Addicted to Painkillers

Addicted to Painkillers? Everything You Should Know About Opiate Addiction

Are you, or someone you know, addicted to opiates?

Opiate addiction is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in this country.

Right now, the leading cause of accidental death in the US is due to drug overdose. In 2015, there were 52,404 deaths due to a drug overdose. Of these deaths, 20,101 were due to opiates.

Today, over 115 die per day from abusing opioids.

How do we make this epidemic stop?

That’s a loaded question, and one with many possible solutions. One thing that will help is to educate yourself on this addiction.

Whether you yourself have an addiction to opiates, or you know a loved one who is going through an addiction to painkillers, read on to learn everything you need to know about opiate addiction.

1. What are Opiates?

In order to understand opiate addiction, we first need to understand what opiates are.

Opiates are actually some of the oldest known drugs in the world. In fact, their history spans several centuries as well as several continents. The first known recording of opiate use comes from 3400 BC, where in ancient Mesopotamia farmers cultivated opium for medicinal and recreational use.

Over the centuries, opiate spread to other countries, one of which was the US. In fact, for about 400 years in the US, scientist mixed opiates into pharmaceutical drugs.

Today, people seem to use the terms opiates and opioids interchangeably, however, there is a difference between the two.

Any drug that derives from the opium plant is considered an opiate. There are Schedule II and Schedule I opiates. The ones that people use in medical settings for pain relief are considered Schedule II.

Those considered “no acceptable safety use” are Schedule I. These will include things like morphine, codeine, and heroin.

Opioids, on the other hand, refer to synthetic or at least partially synthetic drugs that have a similar effect to opiates.

In fact, some treatment centers even use opioids in order to treat opiate addiction.

Some drugs that are opioids include Vicodin, Demerol, Percocet, and Oxycodone.

However, when speaking of addiction, people often use the words opiates and opioids interchangeably, so don’t let that confuse you.

2. How Does the Addiction Start?

Opiates, as you know, are painkillers.

When people go to the doctor and complain about their pain, about 20 percent fo the time, the doctor will prescribe them opiates.

The doctor will give the patient a specified dose, and almost always, the patient ha absolutely no intention of abusing the drug.

However, as time goes on, the person may find that the drug is no longer as effective as it was when they were first using it. This is because the person has developed a tolerance for the drug, which means they will keep needing more and more of it in order to feel its original effects.

What makes opiates so addictive is that they produce artificial endorphins in the brain.

These artificial endorphins can make a person feel really good. When someone is on opiates, they often feel a sense of euphoria. However, when the tolerance builds up, this sense of euphoria can start to wear off. Therefore, the person may want more in order to bring that original feeling back.

3. Types of Opiates

We’ve already gone over a few of the different types of opiates, but let’s dive in a little deeper so you can get a better understanding of each one.

Here are the most common opiates that people get addicted to:

Codeine

Codeine, believe it or not, is actually an over the counter medication. And, one can also easily get their hands on it through a prescription.

It is one of the milder forms of opiates, however, it is still dangerous. Typically, you can find codeine in pain relievers for coughing.

This is an opiate that is most commonly abused by young adults, and it is often mixed with a sugary drink. Street names for this are “sizzurp” or “purple drank.”

Fentanyl

This is a synthetic painkiller, with its potency being 100 times that of morphine.

Doctors prescribe Fentanyl only to those who are in severe amounts of pain.

Oftentimes, addicts will use Fentanyl in conjunction with other drugs, such as heroin. This can commonly lead to overdose and death.

Demerol

Doctors prescribe demerol to treat pain that ranges from moderate to severe.

It has an extremely high potential for addiction, therefore, it is prescribed less frequently these days.

Darvon

Due to the fact that it once caused thousands of deaths and hospitalizations, Darvon is now banned by the FDA. However, there is still a black market for this drug.

Methadone

Doctors prescribe methadone to treat moderate to severe pain. And, interestingly enough, it is actually used to help treat other addictions.

However, it can still be dangerous itself.

Oxycodone

Oxycodone is perhaps one of the most widely prescribed painkillers out there. Its potential for abuse is also extremely high.

Morphine

Patients who are in severe amounts of pain often rely on morphine in order to subdue some of the pain and get by.

Unfortunately, this can and does often turn into an addiction. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of unintentional deaths related to drugs.

Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone is often one of the main ingredients in other powerful painkillers.

