Opiates (or opioids) are extracted from opium seeds or created in laboratories, and these types of drugs are usually prescribed by physicians to treat pain. Among other drugs, hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), and heroin can all be derived from opium poppy. Opiates act like endorphins in the brain; in fact, they eventually cause the body to stop producing endorphins, as they mimic the nerve cells that manufacture those types of chemicals. This results in a physical dependency on the opiates, thus potentially creating a cycle of addiction in the user. Though not all individuals who use opiates on a regular basis are addicts, the body does become dependent on the drug, and the user will experience withdrawal symptoms when s/he stops taking the drug.
The first step of most opiate treatment programs is detoxification (or “detox”). The goal of detoxification is to purge the addict’s body of the drug while controlling the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. Medical supervision during this stage of the treatment program is often recommended, as addicts may find it difficult to continue with the detox process when the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms increases.
After the addict is stable and no longer physically dependent on the drug, treatment continues in order to resolve the psychological aspects of the addiction. Because opiates act as replacements for endorphins, the user may experience depression or anxiety even after the drugs have left the body’s system. The goal of treatment programs is to identify and address the underlying causes of the addiction to lessen the risk of relapse. Addicts may be successful during treatment but be unable to continue the program on their own. Thus, finding a treatment program that specifically suits the addict’s needs and lifestyle is important, as the addict will be more likely to continue with treatment if it is something that they feel is manageable and reliable. For example, a teen addict may have more success with an adventure treatment program, while an older adult may find that faith-based programs help combat the addiction. Opiate treatment programs such as these exist in numerous locations across the nation.