relief, but opioids encompass a wider range of substances, including those created through synthetic processes, to achieve similar effects. This knowledge is essential for healthcare professionals and patients to make informed decisions regarding pain management and addiction prevention.

Popular Types of Opiates


Morphine is a potent opiate used to treat severe pain. It is among the strongest painkillers and is commonly prescribed in the United States. However, its downside is its high potential for addiction. An overdose of morphine can be life-threatening.


Codeine is often used to address mild to moderate pain and is also effective in suppressing coughs. It is considered less dangerous compared to some other opiates, which has led to its availability over-the-counter (OTC) in some formulations. Nonetheless, even though it is less potent, its accessibility increases the risk of addiction, especially among younger individuals.


Fentanyl is a highly potent opiate used exclusively for treating intense or severe pain, such as that experienced by cancer patients. It is significantly more dangerous than morphine due to its extreme potency. Mixing fentanyl with other drugs, including heroin, can have fatal consequences.

Demerol (Meperidine):

Demerol, also known as meperidine, is employed to manage moderate pain. It, too, carries a risk of addiction and should only be taken under a doctor’s prescription.


Methadone is used to alleviate mild to moderate pain, but it also serves a unique purpose in addiction treatment. It can help reverse or reduce cravings for illicit drugs like heroin, making it a valuable tool in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). However, when used regularly, methadone itself can be highly addictive and should only be administered under medical supervision.


Oxycodone is commonly prescribed for moderate pain relief. It is available under popular brand names such as Percocet and OxyContin.

Other opiates worth mentioning include:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Dilaudid
  • Darvocet

It’s crucial to recognize the potential risks associated with these opiates, including their addictive nature, and to use them only as prescribed by a healthcare professional. Misuse or abuse of these substances can lead to serious health consequences and addiction.

What is Opiate Abuse or Addiction?

Opiate addiction is a serious health concern with far-reaching consequences. It not only affects the individual’s physical and mental health but also impacts their relationships, employment, and overall life stability. Effective treatment, such as detoxification, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), counseling, and support groups, is essential for helping individuals overcome opiate addiction and regain control of their lives. Early intervention and a supportive network can make a significant difference in the recovery process.

Full-Blown Addiction:

Full addiction sets in when individuals find themselves trapped in a cycle where they cannot quit using opiates despite recognizing the harm it causes to their health, relationships, and overall quality of life. At this stage, the compulsion to use opiates becomes overwhelming, and attempts to quit often result in severe withdrawal symptoms, reinforcing the addiction.

What Causes Opiate Abuse?

Opiate addiction typically begins with legitimate medical use, often following a doctor’s prescription. Factors contributing to opiate abuse include:

  • Intense Pain: Seeking relief from pain caused by injuries or medical conditions.
  • Developing Tolerance: Gradually losing the drug’s effectiveness over time, prompting increased dosages.
  • Ignoring Medical Advice: Deviating from a doctor’s prescription or recommendations.

These factors collectively contribute to the onset of opiate abuse, as individuals may find themselves dependent on these drugs for pain management and experience the challenging cycle of tolerance, increased dosage, and ultimately, addiction. Both healthcare providers and patients must be aware of these risks and closely monitor opiate use to prevent abuse and its potential consequences.

Who is at Risk of Opiate Addiction?

Certain demographics and predispositions are associated with a higher risk of opiate addiction:

  • Age: Younger individuals are more susceptible to opiate abuse.
  • Poverty: Socioeconomic factors can contribute to addiction.
  • Family History: Having close relatives with opiate addiction increases one’s risk.
  • History of Substance Abuse: Previous abuse of medications or illicit substances heightens the likelihood of opiate addiction.
  • Impulsive Behavior: Individuals displaying reckless tendencies are at greater risk.
  • Unemployment: Employment issues can contribute to vulnerability.
  • Gender: Women are more prone to opiate abuse due to a higher likelihood of experiencing chronic pain.

How Do You Recognize An Opiate Addiction?