One well-known drug that it is found in is Vicodin. Pure hydrocodone is also available for prescription, which has an extremely high potential for addiction.

4. Signs of an Opiate Addiction

If you or someone you know has been taking any of these prescriptions to deal with pain, then you need to know if it is leading to an addiction.

There are common signs that occur when someone is abusing opiates. These include:

  • Numbness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Itching
  • Small pupils
  • Flushed skin
  • Rashes on skin
  • Constipation
  • Slurred speech

These are the common physical symptoms of opiate addiction. However, sometimes the most tell-tale signs are the mental and emotional symptoms. These include:

  • Confusion
  • Poor judgment
  • Anxiety
  • Indecisiveness
  • Memory issues
  • Concentration issues

These are usually the short-term signs you will see when someone has an addiction to opiates. However, there are also things that can happen long-term, some of which are irreparable.

These include:

  • Inflammation of the heart: An inflamed heart is an extremely serious issue. This can lead to increased risk of a stroke or a heart attack.
  • HIV/AIDS: While opiates cannot directly cause HIV or AIDS, those who take opiates are often more susceptible to contracting it. This is because once someone has an addiction to opiates, they will seek out different ways to ingest the substance, one of which is through needles. All it takes is one infected needle to contract the disease.
  • Mood Disorders: It is very common for long-term opiate addicts to develop mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety.
  • Hormonal Imbalances: Opiate can cause hormones to go completely out of whack. For example, someone may see a major decrease in sex drive over time.

And of course, the most dangerous long-term effect is the increased risk of overdose.

Let’s look in the next section at the risk factors that make someone more susceptible to a long-term addiction or an overdose.

5. Risk Factors For Addiction

When people use opiates as a short-term solution to treat pain, that is, for no more than a few days, they can actually be quite effective and helpful for a person dealing with pain.

However, the risk factors for addiction can quickly cause the tides to turn.

Risk factors for addiction increase when someone starts taking them in a different manner from what they get prescribed.

For example, someone may crush them up and snort them or they may start injecting them through needles. The effect of ingesting them in these manners will produce a much stronger effect, which will leave the person wanting more and more.

Also, as we just said, opiates can be extremely helpful when used only for a few days. It is only after five days- that’s right, five short days- that the chance of someone being on opiates a year from now increase dramatically.

There are also psychological, genetic, and environmental factors which put people at a greater risk for developing an addiction. These include:

  • A family history of addiction
  • Unemployment
  • Poverty
  • Young age
  • History of criminal activity
  • History of other substance abuse
  • Being in stressful circumstances
  • Heavy use of tobacco products
  • History of anxiety or depression
  • Major problems with friends, family members, or employers

In addition to these risk factors, it is important to note that women are especially susceptible to opiate addiction. 

This is because women are more likely to deal with chronic pain then men are. Therefore, they are also more likely to receive a prescription for opiates. And, interestingly, doctors are more likely to prescribe them higher doses of opiates overtime.

There is also some scientific evidence out there that supports the fact that women, just biologically, are much more likely to become dependent on prescription painkillers.

6. Withdrawal

Withdrawal is another major sign that someone has an addiction to opiates. And, because withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, it is also one of the leading reasons people have trouble quitting.

The good news about opiate withdrawal, however, is that it is not life-threatening if one is only withdrawing from opiates. (If one is withdrawing from other drugs as well, then it may be life-threatening).

Some common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • A runny nose
  • Teary eyes
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Cramping in the abdominals
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hot and cold sweats
  • Low energy
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

Usually, the symptoms of opiate addiction last anywhere from a week to a month.

The first phase of withdrawal will take place around 12 hours after your last use. The withdrawal symptoms will be at their peak on days 3-5, and then the following days and weeks symptoms will persist but improve.

7. Preventing Opiate Addiction

So, what can you do to prevent opiate addiction from happening in the first place?

As we said earlier, most people who become addicted to opiates have no intention of abusing them. They simply want something that will alleviate their pain.

Normally, a doctor will prescribe a patient opiates as a short-term solution for pain relief. When the effects start to wear off or the prescription expires, the person will often go back to the doctor and ask for more.

Doctors now know the dangers of long-term opiate use, so more often then not, they won’t prescribe another dose. This will lead people to turn to illegal means of obtaining the substances.

So, how do we break this cycle?

