Do you know or think you may have an opiate addiction? If so, you’ve probably noticed that it’s disrupted your life a great deal. You’re likely spending a great deal of money on your drug of choice. Old friends have drifted away, and perhaps even your family seems alienated to you. It’s not a pleasant scenario. However, if you’re ready to change your life and seek help, know that help is available. It’s not hopeless. You can live a happy drug-free life again.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is basically defined as the use of an opiate for a non-medical purpose that cannot be controlled by the user. If you’ve tried to quit your opiate and failed time and again, you’re addicted. Someone who is not addicted can stop. You probably can’t even reduce your dose alone, because if the drug is available, you will take it until it’s gone.
Your tolerance is likely very, very high. You need many, many times a standard dose just to feel normal. Not only does this risk overdose, but should you ever need pain relief for a medical reason, such as surgery or an accident, any opiates given to you will not work as they should. Depending upon your tolerance level, they may not work at all.
An opiate addict has severely deranged brain chemistry. The addicted brain also grows extra opiate receptors. As a result, if an addict suddenly stops taking their opiate, they will face an extremely unpleasant withdrawal syndrome with the following symptoms:
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle and bone pain
- Feeling hot and cold
- Yawning and sneezing
- Restless leg syndrome
Depending upon the opiate and the length of time used, these symptoms can persist, at least in part, for as long as a month and even longer. It’s no wonder that opiate addicts will do just about anything to avoid withdrawal. In fact, many addicts use their drug of choice just to feel normal and stay out of withdrawal. They no longer even get much of a high.
If heroin is your drug of choice, you’re in particular danger of overdose from fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid some 50 times stronger than heroin. It’s commonly used to cut heroin, both for financial reasons and to make it stronger. There is no way to tell just by looking if heroin has been cut with fentanyl or not. It’s very, very difficult to cut fentanyl into another product because the amounts needed are so tiny. Fentanyl is normally dosed in micrograms, or millionths of a gram. To accurately and safely mix fentanyl with another substance takes great skill and knowledge. It’s safe to assume that the average street dealer lacks this skill.
If you’re thinking about seeking help, know that you will not suffer withdrawal symptoms in a detox or rehab facility. Medications are used to ease you through the process with minimal discomfort. If these medications aren’t helping, speak up. Your regimen can be adjusted. Everyone is different. The staff at your facility are responsible for keeping you as comfortable as possible. They don’t want you to be in pain.
- Clonidine – This isn’t an opiate. It’s a beta-blocker used to treat high blood pressure and certain heart conditions. It works by blocking adrenalin from reaching certain receptor sites. Opiate addicts in withdrawal have an excess of adrenalin and clonidine helps to counteract this.
- Muscle relaxants – Robaxin is a common one used in opiate withdrawal. It will help with restless leg syndrome and muscle tremors.
- Benzodiazepines – These are anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium and Xanax. They aren’t as commonly used because they are addictive as well. However, for a patient with a history of seizures or for one who is extremely anxious, benzodiazepines may be indicated for short-term, low-dose use.
- Buprenorphine – This is the narcotic component of Suboxone. It’s a synthetic opioid. It works by activating opiate receptors in the brain, but only to a point. For someone tolerant to opiates, buprenorphine will cause little or no euphoria. Suboxone treats drug cravings and for many people, dramatically reduces all withdrawal symptoms. It can be used temporarily or permanently. If used regularly, buprenorphine is addictive and will produce withdrawal symptoms if suddenly stopped.
If you know it’s time to seek treatment for drug addiction, don’t be afraid. You won’t suffer through your withdrawal process. You will have help and support. Contact a local drug rehab facility and ask for assistance. They will give it to you. Then take that step towards a whole new future.