Opiates are drugs derived from opium. They are also referred to as narcotics, and this class of drugs includes prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, hydrocodone and Vicodin. Heroin, an illegal drug, is also considered an opiate. Opiates effect how the human brain interprets pain and can create feelings of pleasure. They do so through various effects on the central nervous system. These effects also have the consequence of creating tolerance and dependence. The body begins to rely on opiates to provide certain effects, and it stops creating the brain and body chemicals that would produce feelings of pleasure or pain relief naturally. Opiates become less effective when this occurs, and dosage has to increase to maintain their effects. Science & Practice Perspectives explains, “Repeated exposure to escalating dosages of opioids alters the brain so that it functions more or less normally when the drugs are present and abnormally when they are not. Two clinically important results of this alteration are opioid tolerance (the need to take higher and higher dosages of drugs to achieve the same opioid effect) and drug dependence (susceptibility to withdrawal symptoms).” Over time higher doses of opiates are required to prevent a user from experiencing withdrawal symptoms when an opiate is not present.
The Effect of Withdrawal on Continued Addiction
The fear of experiencing painful withdrawal symptoms drives many opiate users to continue taking the drugs. Withdrawal symptoms can be unpredictable and vary from person to person, but in general individuals experience pain, digestive system upset and anxious or irritable mood swings. These symptoms are uncomfortable or even painful, but they take just a brief period of time compared to the life of recovery that can come after. Detox allows the body to cleanse itself of opiates and restore natural function and balance. It is a necessary first step in the recovery process, as further treatment is not possible if a user is still physically dependent on opiates. Although detox is a natural process, medical professionals may administer over-the-counter medications or suggest a program of gradual tapering dosage to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Some more powerful medications, such as methadone or Suboxone, may be used during withdrawal and recovery. However these prescription medications can cause additional addiction complications if not managed correctly and are rarely a first choice for withdrawal treatment. There is no “quick fix” or healthy rapid detox option, but medical supervision during the withdrawal process eases many withdrawal symptoms and ensures the process is completed as safely, comfortably and quickly as possible. When a comprehensive treatment program includes medically supervised detox services, counseling and support can also begin as soon as health is stable. These elements of treatment are as important as the management of withdrawal symptoms, as they set the stage for a rich and fulfilling life in recovery.
Get Help Finding Opiate Withdrawal Treatment
If you are ready to overcome your opiate addiction, call our toll-free helpline today. Let us help you find addiction treatment programs that include medically supervised detox services. With the right help and support, you can overcome your addiction. We are here for you 24 hours a day; pick up the phone and take the first step.
 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851054/. “The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment.” Science & Practice Perspectives. Jul 2002. Web. 23 May 2016.