If you or someone you know is dealing with chronic pain, it’s important to know that there are many other treatments available for pain relief. Therefore, it’s important to talk to your doctor about switching to pain medications that are less addictive.

And, if you are someone who possesses high-risk factors for developing an addiction, it may be best to avoid opiates altogether. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and discuss with them alternative methods for dealing with your pain.

8. Seeking Help

If you spot the signs of dependency in you or a loved one, it’s important to know that effective treatment for opiate addiction exists.

The first step is to stop taking the drug and start the withdrawal process.

If, however, you feel like this is something you’ll need help with, you should seek out treatment. This may come in the form of inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab, or counseling.

Addicted to Painkillers?: What to Do Next

This article should have given you a good idea of what opiate addiction is all about.

The most important takeaway from this article should be that anyone can become addicted to opiates. While there are risk factors that make someone more susceptible, people from all walks of life have become addicted to the drug.

The other very important thing to remember is that treatment exists for those who have an addiction to painkillers.

To learn more about the different treatment options available, contact us today.

How We Got Here: A Brief History of the Opioid Epidemic

America lost 58 thousand soldiers in the Vietnam War according to the National Archives, and 620,000 deaths in the Civil War.

In 2016, there were more than 60,000 deaths caused by drug overdoses in 2016 alone, and in 2017, 200 Americans died per day in the opioid epidemic.

The opioid epidemic that is rocking the nation is now exceeding the cost of lives to America by that of more than two of America’s greatest wars of all time combined. Let’s trace this crisis back to its roots to find out how this crisis began, and then we’ll discuss how you can avoid becoming a statistic in the history of the opioid epidemic.

It started with the overprescription of opioids.

Today, two million Americans abuse opioids.

Nobody is dying alone in the opioid epidemic, even when their addiction has led them to the point of complete isolation from the world they once knew.

First Step on the History of the Opioid Epidemic

Although history shows that opioid use for pain relief has been in place since the Civil War, the real opioid crisis dates back to the 1990’s. They say it is a three-wave problem over the opioid epidemic timeline. For the first time since 1999, the life expectancy for Americans has decreased because of this crisis.

The crisis is due to the overprescription of opioids, but the use of illegal opioids has also increased and contributed to the crisis.

Prescription opioids include substances that include either morphine or codeine. Synthetic forms of opioids are now on the market, however, and include methadone, tramadol, and fentanyl.

Opioid abuse has been in play since the beginning of the last century. Veterans were given morphine, a derivative of the poppy plant, during and after the Civil War.

By the late 1800’s, pharmaceutical companies started to create synthetic versions, and this is when heroin was born.

It was no secret at this time that heroin or other synthetic forms of opium were addictive. By 1912, the United States joined other nations in forming the International Opium Convention. This convention would work to control the opioid market.

In 1924 came the Heroin Act, bringing more regulations to the heroin market. By the time both World Wars were over, heroin abuse was becoming a problem.

The 1924 Heroin Act was a revision of the 1909 Smoking Opium Exclusion Act that authorized poppy plant imports for medical purposes. Even in 1909 American citizens were using a pipe or “vaping” to consume heroin.

By 1924, it was illegal to import or possess heroin.

In 1970, this drug was developed into synthetic drugs of hydrocodone and oxycodone for pain relief and to treat cancer pain. As years went on, an overprescription of these drugs for various diagnoses has led to the opioid epidemic that we face today.

The United States Leads the World

Today, drug abuse is costing America over $442 billion dollars a year in both health care and criminal justice costs. The opioid epidemic comprises $78 billion of that number.

The United States leads the world in opioid use, consuming over 80 percent of the world’s opioid production.

Opioid abuse is America’s leading cause of death for those under the age of 50. More are dying from an opioid overdose in America than the flu or kidney problems, pneumonia, car accidents, or firearm deaths.

The Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy M.D. M.B.A. says that opioid use is more common in America than diabetes and all cancers combined.

10 percent of those who are addicted to opioids are dying because they just don’t get the help they need. They often don’t seek help because they fear the costs or stigma associated with going to rehab.

The stigma of drug addiction is a leading cause of overdose deaths as well. Many users today just don’t want to admit they have a problem that could be criminal. They also may not be able to afford care.

But today, more and more insurance companies are saving lives by covering addiction treatment services. Additionally, addiction treatment services today are working to get rid of the stigma associated with addiction by just focusing on saving lives.

