When people hear “opiates,” they often think “heroin.” It is true that one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs in the opiate category is heroin, but there is more to this category that must be noted. Opiates are considered to be any substance derived from poppy seed flowers and can be synthesized in laboratories, and include painkillers such as morphine, Vicoden and Oxycontin.

Opiates work on the central nervous system of the body, and affect the brain and nervous system. The human brain produces neurotransmitters called endorphins, which manage the pain and pleasure areas of the body. When taken as prescribed and for a short period of time, opiates will not interfere with the creation and transmission of natural endorphins. However over a prolonged period of time taking these painkillers, the body stops making endorphins all together, expecting that they will be coming in from outside sources. This is why it is important to always have a doctor carefully monitoring opiate use, even when prescribed.

The majority of the time, opiates are prescribed by doctors and physicians to treat pain – common uses are for pain after dentistry or other surgical procedures. Opiates like oxycontin are prescribed for people with cancer undergoing long and painful treatment.

If you are concerned about your own increased opiate use, or are worried about some close to you, there are signs of opiate addiction you can look out for:

  • Increased tolerance to prescription painkillers.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to quit or control use.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the body suddenly stops receiving the drug.
  • Insomnia and dramatic increases in sleepiness and sleeplessness.
  • Mood swings, increased irritability, anxiety. Feeling numb or disconnected when the drug is ingested.

Usually a person addicted to opiates will at first believe they have their addiction under control, or think they can stop at any time – just not right now. There are usually great justifications for continued use and reasons for all behavioral, mental and physical changes – an addict will always try and protect their secret.

Opiate withdrawal is extremely hard on the body and mind. Many people become addicts because they are on a constant quest to avoid the hard effects of withdrawal. In order to get to the point of withdrawal – the opiates have to be taken over an extended period of time. If taken as prescribed by a doctor for initial pain management after surgery or if taken recreationally once, withdrawal symptoms can be avoided. If taken more consistently and a tolerance is built up, a professional detoxification in a hospital setting is recommended for the safest and most comfortable method possible.

If you or someone you know is struggling with opiate addiction, if you have questions or need help, Lifetime Recovery Centers of America is here to help you. There is a solution, and you don’t have to do this alone.