Opiates and opioids, also known as narcotics, are commonly prescribed by medical professionals for pain relief. Unfortunately, these drugs can also be very addictive, even after just a few weeks of use. Consistent abuse of these drugs can change the way a person’s brain chemistry works, resulting in serious physical and psychological dependence.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to an opiate or opioid, it’s never too late to get help. Briarwood is a Joint Commission-accredited opioid and opiate detox center. Our caring addiction treatment professionals understand where you’re coming from and are here to support you, however long it takes.
Opiates are drugs that are derived from opium, which is a substance that is obtained from the poppy plant. The term “opioid” is used to refer to the entire family of opiate drugs, including synthetic, semi-synthetic and natural opiates.
Opioid drugs include illegal substances such as heroin, but they also include a host of prescription narcotic pain relievers, including:
- Vicodin (Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen)
- Percocet or Oxycontin (Oxycodone)
- Demerol (Meperidine)
- Dilaudid (Hydromorphone)
Although opioids are commonly prescribed to treat pain, they are also highly addictive. Consistent opioid abuse is extremely harmful and affects many different parts of the body.
- Brain – Opioids flood the brain with dopamine, creating a sense of euphoria. Over time, the brain adjusts to the presence of artificial opioids and rewires itself so that objects and activities that used to bring natural pleasure no longer do so.
- Lungs – Opioids depress the central nervous system, slowing breathing and interfering with normal functioning of the lungs.
- Stomach and intestines – Opioid abuse slows down bowel functions, causing constipation, bloating, nausea, and vomiting.
- Liver – Opioids, especially when combined with alcohol, can severely damage the liver. With repeated abuse, the liver loses its ability to process toxins, and as a result, opioid abusers can suffer severe liver damage or failure.
- Kidneys – Chronic abuse of opioid drugs can severely damage the kidneys or cause complete kidney failure.
- Heart – Opioid abuse also damages the heart and can cause a heart attack.
The opioid crisis in America is a growing concern and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 33,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose in 2015 and roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients who are prescribed opiates for chronic pain end up misusing them. Prescription opioids may also serve as a gateway to illicit drug abuse, as about 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.