The Science of the Opioid Crisis

The opioid epidemic is all rooted in the science of opioids. Many national agencies refer to the history of the opioid epidemic like a plague.

The science of opioids is all about how they impact the brain. When opioids cross the blood-brain barrier, they hit the pleasure centers in the brain in such a way that the user describes it as a euphoric high.

Chasing the high is the center of every addiction. Opioids bind to receptors in the brain that block pain. When this happens, a chemical addiction occurs.

The addiction is not just chemical. The patient feels good psychologically and wants to keep feeling this good, so they continue to abuse the substance.

But not only is the addiction chemical and psychological, but the body also becomes chemically addicted or dependent on this euphoric feeling.

New research shows that scientists are getting closer to untangling the neural pathways that lead from opioid use to dopamine triggers. Dopamine is the substance in the brain that is released from the pleasure centers that makes the person feel good.

These scientists say that addiction occurs when the effects of consuming a drug provide a beneficial outcome to the human body. A dopamine release is one of those pleasurable outcomes that keep people going back to opioids for more after their first use.

This dopamine release contributes to the dependency on opioids. This even serves as a gateway to abusing more dangerous drugs such as heroin, according to these scientists. Heroin is a drug that many doctors today will say can become addictive upon first use.

But opioids are also dangerous upon first use. While there are thousands of examples world-wide, one harrowing story is the story of a 15-year-old named Sam. He consumed heroin once and went into a coma for two months.

Sam is now in a wheelchair unable to read, write, or live with the quality of life of a typical 15-year-old boy.

The opioid epidemic timeline started over 30 years ago and continues today.

Prescription medication withdrawal and detox led to symptoms so uncomfortable that people began turning to heroin to recover from opioid withdrawal.

How Did We Get Here?

Pharmaceutical companies and the doctors prescribing meds are the roots of this epidemic.

In the 1990’s, drug companies were reassuring the medical community that opioid meds were not addictive. But they were and still are today.

This notion led to a widespread use of the medication and ultimately an abuse and misuse of prescribed meds. By 2015, tens of thousands of Americans were dying from this crisis.

It is estimated that 21 to 29 people prescribed opioid medications will abuse them, and that 8 to 12 percent will develop an addiction. It is also believed that 4 to 6 opioid addicts will transition to heroin addiction once medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone become less readily available.

Due to regulations and more awareness of the opioid crisis, fewer doctors are prescribing them today. This is leading to more dangerous drugs entering the crisis, such as methamphetamines and fentanyl.

Awareness is not to be underestimated, however. Information is power. Many don’t know or understand the gentle and kind support available in many different levels of detox today. This support saves lives.

Wave One – 1991 Opioid Deaths

The opioid crisis is widely considered a three-wave problem. The three waves are defined as the wave where the first rash of deaths first started, followed by an increase in heroin deaths. The final wave is the one the nation is facing now.

Experts consider today’s crisis as first starting in 1991 when opioid-related deaths began after an increase in prescription medication use.

At this time, Big Pharma was reportedly teaching the medical community that it was okay to prescribe opioids as they weren’t addictive. Initially, these medications were only prescribed for chronic or severe pain, such as for cancer or trauma victims.

But those guidelines began to decline once Big Pharma assured doctors that the drugs weren’t addictive. Even today, morphine may be the first drug administered by an EMT or emergency doctor when a patient presents with severe pain.

In this first wave, by 1999, 86 percent of people using opioid medication were using them for non-cancer related pain management.

Wave Two – 2010: Heroin Deaths Increase

The second wave of the opioid epidemic began in 2010 when heroin abuse deaths began rising dramatically. Prescription medications became harder to obtain, and addicts began turning to the streets for their high.

With that, heroin became a popular choice because it was easily available and more affordable than most other medications. By 2013, heroin-related deaths increased by 286 percent.

Because heroin is often injected, use also contributes to illnesses and deaths caused by improper use of intravenous equipment. Along with the rise of heroin-related deaths is the rise of HIV/AIDS, blood problems, infections, and hepatitis B and C.

The increase of these problems is also leading to an increase of the multi-billion-dollar health care burden. There are many costs to the country as a result of this crisis.

Wave Three – 2013: the Arrival of Fentanyl

By 2013, the arrival of fentanyl led to the spike in opioid-related deaths in epidemic proportions. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is used in hospitals in minute doses for extreme pain. Today, it is becoming manufactured illegally and not safely.

