Opiate Addiction Treatment: About Opioids, Abuse, & Detoxification Treatment

Opiate drugs are some of the most addictive and life-threatening substances abused by people in the United States and around the world. Millions of prescriptions are written for opiate pain relievers each year. Many people develop an opiate addiction without ever diverging from their prescribed dose. An opiate addiction treatment center helps individuals who have become dependent patients addicted to prescription pain pills manage opioid withdrawal symptoms while exploring treatment options that encompass detox, therapies, and counseling. Also, those with an addiction to illicit opioids can seek treatment at such a facility.

In this article, we introduce you to how opioid overdose can result in opioid addiction and the FDA-approved opioid medications used during opiate treatment at a drug rehab to aid the discontinuation of the drug. We hope that learning about these medications will help you overcome any reluctance you may have about seeking help at an opiate addiction treatment center and the follow-up care once the treatment is over.

In this article, we discuss:

What Are Opiates?

Opiates are substances that are derived from the seeds of the opium poppy plant that grows in many parts of the world. These drugs are used in medicine to treat mild, moderate, and severe pain. Many prescription pain relievers are opiate or opioid drugs. However, due to their powerful pain-relieving effects, opiate drugs have very high rates of abuse and addiction. Many people who use these drugs end up needing help at an opiate addiction treatment center because they are unable to quit without medical intervention and professional care.

How Do Opiates Work?

Opioids are produced in the body, occur in nature, and can even be synthetic opioids. Irrespective of where they come from, the use of opioids has the same effect on the human body. Opioids, also known as opiates, attach themselves to opioid receptors in the brain and the body and activate them. Once opioid receptors are activated, they block all pain signals coming from the body and release chemicals that induce a feeling of ‘euphoria.’

What is Opiate Addiction?

Opiate addiction is characterized by a powerful craving or compulsive urge to use an opiate drug even when its medical use is no longer valid. Opiate medications have a high potential for abuse even when taken exactly as prescribed. Many prescription opioid painkillers are diverted or misused. When someone misuses these drugs, over time, obtaining and using the drug takes a priority over everything else in the person’s life. This is known as opiate addiction and it needs to be treated at an opiate addiction treatment center.

Signs of Opiate Addiction

While not everyone experiences the euphoric sensation after using opioids, those who do gradually develop a physical dependence on the drug and even become addicted to it. Some warning signs are:

  • Alienating oneself from family members and friends and spending time alone
  • Avoiding bathing, brushing, and changing clothes
  • Lying about pain to get more opioids prescribed
  • Poor performance at work and long periods of absence
  • Noticeable changes in behavior and appearance
  • Poor motor skills
  • Digestive issues like vomiting and diarrhea
  • Poor judgment and decision-making skills
  • Mood swings
  • Muscle aches
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Concentration problems
  • Irritability and sudden outbursts
  • Depression
  • Paranoia

Why do People Become Addicted to Opiates?

Opioids have the ability to make the brain and the body believe that the drug is essential for survival. Therefore, when a tolerance for the prescribed dose is developed, higher doses are required to alleviate pain and achieve the pleasurable sensation of feeling relaxed. Prolonged use of the prescription drug in high doses instead of the recommended doses leads to dependency, resulting in substance use disorder. Opioid use disorder, just like any other drug addiction, wears down the brain’s resistance and has more complex and serious implications than one can imagine.

How Can You Avoid Addiction to Opioids?

Opioid addiction begins when you don’t monitor the amount of drug that’s being administered into the body. If you or a loved one has been prescribed opioids as pain relievers, discuss with your anesthesiologist or healthcare provider about any concerns and what alternatives you have. Talking openly with your anesthesiologist when they are prescribing opioids about using them safely and asking about any possible non-opioid alternatives can help you explore the best pain management options.

What Should You do if You or Someone You Know is Addicted?

If you or someone you know is battling opioid addiction, the first step should be finding a doctor or health professional adept at dealing with addiction. Ask for a referral from your doctor to an addiction medicine specialist, or explore the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s website to find specialists in your area. For additional resources, you can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline or visit SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. The State Agencies webpage can also help you identify specialized public health programs. The American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry also offers patient referral programs.