Recognizing an opiate addiction involves identifying a range of physical, behavioral, and psychological signs and symptoms. Here’s a more detailed breakdown:

Physical Signs of Opiate Addiction:

  • Weight Loss: Opiate addicts may experience a noticeable and unintended loss of weight due to changes in appetite and metabolism.
  • Drowsiness: Individuals addicted to opiates often display excessive sleepiness or drowsiness, even during daytime hours.
  • Lower Sex Drive: Opiate abuse can lead to a decrease in libido and sexual interest, affecting one’s overall sexual functioning

Behavioral and Psychological Signs:

  • Intense Cravings for Opiates: Strong and persistent cravings for opiates are a hallmark of addiction. Individuals may become preoccupied with obtaining and using the drug.
  • Criminal Activities Such as Stealing: To sustain their addiction, some individuals resort to illegal activities, such as theft, to obtain opiates or the funds needed to purchase them.
  • Unproductivity: Opiate addiction often results in a decline in overall productivity, as individuals may struggle to maintain responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  • Isolating Themselves from Loved Ones: People with opiate addiction may withdraw from social interactions and isolate themselves from friends and family to conceal their substance abuse or feelings of shame and guilt.

Symptoms of Opiates Overdose

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Clamming skin
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Falling unconscious
  • Extreme confusion

It is crucial to recognize these signs and seek immediate medical assistance in the event of an overdose. Opiate overdoses can be life-threatening, and timely intervention is essential to prevent serious health ramifications, including death. Additionally, individuals exhibiting signs of opiate addiction should be encouraged to seek professional help and support for recovery to mitigate the harmful effects of addiction on their lives.

Short and Long-Term Effects of Abusing Opiates

Abusing opiates can have both short and long-term effects

Short Term Effects

  • Impaired judgments
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Euphoric feeling
  • Weight loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Shallow breathing
  • Itchiness

Long Term Effects

  • Persisting insomnia
  • Liver problems
  • Depression
  • Recurring constipation
  • Addiction
  • Vein damage

How is Opiates Addiction Diagnosed?

Opiate addiction is typically diagnosed by medical professionals using a combination of symptom assessment, patient history, and blood and urine tests. Diagnostic criteria adhere to the guidelines in the DSM-5.

Opiates Addiction Treatment


The first step toward recovery is to stop using the drugs. This is an important step with its dangers. The process of stopping and removing all traces of opiates from the body is called detoxing.

Detoxing takes about 3-7 days depending on the severity of the situation. Some doctors might prefer the tapering-off method. This involves slowly reducing drug intake as opposed to suddenly cutting the user off opiates.

Patients will usually experience withdrawal symptoms after detoxing. These symptoms can be severe during the first few days and last for months or years.

Examples of such symptoms include

  • Runny nose
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tremors
  • Constricted pupils
  • Nausea
  • Agitation/restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Depression


Certain medications can reduce the impact of the symptoms and prevent relapse. They include

  • Methadone – This drug fights against dependence. It is mostly used in severe cases of addiction. However, many doctors now prefer buprenorphine.
  • Buprenorphine – This drug fights against withdrawal symptoms by mimicking the feeling of opiates. This is effective in preventing relapse.
  • Clonidine – This drug is effective against anxiety and agitation which are withdrawal symptoms. Unlike buprenorphine, it does not mimic the euphoric feeling of taking opiates.

Rehab Centers

Most doctors recommend inpatient rehab centers after the detox program. Some benefits of this route include

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Most inpatient rehabs offer CBT as part of their services. This focuses on transforming negative traits in the patient into positive ones.
  • Support Groups – Support groups are a source of strength during recovery. Patients can find encouragement from others who are on the same journey.
  • Counseling – Psychologists and mental health experts can help you figure out how you feel and what you are experiencing

How Can Opiate Addiction Be Prevented?

Preventing opiate addiction involves proactive measures:

  • Limit use to short intervals (3 days or less) for pain management.
  • Safeguard opiates, storing them securely away from public access.
  • Return or safely dispose of leftover opiates if no longer needed.

How Can You Recover From Opiate Addiction?

In the face of the growing concern surrounding opiate addiction, recognizing the signs and seeking help is of paramount importance. Opiate addiction can have devastating effects on individuals and their loved ones, impacting physical and mental health, relationships, and overall well-being.

At New Hope Healthcare, we understand the complexities of opiate addiction and offer a lifeline to those in need. Our dedicated team of healthcare professionals is committed to providing comprehensive addiction treatment and support to help you or your loved one break free from the cycle of addiction. Call us today at 866-806-1027 to see how we can help!

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At New Hope Health in Tennessee, we offer free insurance verification for our clients who feel they need some help. When you contact us, we will carry out the thorough analysis of your addiction problem, and then recommend a workable drug treatment program. Next, we will contact your insurance provider on your behalf and verify your benefits. We will also let you know if you will be responsible for any out-of-pocket expense not covered under your plan.

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