The smallest dose of fentanyl can still kill someone when not administered properly. But this drug is becoming easier to obtain that oxycodone or even heroin.

In England alone, fentanyl-related deaths have increased by 27 percent in this third wave of the opioid epidemic.

The overprescription of medications is a leading cause of this crisis. But so too is the affordability of heroin on the streets.

National agencies for health are urging the medical community to follow guidelines for prescribing these medications for pain management.

The Opioid Crisis – What’s Happening Now

Many agencies refer to overprescription in the history of the opioid epidemic as a leading cause. This is a problem that is caused at the level of the doctor’s office but also at the level of the pharmaceutical companies.

Regulations and laws have been passed and continue to be passed to monitor and regulate these industries.

The United States Senate is regulating the ties between lobbyists and drug developers.

But the United States Department of Health and Human Services is still looking to work in the medical community to stop the epidemic. But to many, it feels like they are still just barely holding back a flood of problems.

The National Institute of Health is looking to find safer ways to manage severe and chronic pain.

They are also working to develop new medications that will be non-addictive.

At the same time, the medical community is becoming more supportive in the treatment of addictions. There are many different treatments and support options for drug addiction.

Avoid Becoming a Statistic

The American Journal of Public Health noted author William Cole who wrote a book about cancer pain in 1960. Here he wrote that severe pain such as cancer pain was demoralizing and debilitating, and opioid medications were critical to the quality of life.

But he also said, we must be “loathe” to overprescribe those because the addiction itself “may become a hideous spectacle.”
The history of the opioid epidemic confirms this statement.

And here we are today, in the middle of a crisis that is killing more Americans than the Vietnam War and the Civil War combined. Nobody is alone in this crisis no matter how isolated or alone you may feel.

Find out what resources are available in your state and let us help you or a member of your family start recovery today.

More Doctors Prescribing Buprenorphine

sacovergDrug treatment programs have long been regarded as the best solution to help someone get clean from illegal drugs. While the country grapples with the increasing use of drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers, some wonder why more addicts are not seeking help from rehabilitation facilities.

Experts agree that the stigma attached to drug abuse prevents some people from feeling comfortable in enrolling in a treatment facility. In addition to the perceived shun from society, users often have a difficult time admitting that they need help and following through with their admittance into treatment. Many point out that the painful withdrawal symptoms from heroin or prescription painkillers cause addicts to give up their quest for sobriety in favor of preventing the painful, flulike symptoms. However, a recent study shows that the gap between addicts and at some forms of treatment might be getting smaller, due to more physicians ability to prescribe medication to help with the process.

Buprenorphine is a medication that, when taken, helps to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms that people feel when they stop using heroin or prescription painkillers. In order to obtain a prescription for buprenorphine, someone has to go to a doctor that is approved to prescribe, or they have to turn to a treatment program. In the past, many addicts have found it difficult to locate a doctor with this ability, but now more and more doctors are obtaining the certificate that allows them to treat addicts. In fact, it has been reported that 98.9% of physicians were not licensed to dispense buprenorphine prior to 2011. That number has since dropped to 46.8%. The dramatic increase of doctors who are willing and able to help treat opioid dependency has led to a 74% increase in the availability of this form of treatment.

It must be stated, though, that the administration of buprenorphine alone doesn’t cure an addiction to heroin or painkillers. Long-term maintenance programs don’t provide the full solutions either, as the end goal should be to get off any opioid if at all possible. This is evidenced by the fact that buprenorphine itself is a drug that is abused on the street, and why doctors who prescribe the medication typically refer people to a treatment facility to address the full issues related to the substance abuse problem. If you are looking for help to recover from an opiate addiction, contact us today we’ll help you locate a treatment program that works.

Opioid Epidemic Is Growing Because of Fentanyl and Heroin - ATS

Deaths From Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Continue to Soar

Deaths From Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Continue To Soar - Addiction Treatment ServicesThe latest data from the CDC indicates that more than 64,000 people died of drug overdoses during 2016. Deaths involving the powerful drug fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids, more than doubled over the previous year and contributed to 20,145 deaths.

A dose containing as little as 3 milligrams of fentanyl can kill. The deadly nature and prevalence of fentanyl-laced heroin make this opioid one of the most serious drug threats of our time.

