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Used to treat moderate to severe pain, opioids are a class of drugs synthesized from the opium poppy plant. Also known as narcotic drugs, opioids include illegal drugs, such as heroin and opium, and prescription painkillers, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine. Prescription opioid drugs may be prescribed for treating varying levels of acute pain associated with an injury, pain after a surgical procedure or painful coughing due to an illness, or to help patients manage chronic pain. Some types of opioid pain medications may be combined with drugs such as acetaminophen, an over-the-counter medication used to reduce fever and pain. Heroin, on the other hand, is an illegal drug that is purchased by users on the street as a brown or white powder, or black, tar-like substance. Heroin can be smoked, snorted or injected. Both heroin and prescription opioid painkillers are highly addictive drugs that can be dangerous when abused.

With the ability to affect regions in the brain associated with the reward system, opioids have the ability to generate euphoria and produce a sense of well-being in its users. Generally safe when taken for a shorter duration of time and as prescribed by the doctor, regular opioid use can lead to their dependence and when misused can lead to an overdose.

How do opioids work?

All opioid prescription drugs work by binding to opioid receptors that exist naturally in the brain, spinal cord and throughout the entire body. When opioid drugs bind to opioid receptors, the signals from the brain are dampened and help to reduce a person’s sensation of pain. Opioid drugs also produce euphoria and arousal by acting on the brain’s reward system. The brain’s reward system is also responsible for producing the initial “rush” of euphoria that occurs in intravenous heroin users.

Opioid drug abuse

People who abuse prescription opioid medications and illegal drugs such as heroin are at risk of serious health consequences, physical dependence, fatal drug overdoses, addiction and even death. Prescription opioid medications and heroin are addictive drugs that can quickly result in tolerance and physical dependence, and opioid users often increase their doses over time to achieve the desired effect of the drug. People who take increasingly higher doses of opioids greatly increase their risk of a drug overdose, which can be fatal.

People who abuse opioids, particularly those who are intravenous heroin users, may experience an initial “rush” followed by alternating states of drowsiness and wakefulness, known as “on the nod.” Following are some of the other side effects of opioid drug abuse.

  • Absence of pain (analgesia)
  • Sedation
  • Euphoria
  • Dry mouth
  • Reduced perception of pain
  • Feeling of heaviness in extremities
  • Drowsiness
  • Clouded thinking
  • Slowed breathing
  • Small pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Flushed skin
  • Constipation
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Poor judgment

Opioid Abuse: Health consequences

Over time, opioid drug abuse can contribute to a number of negative health effects. Intravenous heroin users are at a particularly high risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections such as hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Following are some of the other long-term effects of opioid drug abuse.

  • Depression
  • Increased pain sensitivity (hyperalgesia)
  • Tolerance
  • Physical dependence
  • Addiction
  • Collapsed veins
  • Clogged blood vessels
  • Infections of heart valves
  • Gastrointestinal cramping
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Lung damage
  • Hallucinations
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • Risk of choking
  • Pulmonary complications (e.g., pneumonia)
  • Spontaneous abortions
  • Abscesses
  • Coma
  • Compromised immune system
  • Fatal overdoses
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Death

Opioids are the most common drugs that lead to overdose. People who overdose due to opioids can experience suppressed breathing, hypoxia (lack of oxygen reaching the brain), coma, and permanent brain damage.

Opioid Abuse: Withdrawal symptoms

Opioid abuse can greatly increase the risk of becoming physically dependent on the drug and experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if the user reduces or stops using the opioids. People who develop a physical dependence on the drug are more likely to overdose and develop an addiction. For this reason, opiate detox centers should offer 24-hour medical monitoring and opioid detox treatment in addition to other evidence-based treatments for treating patients with opioid use disorders.

Patients in opiate rehab programs are generally weaned off, as the withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and even dangerous. Some withdrawal symptoms include sleep problems (e.g., insomnia), agitation, anxiety, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea and tremors. In addition to a medically-assisted detox program, withdrawal symptoms can be effectively managed by gradually reducing the drug quantity until the drug is no longer required.

Opioid addiction

Opioid addiction is also referred to as an opioid use disorder. Opioid use disorders are characterized by compulsive drug use, an uncontrollable urge to use the drug, and continuing to take the opioids despite negative consequences that result (e.g., legal, health, financial etc.).

Opioid misuse includes the misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers or the use of heroin. In 2016, an estimated 11.8 million people (aged 12 years or above) misused opioids in the past year, including 11.5 million pain reliever misusers and 948,000 heroin users. A serious national crisis, opioid overdose claims more than 90 American lives every day with additional social and economic consequences. Depending on the amount, frequency, and duration of drug abuse, a comprehensive treatment for opioid abuse combines medically-supervised detoxification treatment along with behavioral therapies and recovery management program.

Opioid addiction treatment

Sovereign Health of Arizona’s opioid addiction treatment program offers comprehensive and individualized treatment services to women with opioid use disorders. We also offer opioid treatment programs to women who suffer from mental illness and co-occurring disorders.

A leading women-only rehab, Sovereign Health of Arizona provides a comprehensive treatment for opioid abuse or addiction that combines evidence-based treatment programs such as neurofeedback, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Additionally, patients at our rehab centers are provided with experiential therapies including yoga, meditation, mindfulness-based therapies and equine therapy to help them identify and address any underlying issues that may contribute to the addiction and teach them effective coping skills to help them maintain their recovery post the treatment completion.

Why choose Sovereign Health?

Committed to providing all its patients with the highest quality clinical care in a safe, private and compassionate environment, Sovereign Health of Arizona utilizes the latest evidence-based treatment modalities to treat addiction-related disorders, mental health disorders and any other co-occurring disorders. A women-only rehab, we are committed to providing each of our female patients the best shot at recovery.

At Sovereign Health of Arizona’s opiate rehab centers, our team of licensed doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists utilize evidence-based treatment modalities to provide opiate addiction recovery. Basis an individual’s medical history, needs and symptoms, each of our clients is provided with an individualized treatment plan to provide our patients with comprehensive and long-lasting recovery.

For more information on our top-notch opioid treatment programs for women or to locate the finest opioid detox centers, near you, please call our admissions staff at our 24/7 helpline number. You can even chat online with our representatives for further assistance.

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