If you are helping a friend or loved one, reassure them that addiction can be overcome through effective treatment, and avoid confrontational ‘intervention’ as it can easily backfire. Being unconditionally supportive is key here.

The Opioid Abuse Problem in the United States

You may wonder why we need a specialized opiate addiction treatment program. It may surprise you to learn that roughly one-third of patients who are prescribed opioid drugs to manage chronic pain end up misusing them. Approximately 1 in 10 of such persons develops an opioid use disorder or addiction. Such individuals need professional help at an opiate addiction treatment center to quit.

In 2012, there were nearly 260 million prescriptions written for opioid pain pills and about 2 million Americans later developed an addiction to them. What’s more, up to 6 percent of people who misuse prescription opioids transition to illegal drugs. Roughly 8 out of 10 people who use heroin report that they started out by first misusing prescription pain pills. Meaning it is common for someone to start with prescription pain pill misuse and later start using higher-risk substances. The opioid epidemic in the US is a serious concern. Seeking care at an opiate addiction treatment center is especially important because opioid misuse is associated with a host of health problems, risky behaviors, and overdose deaths.

Are Opiates and Opioids the Same Thing?

When you talk about an opiate addiction treatment center, is it the same as opioid addiction treatment? The two terms opiates and opioids are often used interchangeably but there is a subtle difference between them. Opiates are natural substances derived directly from the opium plant. They include morphine and codeine. Opioids, on the other hand, are synthetic substances that are manufactured in a laboratory to mimic the effects of natural opiates. Some opioids are partially synthetic, meaning they contain a mix of synthetic and natural opiates. Both opiates and opioids exert similar effects on the human brain. It does not matter whether the drug comes from a natural source or is manufactured in a lab. Both are highly addictive and their abuse needs to be treated at an opioid or opiate addiction treatment center.

Different Types of Opiates and Opioids

Morphine is a powerful medication that is used to treat severe pain that cannot be controlled with other pain medications. It comes in a liquid and long-acting tablet formulation that can be taken every 4 hours or every 8-12 hours, respectively. Morphine is available under various brand names such as MS Contin and Kadian. Morphine addiction needs to be treated at an opiate addiction treatment center.

Codeine is a less potent opiate that is used to relieve cough and mild to moderate pain. It is present in some over-the-counter cough remedies which are abused, especially by young people, who may combine the codeine with sugary drinks to produce a mix called sizzurp or purple drank. Many people do not realize the addictive potential of these cough remedies and the need to seek help at an opiate addiction treatment center.

Fentanyl is a synthetic pain reliever that is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Beginning in around 2013, the United States has experienced a wave of overdose deaths involving opioids, specifically illegally manufactured fentanyl, underlining the need for timely care at an opiate addiction treatment center. Fentanyl is sometimes mixed with other drugs like heroin, increasing the risk of fatal overdose

Hydrocodone is an opioid pain reliever that is the active ingredient in Vicodin. It is typically available in combination with ibuprofen or acetaminophen. People with a Vicodin addiction should not delay getting help at an opiate addiction treatment center because abuse of this drug can lead to serious health problems.

Oxycodone is a prescription opioid painkiller that is sold under brand names like Percocet and Oxycontin. It has a high potential for abuse and addiction. If you or someone you know is abusing “oxy,” an opiate addiction treatment center can help you quit.

Substitute Drugs and Treatment


Methadone is an opioid agonist that is commonly used as a substitute for heroin. Methadone maintenance treatment at an opiate addiction treatment center has been found to reduce IV drug use, other risky behaviors, and criminal activity associated with opiate abuse. MMT (methadone maintenance treatment) involves taking a daily dose of methadone to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings for heroin. It is worth remembering that methadone is an opioid itself and can be addictive. However, it is safer to be on methadone than using illegal heroin because many opiate abusers inject heroin and the purity of the drug is unknown. On the other hand, methadone is given orally at a controlled dose.

Methadone maintenance is one of the most successful treatments offered at an opiate addiction treatment center. However, the demand for MMT programs far outstrips the supply, and wait-lists are typically long in the United States. For this reason, methadone detoxification (gradually reducing the dose) is attempted in some opioid-dependent individuals, but it remains controversial due to a lack of proven results. Scientists are working on developing more effective methadone tapering regimens that can be offered at an opiate addiction treatment center.

