Opiate Uses

Opiates are typically used in medicine for pain relief, though they are sometimes prescribed to suppress a cough and diarrhea. Opiates are naturally occurring opioid alkaloids and include morphine and codeine. Many prescription drugs are synthesized from natural opiates. These are referred to as "opioids," but many people confuse the two terms.

Opiates are powerful narcotic drugs derived from the poppy plant. They bind to specific receptors in the brain and this is thought to bring about analgesia. Heroin is an opioid that is derived from morphine. It was once legal and used medicinally for pain, but serious side effects and risks prompted the medical community to look for other options for treating pain. This powerful drug is now illegal but highly abused.

Before Taking Opiates

People who have certain medical conditions may require therapy with opiates such as codeine, morphine or medications derived from them. As with all prescription medication, it's important to know all there is to know before you take them.

Prescription drugs come with prescribing information that usually includes guidelines for safe use, precautions, warnings, risks, side effects and information on dosage. This is important information and should be reviewed, even if your doctor covers some of the information when prescribing it.

Additional information on prescription medication can be found on the manufacturer's website. This information will help patients to understand how the medication should be used, how it could affect them and the potential risks.

Talking to Your Doctor About Opiates

Your doctor should also know about all vitamins, supplements, herbs and over-the-counter medications you are taking. You should also mention whether you have ever had an allergic reaction to an opiate before.

The doctor will usually weigh benefits and risks before prescribing opiates. Most doctors will initiate therapy by starting patients on the lowest possible dosage. If you feel that this dosage is ineffective, speak to the doctor. Patients should never take it upon themselves to increase a dosage or take more than what's prescribed.

Many people will experience some side effects when taking opiates. Most of the time, these symptoms will dissipate quickly once the body becomes used to the drug. Some side effects are merely uncomfortable. Others may persist and can be dangerous. If symptoms persist or worsen, speak with your doctor as soon as possible.

Opiate side effects can include:

  • Constipation, which can progress
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Difficult breathing
  • Sedation

Opiate Treatment Can Help Patients Through A Difficult Time

Opiate detox may be necessary for people who are dependent or addicted. This can help people through what might otherwise be a very difficult and painful time. Withdrawal can be alleviated with some forms of opiate treatment, including rapid opiate detox.

Opiates are among the most well known drugs in the world. They have been in use for many years, but some have garnered a bad reputation in the last several years because of their associated risk for abuse and addiction. Opiates can be a safe and effective component of pain management, but they should always be used as directed.

Possible Opiate Side Effects

Opiates and opioids are known for being able to create intense feelings of euphoria, especially when abused. People who abuse these drugs often become addicted quickly. Opioids are also indicated for the treatment of opiate addiction. Drugs including Suboxone and methadone are used as part of a program called opiate replacement therapy. They are intended to "replace" more potent opioids, but there is still a risk for dependence and addiction.

Other possible opiate side effects include sedation, constipation, respiratory depression, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, dry mouth and itching. People who take opiates over a long period of time will likely become physically dependent. This means that abrupt discontinuation of the drug will be accompanied by opiate withdrawal. This can be dangerous, especially if the drug has been abused or taken in high dosages.

Risks Can Include Dependence, Drug Interactions And Problematic Breathing

Opiates are often used for pain relief, cough suppression and sometimes for the treatment of opiate addiction. Unfortunately, some people use these drugs for recreation. Misusing or abusing opiates in any way is dangerous and can lead to physical dependence, psychological dependence, addiction or overdose.

It's important to speak with your doctor about all medications and substances you are taking. If you regularly drink alcohol or have had issues with addiction, your doctor will need to know this. He or she may decide that opiate therapy is not for you.

Opiates depress the central nervous system and can affect breathing. These drugs should not be used in combination with other drugs that hamper respiration. This can cause a person to stop breathing. These substances include alcohol, other opiates, sedatives, hypnotics and tranquilizers.

Opiates Misuse

People who take opiates should do so in a responsible manner that is closely monitored by a physician. Many prescription painkillers belong in this class of drugs. People often find unparalleled relief from pain while taking opiates such as OxyContin and Vicodin. There are certain risks, however, that should be discussed with a doctor or pharmacist.