The Slippery Slope of Drug Addiction

In 2016, the opioid epidemic killed more people than those killed during the entirety of the Vietnam War. The crisis began in the 1990s when doctors began prescribing opioids in increasing volumes for pain management. The health care industry enabled drug dependency for years, inadvertently creating a slippery slope toward illicit drug use.

While many people understand the origin story of the opioid epidemic, they rarely see the factors that continue to fuel the epidemic more than two decades later. Prescription drug use of codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone and others is socially acceptable in many circles. Singers reference using, young people give in to peer pressure, and many doctors will prescribe medications up to the current legal limits.

When the prescription drugs dry up, heroin is cheap and far too easy to access. For less than the price of a pack of cigarettes, individuals can purchase heroin in most areas of any state. Powerful and unregulated, heroin purity and dosing varies widely. Heroin laced with fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are now killing addicted individuals in record numbers.

While more than 20,000 people died from fentanyl-related overdoses in 2016, recent research from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health suggests heroin dependence has more than tripled over the last decade. Millions of people may be at risk for a heroin and/or fentanyl-related overdose, especially men without much income or education. Without intervention, the risks of illicit drug use often turn into realities.

The Scope of the Fentanyl and Heroin Problem in Recent Years

The Sept. 1, 2017 edition of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates a third wave of the opioid epidemic emerged in 2013. Researchers attribute a large percentage of the increase in deaths over the last four years to fentanyl-laced drugs including heroin.

The use of fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances now contribute to more deaths than the use of heroin, prescription opioids, cocaine or methamphetamine alone. In some areas such as Massachusetts, a major center in the opioid crisis, the state Department of Public Health has recorded a decrease in total opioid-related deaths in 2017, yet it’s attributing an ever-increasing number of deaths to fentanyl.

In the Midwest in states such as Ohio, drug overdoses continue to rise. The state attributed more than 4,000 overdose deaths in 2016 to fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances.

Overdose Deaths on the Rise in Several States; Only Minor Progress in Others

Provisional overdose counts according to the CDC from January 2016 to January 2017 indicate:

  • A 71% increase in drug overdose deaths in Delaware
  • A 67% increase in drug overdose deaths in Maryland
  • A 55% increase in drug overdose deaths in Florida
  • A 50% increase in drug overdose deaths in New York City

While the increases often represent major jumps in death rates, the few decreases in the country only represent a mild decline. Overdose counts show:

  • An 8% decrease in drug overdose deaths in Nebraska
  • A 3% decrease in drug overdose deaths in Washington
  • A 3% decrease in drug overdose deaths in Wyoming

The total number of deaths is currently increasing at an unsustainable rate. If the trends of the past four years continue into the future, hundreds of thousands more will die before they receive the treatment needed to overcome a serious addiction.

The data indicates that since 2013, the US has faced more than a third wave of the opioid epidemic. Our country is facing a crisis within a crisis, because fentanyl is far more deadly than any other illicit drug sold today.

Information from the DEA shows law enforcement agencies secured a minimum of 239 kilograms of illegally manufactured fentanyl from 2013 to 2015. No one can say how many more kilograms slipped through the cracks during that time. Two-hundred and thirty-nine kilograms is enough fentanyl to kill tens of millions of people.

The Extreme Dangers of Fentanyl

A mere sprinkle of pure fentanyl can kill. The drug is 50 to 100 times more powerful than the active ingredient in heroin, and illegal drug manufacturers and dealers rarely disclose its presence in heroin. Drug traffickers use the powerful synthetic opioid to maximize profits, but one error can lead to overdose.

Professionals who respond to overdose calls and bust drug trafficking circles are at risk, too. Fentanyl can kill via inhalation or contact with skin. Those who come into contact with fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances such as carfentanil must seek medical intervention quickly to reduce the risk of overdose death.

The effects of fentanyl kick in much faster than the effects of other opioids, and overdose victims may need more than one dose of naloxone to overcome the effects. Anyone who deals, uses or confiscates illegally manufactured fentanyl faces the risks of overdosing.

A Widespread Problem

Celebrities including the singer Prince and Paul Gray, bassist for the band Slipknot, have died from fentanyl-related overdoses in the last few years. Others, including actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Cory Monteith, have died from heroin-related overdoses in recent years. These examples underscore the fact that no one is immune from the dangers of heroin and fentanyl.