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Unlike methadone which is a full opioid agonist, buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. Buprenorphine, therefore, has a slower onset and longer duration of action. This means it can be dosed on alternate days, meaning a person does not need to visit an opiate addiction treatment center every day. Also, because buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, the risk of unintentional overdose is lower compared to full agonists like methadone. However, the disadvantage is that the efficacy of buprenorphine is limited. An opiate addiction treatment center may combine buprenorphine with naloxone in a 4:1 ratio to reduce the liability for abuse.

In terms of a comparison between methadone and buprenorphine, the results are mixed. Methadone is somewhat superior to buprenorphine in terms of retention in treatment with flexible dosing regimens. Studies have also found that patients with prior methadone maintenance experience tend to do better on buprenorphine compared to those who are methadone-naïve. The clinical team at an opiate addiction treatment center can help you decide which is a better option for you, methadone or buprenorphine.

In general, methadone maintenance is the first-line of treatment for opiate addiction, especially in individuals with a severe history of drug abuse. However, a distinct advantage of buprenorphine is that while methadone must be given at a specialized opiate addiction treatment center, buprenorphine can be prescribed by primary care physicians, thereby improving access to treatment.

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist, meaning it blocks the effects of heroin and other opioid drugs. It is used to help people quit using opiates. The benefit of a medication like naltrexone is that one does not develop tolerance or dependence and it is a generally safe medication with few side effects. For this reason, oral naltrexone is often prescribed at an opiate addiction treatment center to prevent relapse in opioid addicts.

Studies have shown that combined naltrexone maintenance and psychotherapy at an opiate addiction treatment center is effective in reducing heroin use. However, naltrexone alone does not show results that are very different from placebo.

One of the major problems associated with naltrexone treatment at an opiate addiction treatment center is poor retention in treatment and adherence to the medication. One of the reasons is that there are no withdrawal symptoms from naltrexone that encourage its continued use. Meaning, the medication works by blocking the effects of the opiate drug of abuse but has no reinforcing effects of its own. To counteract the high dropout rates, an opiate addiction treatment center may prescribe sustained-release formulations of naltrexone to improve outcomes.

Effects of Opioids

Why do so many people end up needing care at an opiate addiction treatment center? The reason is that opiates are tranquilizing and pain-relieving drugs that produce euphoric effects. People who misuse or abuse opiates experience pleasurable feelings and pain relief, which encourages repeat use. Over time, this progresses into compulsive drug-seeking behavior, whereby a person may go pharmacy shopping or doctor shopping in an attempt to obtain the drugs from multiple sources. Without drug rehab at an opiate addiction treatment center, the problem can escalate. Many people transition to the illegal drug heroin which is also an opioid. Heroin is often cheaper and more easily available from street dealers. However, it is often injected and carries additional risks, such as HIV.

Opiate Detoxification

The most straightforward method of managing opiate detoxification at an opiate addiction treatment center is through a gradual reduction in the dose of methadone, benzodiazepines, Lofexidine, or buprenorphine. However, this treatment is time-consuming and is associated with poor retention. Rapid opiate detoxification is sometimes offered at an opiate addiction treatment center to reduce the duration of symptoms of opioid withdrawal and manage patient discomfort. This type of treatment reduces the time between opiate withdrawal and naltrexone commencement. Ultra-rapid opiate detoxification is an extension of rapid opiate detox in which anesthesia is used during withdrawal. However, not every opiate addiction treatment center will offer ultra-rapid opiate detox because the treatment is controversial and its safety and efficacy are questionable.

How Long Does Opiate Withdrawal Last?

Individuals who are recovering from opiate drug addiction can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms for a duration of six days or more. The specific duration may vary depending on many factors:

  • The type of opiates used
  • The duration of substance abuse
  • The dosage, whether high or low

For most individuals, withdrawal symptoms can surface within 12 hours of their last dose, often starting with muscle pains and discomfort. In some cases, withdrawal can be rather distressing, which is when individuals must seek a medical detox treatment program. The first few days are usually the most challenging, with maximum relapses occurring within the first couple of days.
By the third or fourth day, most of the physical discomfort subsides, although some pain might be experienced for up to five days. Maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet during this phase of the process is essential, even if eating solid foods might feel like a challenge; the body requires nourishment at all costs. Proper hydration is equally important to prevent potential digestive problems and constipation.

