Resources & Education

May 30th, 2018

Opiate Addiction FAQs. Your Questions, Answered.

Q and A conceptOpiate addiction is a topic at the forefront of our nation’s collective conscious. However, if you or a loved one are suffering from dependence on opiates, addiction is more than just a topic for national debate. It is a personal struggle that affects every aspect of your day-to-day life. To help you start to put a plan together to make positive changes in your life, or to help you be best prepared to support a loved one struggling with addiction, it is essential to understand the underlying facts about opiate addiction. What follows are some of the most common—and most critical—questions about opiate addiction, answered.

Q: What are opiates?

Opiate drugs are naturally derived from the opium poppy plant and include heroin, morphine, and codeine. There is a distinct difference between opiates and opioids. Opioids is a broader term used to describe any natural or synthetic substance that binds to the brain’s opioid receptors, which are responsible for controlling pain, reward, and addiction behaviors. Synthetic opioids include such prescription pain medication as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, and methadone.

Q: What makes opiates dangerous?

When opiates, or opioids, are introduced into the body, they attach to specific proteins called opioid receptors, causing the body to relax, and breathing to slow. During over-consumption of opiates, this relaxed breathing can reach deadly levels in a time span of only one to three hours and can ultimately lead to death.

Q: How many people are addicted to opioids?

As of 2016, 2.1 million people in the United States had an opioid use disorder, with 948,000 individuals utilizing heroin specifically.

Q: How many people die from an opioid overdose every year?

As of March 2018, The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 115 people in the United States die every day after overdosing on opioids.

Q: What is Naloxone?

Naloxone is the generic form of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved overdose antidote, brand name Narcan or Evzio. Naloxone is an opiate reversal drug that is used to save lives. It is non-toxic and non-addictive and can be administered intravenously, or through the patient’s nasal passage. It works by competing with opiates in binding to the brain’s protein receptor sites. By blocking the opiate’s ability to attach to the receptors, it can reverse the effects of the drugs and prevent death.

Q: What is Methadone?

A component of medically-assisted opiate addiction recovery treatment, Methadone is an opioid agonist that does not block other narcotics but prevents feelings of withdrawal. It is typically dispensed daily in liquid form only from specially regulated clinics. Methadone is the only drug used in medically assisted treatment approved for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Q: What impact can opiates have on unborn babies?

Opiate use during pregnancy can have long-term, devastating consequences for your baby. The abuse of heroin or other opiates during pregnancy has shown to increase the likelihood of prenatal obstetric complications by 600 percent. Potential complications of opiate use during pregnancy include:

  • Insufficient prenatal care
  • Low birth weight
  • Stillbirth
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)
  • Inability to breastfeed
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Increased risk of HIV or AIDS
  • Post-birth behavioral problems
  • Mental or physical developmental issues
  • Learning disabilities

Q: What treatment options are available for individuals addicted to opiates?

While the most crucial aspect of recovery is support and vigilance from family and loved ones, opiate addiction recovery often requires a multi-step process that may include:

  • Detoxification – The most effective first step in opiate addiction treatment and recovery, and a treatment method conducted in a controlled and medically supervised location.
  • Methadone Maintenance – Under a methadone maintenance plan, the recovering addict is given a liquid form of the opiate substance methadone on a scheduled basis to help with withdrawal symptoms while the addict works to deal with the underlying issues surrounding his/her addiction.
  • Buprenorphine – A similar approach to maintenance treatment includes the use of a partial opioid agonist called buprenorphine. Recovering addicts are prescribed buprenorphine be taken three times per week. It works by occupying opiate nerve receptors while producing a mild opiate-like effect.
  • Twelve Step Recovery Programs – Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is an international organization whose community-based programming focuses on a 12-step program with a defined process for overcoming narcotic addition.
  • Behavior Therapy and Counseling – Behavioral therapy and other forms of counseling may also be effective steps in the opiate addiction treatment process. Therapy may occur in an outpatient or residential facility setting and may include forms of cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, or family and couples therapy.

Q: Where can I find help in Western New York?

Horizon Health Services offers many different treatment options for people and their families who are affected by substance use disorder. Give our patient support specialists a call today at (716) 831-1800. All calls are confidential.

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