The problems with heroin and fentanyl extend far beyond celebrity circles. Today, high schoolers, young adults, professionals, parents and others are dying from opioid-related overdoses, many involving fentanyl-laced heroin. In America, drugs cause more accidental deaths than car accidents and shootings; and, the crisis is only spreading.

The UK also noticed a considerable increase in fentanyl-related deaths starting in 2016. More than 60 people have died in the UK from fentanyl-laced drugs since late 2016. In Canada, British Columbia coroners’ reports cited the powerful opioid in roughly 368 overdose deaths over a four-month period in 2017, and Alberta recorded 176 deaths in a five-month period.

Alcohol and drug rehab facilities can successfully curb the rate of death, but only if they reach addicted persons in time. Those addicted to opioids need ongoing treatment and support to overcome dependency and reduce their risk of encountering fentanyl-laced substances.

How to Stage an Intervention for Drug Addiction

The most recent estimates show only 10 percent of individuals with substance use disorders receive the specialized help they need.  Addicted individuals often need the support of sober family members, friends and professional treatment facilities to overcome opioid addictions of all kinds. Intervention help for families is certainly out there, and Addiction Treatment Services specializes in helping families find the right treatment.

Don’t wait to help a loved one make the personal decision to find treatment. Opioids represent a real and dangerous risk that users may not recognize before it’s too late. Stage an intervention with the help of professionals who know and understand opioid addiction.

Addiction Treatment Services believes everyone deserves an opportunity to overcome addiction. We’re here to help connect you to professional interventionists and assist you in your search for effective heroin detox and treatment programs that work with your insurance.

Find Out What Heroin Addiction Rehab Entails

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2014, but was updated in October 2017 to reflect more recent data and developments involving fentanyl, heroin and opioids.

Addiction Treatment for Expecting Mothers

pregnantmotherOne of the most difficult, yet essential populations of people struggling with substance abuse includes expecting mothers. Women who are pregnant require additional care and delicacy to ensure safe conditions for both the mothers and the babies.

In the case of opiate addiction, this can be incredibly difficult, since withdrawal from drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers can be excruciatingly painful and the physical toll creates a high risk for miscarriage. As a result, the standard treatment for a long time has been to put the mother on methadone. It seems to work, but then the newborn must go through withdrawal during the first days of life. It creates a condition called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), and is an incredibly painful thing for a newborn.

The advent of buprenorphine has made this a bit easier, as the withdrawal symptoms are decreased in both severity and duration. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the use of buprenorphine reduced the number of hospitalization days for the babies from over 17 to about 10.

Despite what many doctors would consider a significant improvement, hopefully researchers will find a way to safely withdraw a mother from opiates months before birth so that the newborn babies aren’t subjected to such a harsh situation. Could a longer-term taper from buprenorphine, say over a period of 60 or 90 days, reduce the symptoms enough to not produce a significant risk of miscarriage? Are there any other medications being developed to use instead that will not harm the baby? Hopefully, the answer is yes to one or both of those questions.

The problem doesn’t simply stop after birth, though, as the mother’s addiction still needs to be addressed, for her safety as well as the child’s. There are very few facilities that can provide treatment in a safe place where mothers and newborns can be together, an example of which is mentioned in New England.

Without places like this, which tend to have long waiting lists, most mothers seeking help have family members care for their children while they attend a residential treatment program. After completion of an inpatient facility, it is often advised for them to continue with outpatient treatment and support groups for mothers to assist in strengthening the healthy environment.

Suboxone Abuse Finds Its Way Into Prisons

suboxonestripsSuboxone is a drug used to treat opiate addiction that was designed to reduce withdrawal symptoms through a tapering process. It is a combination of a synthetic opioid called buprenorphine and an opiate antagonist called naloxone. This mixture was designed to also prevent someone from overdosing on the drug.

Despite some careful measures, the drug eventually found its way to the street and, according to reports from multiple states, into prisons as well.

Most recently, a feature article in Cleveland, OH detailed some of the problems that the department of corrections is having with inmates smuggling in Suboxone for illicit consumption. Officials there have indicated that there has been an increase in the number of incidents involving Suboxone smuggling.

The drug’s maker had introduced a thin strip taken orally rather than a pill and unsuccessfully tried to prevent generic pill versions from entering the market. Ironically, their safety concerns for the pill vs. the strip were cited in the objection, yet both are abused on the street.