As soon as the sixth day arrives, the detoxification process is almost complete. Some individuals may experience anxiety, nausea, and a reduced appetite during this period, but engaging in activities that promote physical and mental well-being, such as gentle exercise, can prove beneficial.

Individuals grappling with opiate addiction may find themselves struggling indefinitely, and although the struggle may seem endless, sustained attention and hard work are key to ensuring sober living in the long run. Cravings will need to be controlled throughout one’s life, which can be easily triggered by certain things, and there may be periods of feeling completely lost.
Taking a proactive approach to enhancing one’s ability to manage these challenges of recovery can help, and so can enlisting the aid of a drug detox facility to get a comprehensive relapse prevention plan from medical professionals for the required level of care. Being well-prepared for potential withdrawal symptoms will help devise the necessary measures to reduce their discomfort.

Benefits of Opiate Detox

Opioid detox offers a host of benefits. It removes the drug from the body so that individuals fighting its addiction can proceed with the next step in the recovery process—exploring evidence-based opiate treatment options at a rehab center for full recovery. Detox also enhances the mental health of individuals suffering from this substance use disorder by clearing all mental confusion, as well as the physical and emotional health for overall well-being.

While detox is only the first step to recovery, it is crucial for long-term success. Opioid detox is among the most effective recovery services at drug rehab centers, which helps improve sleep quality, reduce anxiety, enhance concentration, boost energy levels, and eliminate mood swings. While you may prefer an intensive outpatient program, inpatient treatment is much safer as the medical staff at your chosen treatment facility can also examine for and tackle any co-occurring disorders with dual diagnosis and the right treatment.

What Happens at an Opiate Detox Center?

When you start addiction treatment at a leading opiate detox center in the state of Washington, such as Discover Recovery, you receive round-the-clock medical monitoring. It’s one of the primary reasons why withdrawal management at an opiate detox center is safer than doing it at home. Nonetheless, it can be overwhelming to start residential treatment. Knowing what to expect at an opiate detox center can help reduce some of the anxiety. Here’s what typically happens when you begin withdrawal for opiate drugs at Discover Recovery.

A highly experienced clinical team of board-certified physicians, registered nurses, and licensed psychologists will perform a thorough intake evaluation. Some exams and tests may be ordered at the opiate detox center, such as blood chemistries, liver function tests, chest X-ray, and ECG (heart tracing) as well as testing for HIV, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis because many people who abuse opiates have these diseases.

A medical history, physical exam, and opiate abuse history is essential to create a customized treatment plan for you. Opiate addiction is a complex medical condition and its treatment cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why Discover Recovery, an opiate detox center in Washington, offers an individualized treatment plan to address your individual needs.

Once the intake evaluation is done, you will enter the withdrawal management phase. A team of nurses and doctors at the opiate detox center will monitor you, dispense medications, and provide psychological support throughout this challenging phase of recovery. The clinical team at Discover Recovery opiate detox center will not only manage your withdrawal symptoms but also alleviate your anxiety and fears to make the process as smooth as possible.

Getting Help at an Opiate Addiction Treatment Center

Seeking help for opiate abuse not only reduces the negative health consequences of addiction but is also associated with a reduction in other risky behaviors such as IV drug use and mortality. There are several effective medications available to treat opioid dependence. Opiate addiction treatment centers use evidence-based treatments and FDA-approved medications for opioid detoxification. The detoxification protocols at an opiate addiction treatment center are developed keeping in mind patient comfort and long-term efficacy. Healthcare professionals at these centers understand that most opioid-dependent individuals will suffer a relapse at some point in their history of drug use. To reduce the risk of relapse, they offer an aftercare program at an opiate addiction treatment center with continued access to support groups and resources after formal addiction treatment is completed.

If you or a loved one requires care at an opiate addiction treatment center, feel free to talk to the authorities mentioned in this article and take the first step toward a sober future.

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