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Signs of Opiate Abuse and Withdrawal

opiate withdrawal

If you are concerned about opiate misuse for yourself or a loved one, it is important to be able to identify the signs of withdrawal. Withdrawal can be an extremely uncomfortable experience, and it is best to seek professional help if you think someone is addicted to opiates. Additionally,  recognizing the symptoms can help you get them the help they need as soon as possible.

What Are Opiates?

Opiates are a type of drug derived from the opium poppy plant. These drugs have powerful pain killing effects, but they can also create a highly addictive “high” when taken in large amounts or when misused for recreational purposes.

Common opiates include:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone

What's the Difference Between Opiates and Opioids?

Opioids have garnered a lot of attention in recent years, due to the Opioid Crisis plaguing the U.S. But although the terms are often used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between opiates and opioids. Opiates, which have been used for centuries both recreationally and for pain relief, are naturally produced from poppies. However, opioids — which have similar effects on the body and resemble opiates structurally — are generally made in labs, meaning that they're synthetic substances.

Common opioids include:

  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Buprenorphine

Ultimately, because opiates and opioids behave in similar ways, their patterns of addiction, withdrawal, and treatment also tend to be very similar.

History of Opiates and Their Usage

Opiates are among the oldest drugs used, with a documented history of use and misuse stretching back centuries. In the 1800s, they were prescribed to treat many ailments — particularly pain relief. They have also been used recreationally. You may have heard of opium dens, which were places where people would go to smoke opium. Opium dens became popular in China during the 1700s and were later replicated in Europe, North America, and other parts of Asia.

By the 1900s, however, opiates had become far more widely abused, leading to their eventual restriction in 1914 via the Harrison Narcotics Act. In recent times, opiates have been used primarily in medical settings to treat pain, and a variety of opioid-based medications have also been developed for these purposes.

Why Are Opiates So Addictive?

When opiates enter the body, they interact with opioid receptors located in areas of the brain that control pleasure, reward, and stress relief. This produces feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and well-being, which is why people abuse them for recreational purposes. This “high” is often what leads people to become addicted, as it can be incredibly difficult for the body — and even harder for the mind — to let go of this feeling.

Over time, the body builds a tolerance to opiates, meaning that higher and more frequent doses are needed to achieve the same effects. Increased misuse can lead to more serious health problems and further addiction, making it even harder to quit using opiates.

Opiate Addiction in the United States

Opiates are one of the most widely abused drugs in the United States, and prescriptions for opioids — such as oxycodone, fentanyl, and hydrocodone — have increased significantly in the past two decades.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than seventy-eight Americans died every day from opioid overdoses in 2017. In addition, the CDC estimates that 11 million people misused prescription opioids in 2016, and over 2 million were diagnosed with opioid addiction.

Signs of Opiate Addiction

Opiates can be highly addictive, even when used responsibly. The most common signs of opiate addiction include:

  • a strong craving for the drug
  • using more than prescribed
  • neglecting responsibilities as a result of use
  • difficulty stopping or reducing usage

Other signs can include physical changes like poor hygiene, red eyes, and weight loss, as well as psychological changes like increased secrecy or aggression.

Signs of Opiate Withdrawal

Opiate withdrawal typically begins within 12 hours after the last dose and can last for several days. Signs of withdrawal can include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • muscle aches
  • sweating
  • chills
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • agitation
  • cravings for the drug

Is Opiate Withdrawal Life-Threatening?

Opiate withdrawal is rarely life-threatening in itself, but can lead to other complications. For example, some people may become so desperate for the drug that they attempt dangerous activities or take a larger dose than usual — which can be fatal. It is therefore important to seek professional medical help if you think someone is struggling with opiate addiction.

Treatment for Opiate Addiction and Withdrawal

Treatment for opiate addiction is typically a combination of medication, counseling, and lifestyle changes. Medications such as buprenorphine and methadone can help reduce cravings and manage symptoms of withdrawal. Counseling can also be beneficial in addressing the psychological aspects of addiction. In addition, therapy may be recommended to teach people how to deal with stress and cravings in a healthy way.

In some cases, it may be recommended that someone undergo medical detox in order to safely manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse. During medical detox, individuals will typically receive medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms as well as 24-hour supervision by trained professionals.

Identify Opiate Use with Countrywide Testing

If you are concerned about opiate use in yourself or a loved one, it is important to seek help as soon as possible to prevent possible consequences, such as worsening addiction or overdose. Fortunately, when you think someone you know may be abusing prescriptions or illegal substances such as opiates, Countrywide Testing has the help you need to find out the truth. We offer discreet, at-home drug testing kits that will help you get confirmation and get on the road to recovery.

Countrywide offers an array of drug testing products for workplace testing, healthcare emergencies, law enforcement purposes, and individuals trying to stay clean after rehab.

Our test kits are convenient, affordable, and ship to you quickly. Plus, our lab is accredited by SAMHSA, so you can rest assured your test results are handled in accordance with the highest industry standards.

Want more information on how Countrywide can support drug and medication safety? Just contact our team today.