In just over a decade Suboxone prescriptions have grown from zero to many millions, and there are reportedly more than 22,000 doctors in the U.S. who prescribe the drug. Despite its inevitable misuse, the drug has been primarily lauded as a safer alternative to methadone for treating people addicted to opiates.

Treating Opiate Addiction - Addiction Treatment Services

What Does Treating Opiate Addiction Involve?

Opiate and Heroin Treatment - Addiction Treatment Services

Addiction to opiates – also called opioids – is incredibly difficult to break and can cause devastating damage to various aspects of a person’s life. One reason for this is that when someone stops using, they suffer painful withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, withdrawing from a substance can be life-threatening.

The best treatment for heroin addiction or any other kind of opiate (opioid) dependency is medically assisted detox followed by comprehensive addiction therapy. Many people struggling with opiate or opioid addiction are not heroin addicts.

Prescription opioid painkillers are the most commonly misused drugs in the country, but painkiller addiction treatment doesn’t sound as dire as addiction to a street drug does. Because of this, many wait to get the help they need.

Why Opt for Medically Assisted Detox?

Some individuals attempt to “self-detox.” They may fear repercussions and judgment from coworkers and employers for needing to take time off to address their addiction. Others feel determined, believing they can overcome addiction by their own willpower. Some people feel trapped or believe they cannot afford treatment, not realizing detox insurance is something many health insurers offer.

While these reasons are valid, they shouldn’t stop people from getting the help they need; and, rest assured, they do need the help. Self-detox can be dangerous. Because of how difficult it is, repeating the process time and again can make people feel like a failure.

Success rates of detox without the help of a professional treatment center are extremely low. After repeated attempts to detox that eventually lead to relapse, some people feel like they can never be free of their addiction.

The Effects of Opiate (Opioid) Detox

Opiates and opioids are powerfully addictive due to their effect on the human brain. These drugs attach to the brain’s natural opioid receptors, eventually blocking the release of dopamine until the person takes another dose of drugs. Dopamine is the “reward” or “pleasure” neurotransmitter, and most people experience a dopamine release when engaging in pleasurable activities.

An opiate or opioid user will eventually require drugs to feel this sensation, and opiate abuse affects the rest of the body in dramatic ways as well. When a person suddenly stops taking opiates, the body can react in violent and unpleasant ways.

Some of the typical opiate and opioid withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting, which can quickly lead to dehydration
  • Sweating and fever
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Intense cravings

The effects of opiate or opioid addiction will also become more apparent once withdrawal occurs. A person struggling with opiate addiction will likely neglect his or her own health while maintaining the habit.

Many opiate addiction sufferers experience malnutrition and dehydration, which can have a devastating effect on various bodily systems. Without medical assistance, these symptoms can put a person’s life in danger and create serious medical problems later in life.

Medical Assistance in Detox and Rehab

When a person enters detox for opiate or opioid addiction, he or she will receive medical care to flush the last of the drugs out of his or her system. Once the person is free of opiates in his or her system, treatment can start.

Treatment for painkiller addiction requires medical assistance beyond detox. The effects of an opiate dependency can wreak havoc on the body without medical intervention and comprehensive counseling and therapy.

The Need for Therapy

Addiction is deeply rooted in psychology, and therapy can help a person struggling with addiction learn to identify troublesome influences and triggers for addictive behaviors, as well as how to manage cravings responsibly.

In many addiction cases, a person struggling with addiction is also suffering from a mental health condition. These “dual diagnosis” cases require thorough care that addresses both the addiction and the mental health issue simultaneously.

Dual diagnosis cases are difficult to effectively treat, and people who face dual diagnoses are less likely to recover without treatment that addresses both issues.

Finding the Best Treatment Option

If you are considering entering addiction treatment or you are searching for a reputable and reliable rehab program for a loved one, we strongly recommend professional guidance in your search. Our team specializes in helping people struggling with addiction and their families find trusted providers who can work with their individual insurance plans.

Our network offers people seeking addiction treatment the widest variety of options for treatment and more flexibility when it comes to billing. In short, Addiction Treatment Services can help struggling individuals find programs that actually work for them.

Contact us now if you have any questions about your insurance coverage or which treatment options are available to you. Some carriers will pay for opiate detox and other aspects of addiction treatment and recovery. Anyone can break out of opiate or opioid addiction with proper care, but time is a critical factor, so contact us today.

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