Opiate Abuse and Treatment
The physical problem leads to the mental problem. This is sometimes the case with the use of opiates – drugs used to relieve pain, but that are addictive. Also referred to as narcotics, opiates are derived from opium from the poppy plant, and are a group of drugs used to treat pain. Belonging to the opioid class, opiates may include: Heroin, Morphine, Codeine, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Fentanyl.
How Opiates Affect the Brain
The brain produces natural endorphins to provide pain relief for the average amount of pain. However, when injury or illness causes added pain, there aren’t enough endorphins to provide relief. Opiates stop different parts of the body from receiving news of the extra pain, and act as a substitute for the lack of natural endorphins.
Certain areas of the brain contain a neurotransmitter called dopamine. These areas of the brain are responsible for things like pleasure and motivation. Some behaviors stimulate these areas, creating feelings of euphoria and well-being. The brain associates the action with the positive feelings, and encourages repetition of the behavior. Since opiates stimulate these areas, the brain associates opiates with pleasure, therefore unknowingly encouraging the body to abuse them.
Feelings of euphoria and well-being can be very addictive for substance abusers who want to feel that way more often. To continue to achieve the feelings, the person has to keep increasing the amount of the substance over time, in order to achieve the same results as before. When those feeling are sought after, it’s a process that begins with tolerance, which leads to abuse, which eventually leads to full addiction.
Is It an Opiate Addiction?
If someone is asked these questions and answer yes to at least three of them, they have an opiate addiction:
- Have you experienced negative consequences because of use?
- Has the amount you take increased over time?
- Have you or do you put off things because of your drug use?
- Do you use more than you should, or more than prescribed?
- Do you obsess over getting or using the drug?
- Do you feel withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop or reduce the use? And have you been unsuccessful at stopping or cutting down?
So what can be done for those with opiate abuse or addiction? The best, most effective option is to attend an inpatient treatment facility for assistance with the recovery process. Inpatient treatments are centers that are equipped to handle every aspect of recovery. The staff helps lead the patient through the step-by-step process. This begins with detoxification.
Detoxification is the process of removing the toxins from the body. Withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, but the staff at the inpatient facility can help guide the way through the symptoms. Those who try to get clean – or detox – at home on their own, are rarely successful. This is because addiction isn’t just the physical part, but there are other aspects that need to be addressed also.
Each individual person and each different facility will likely give differing, but similar, recovery and relapse prevention tools. These steps should be taken after the physical detox is completed, as they are focused on treating the physiological aspects of addiction as well. Addiction is not just the compulsive use of the drug, but it’s the lack of impulse control in the brain, and the drug-altered functions of the brain.
Treating the Physiological Aspects
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps the person become aware of maladaptive thoughts. So, when they are faced with a challenge, they’ll see the solution more clearly – therefore, reacting more rationally. CBT won’t ‘fix’ the situation or make it go away, but it can help the recovering addict be better prepared to cope with situations in a healthy way.
This type of therapy may not be effective for everyone, but there are steps that can be taken to ensure they are getting the most out of the sessions possible.
In order to get the most out of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
- Approach therapy as a partnership with the counselor
- Be open and honest about everything
- Stick to the treatment plan
- Don’t expect instant results
- Do work that the counselor may ask for between sessions, such as a journal
- If therapy doesn’t seem to be helping, discuss it with the counselor
Opiate addiction can obviously begin with purposely ingesting the drugs improperly, but it can also develop even from proper use of a prescribed medication. Because drug abuse affects the brain’s ability to function normally, it makes it difficult for someone to stop using on their own. Anyone striving for sobriety needs support and encouragement from their loved ones and the expertise of professional addiction treatment facilities such as inpatient rehabilitation centers. This type of care is essential for long-term results as it provides education, skills training, and therapy to help the individual develop a stronger sense of self-worth and instills the confidence and motivation to maintain a sober lifestyle.
Anyone struggling with an addiction to opiates should begin immediately seeking an inpatient rehabilitation facility and get into treatment as soon as possible.
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