Unintentional deaths due to opiate overdose have exploded in the last several years. This has prompted health officials nationwide to address this growing concern and stress safe use. Recreational use, misuse of prescribed opiate meds or downright abuse can lead to overdose.

What Factors Contribute to Opiate Overdose?

Opiate overdose can occur in people who aren't sufficiently tolerant to opiates and take a dosage that's too high. These drugs depress the central nervous system and can cause breathing problems if misused. Another danger involves mixing opiates with other drugs or substances that are central nervous system depressants. This can lead to overdose quickly. Other substances that have this effect include alcohol, other opiates, sedatives, some sleeping medications, tranquilizers and drugs considered to be hypnotics.

Death during opiate withdrawal or detox is also a possibility. Patients are urged not to try and detox "cold turkey" or abruptly from opiates. This can be very dangerous. Patients should seek some type of treatment that provides close monitoring during the opiate withdrawal phase.

Opiate Withdrawal Can Be Dangerous if Not Supervised

Withdrawal from opiates can cause the swift onset of symptoms including:

  • Severe, flu-like symptoms
  • Chills
  • Excessive sweating
  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Extreme anxiety, agitation and/or depression
  • Tremors

Vomiting and diarrhea during drug withdrawal can lead to dehydration and unbalanced electrolytes. In serious cases, people can even suffer from seizures, coma or death. This is why inpatient opiate treatment is preferred by many addiction specialists and healthcare personnel.

Death During Relapse Is Another Possible Risk

Opiate relapse is a concern, especially for people who try to detox on their own. Cravings may be unbearable, leading to a return to use. A person who has gone through some type of detox or rehab will invariably experience a lowered tolerance to opiates. It's common for people who relapse to take a dosage that they once could tolerate but no longer can.

Safe use of opiates is so important and can be directed by a doctor or other healthcare specialist. Safety during detox and withdrawal is equally important because of risks. Patients should know that there is a safe way to restore their lives and health if they've become dependent upon opiates.

Signs of Opiate Use

People who are taking opiates in a manner not consistent with legitimate medical need may be suffering from opiate addiction. If you suspect that someone you love is taking opiates in an abusive manner, there are some signs to watch for. Opiates are extremely powerful and misuse or abuse can lead to serious problems such as addiction and overdose.

Many people take prescribed opiate painkillers because they are in need of pain relief. Others may take them because when misused, they can cause a sense of euphoria, a "rush" or a "high." Opiate abuse, addiction and overdose are escalating problems in this country and take an enormous toll on individuals, their health and our medical and legal communities.

Some of the more tell tale signs of opiate use are pinpoint pupils and nodding off. Knowing how to spot the signs of opiate withdrawal is important, because people going through it have become physically dependent. They may also be psychologically dependent.

Knowing What To Watch For

Other signs of opiate use to watch for include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Poor coordination
  • Changes in mood and behavior
  • Depression
  • Use of laxatives (opiate use often causes constipation)
  • Needle or "track" marks on the body (from injection)
  • Undesirable or questionable behavior

If you have a cause for concern, it is best not to ignore the problem. Opiate abuse and addiction can have fatal consequences. Talk to the person in question and offer support. Opiate addiction is very serious, but there is help that can effectively and safely remedy the problem quickly. This may include any number of opiate detox or rehab programs.

What Are Signs Of Opiate Withdrawal?

People who are physically dependent upon opiates may try to stop taking them abruptly. Some may run out of medication. Once withdrawal sets in, they tend to become very sick. It's important to watch for these signs also. They include:

  • Nausea, Vomiting, Cold Sweats
  • Severe Cravings
  • Agitation or hostility
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Signs of desperation

What Else Should You Be Looking For?

People who use or abuse opiates may be desperate to maintain their supply. At first, this can be because people want to continue experiencing opiate effects they find pleasurable. Once the condition progresses, they become desperate to avoid the ravages of withdrawal.

A person who is dependent upon opiates may also engage in any of the following activities to maintain an adequate supply:

  • Doctor shopping (going to multiple doctors for multiple supplies)
  • Making excuses for why they run out of medication early
  • Buying medication on the black market or on Internet websites
  • Faking illnesses or injuries to secure opiate medications

Diversion or theft from other users, pharmacies etc.