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Opiate Addiction Treatment

What is Opiate?

Morphine, methadone, codeine, and heroin are among the most common drugs within the powerful class of opioid narcotics. When properly used for medical purposes and under appropriate supervision, opiates can have important benefits – i.e. they can be used as analgesics to relieve pain; can control severe diarrhea; or can relieve coughing (opiates such as codeine can be found in cough medicines. However, when opiates can be highly dangerous and addictive when used without a doctor’s prescription or in ways other than how they are prescribed.

The Addiction

Opiates have a high potential for addiction: tolerance and psychological dependence can develop rapidly, and physical dependence occurs with long-term, repeated use (or abuse). These drugs act by attaching to specific receptors located in the brain, spinal cord, and other organs. With long-term use, this process changes the way nerve cells in the brain work. At first, pleasurable effects are produced, ranging from blocking the perception of pain to inducing euphoria. In addition, the nerve cells become dependent on the presence of the drug, and reducing or stopping use brings about a range of withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, agitation, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, goosebumps, nausea, and vomiting. These mechanisms are the basis through which users abuse or become addicted to opiates.

Help and Treatment

Individuals who abuse or are addicted to opiates can be treated through several pharmacological options. However, before proceeding with long-term treatment, they may first need to undergo medically supervised detoxification to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Behavioral treatments, usually combined with medications, have also been proven effective.

Currently used medications are:

  • Clonidine, the most commonly used medication, primarily reduces anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, runny nose and cramping.
  • Methadone, a synthetic opioid that eliminates withdrawal symptoms and relieves craving, has been used successfully for decades to treat individuals addicted to heroin and other opiates.
  • Buprenorphine, another synthetic opioid, is a more recently approved medication that is used to treat addiction to heroin and other opiates. It can be prescribed by certified physicians in an office setting, is long-lasting, is less likely to cause respiratory depression than other drugs, and is well tolerated.
  • Naltrexone is a long-acting opioid receptor blocker that can be employed to help prevent relapse. It is not widely used, however, because of poor compliance, except by highly motivated individuals (e.g., physicians at risk of losing their medical license). It should be noted that this medication can only be used for someone who has already been detoxified, since it can produce severe withdrawal symptoms in a person continuing to abuse opioids.
  • Naloxone is a short-acting opioid receptor blocker that counteracts the effects of opioids and can be used to treat overdoses.

Opiate Rehab Centers

Opiate rehab centers offer care and treatment for patients who are battling through addiction. Detoxification programs provide assistance in easing withdrawal symptoms in a safe and controlled setting. Visit our discussion forums on various opiates to learn more about treatment and addiction and to connect with others who have their own experiences with these drugs or are also on the road to recovery.


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