What are Opioids?
Opioids are psychoactive substances in a class of drugs known as Opiate Analgesics and range from legal narcotic medications such as morphine and codeine, to the illegal and highly addictive Class A drug heroin. Opioid substances are originally derived from opium, and many illicit opiate drugs still are, while the pharmaceutical medications such as Fentanyl and oxycodone are derived from synthetic products. Regardless, all opiate drugs (legal or illegal) produce the same characteristic effects: suppression of the central nervous system including slowed breathing, reduced pain awareness, and euphoria.
What are Opioids Used to Treat?
Prescription opioid medications are used to treat severe pain that does not respond to other medical interventions.
What are the Side Effects of Opioid Painkillers?
When prescription narcotics are taken as prescribed by a doctor, side effects often include constipation, itching, contracted pupils, disorientation, nausea and vomiting, addiction/dependence, and even death if misused. They also can have life threatening interactions when combined with other prescription medications, alcohol, or other drugs.
Death by overdose is a major possibility for users of both legal and illegal opioids, and with illegal opioids such as heroin, can happen within a single use. Individuals who inject heroin are also subject to the increased risk of any IV drug use, which includes exposure to a wide variety of life-threatening diseases.
The euphoric state induced by opioids also can lead users to abandon important responsibilities in their lives, leading to extensive, life-changing personal and professional consequences.
Signs of Prescription Opioid Painkiller Abuse
Signs of prescription painkiller abuse include:
Increased tolerance (needing higher quantities of the substance to achieve the minimal/same effects);
Withdrawal (negative experiences with discontinuation of use);
Lack of interest in attending to daily living obligations;
Preoccupation with obtaining more opioids;
Unsuccessful attempts to stop taking or decrease use;
Defensiveness around the suggestion that their prescription of opioid medications is no longer medically necessary.
Prescription Painkiller Abuse Health Risks
There are short-term and long-term health risks inherent in abusing prescription painkillers, which includes long-term use at high dosages. Death by overdose is an omnipresent possibility when opioids are taken erroneously or combined with other substances.
Short-term effects can include less-dangerous health effects such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, itching; and more severe effects such as decreased awareness, impaired judgement, cardiovascular irregularities, suppression of breathing, abandonment of important responsibilities, and even death. Heroin deaths are also often caused by unknown contaminants that have been added to the drug to increase the volume at lower cost to the producer.
Longer-term health risks for users of both legal and illegal opioids include:
Decreased sexual interest,
Severe weight loss,
Cardiovascular and gastrointestinal dysfunction/dysregulation,
Neglect of health and responsibilities,
Immune system dysfunction,
Decreased pain tolerance.
IV heroin users are also at markedly increased risk for needle-transmitted diseases including HIV, hepatitis, and STDs, among others, as well as damage to blood vessels.
Prescription Painkiller Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms or absence of withdrawal symptoms are not necessarily indicative that a person is or is not dependent on opioids, and so the absence of withdrawal symptoms with discontinued use should never be interpreted as conclusive evidence that an individual is not experiencing opioid dependence.
Preoccupation with obtaining more of the substance,
Joint or muscle aches and pains,
Physical cravings for the opioid substance.
At Castle Craig we treat people for addiction to heroin, morphine, methadone and a variety of prescription painkillers such as oxycontin, oxycodone and codeine. We offer a comprehensive treatment programme for opioid and prescription painkiller addiction. An individual’s personalised treatment plan includes medically supervised detoxification, psychiatric consultation and prescribing, psychotherapy – such as group, family, and trauma treatment and complementary therapies.