Understanding Opioid Addiction – Opioid Antagonists

Opioid addiction in the UK has been on the rise since the early arrival of cheap heroin from overseas back in the 80’s and 90’s. This problem is huge in America at the moment, with prescription painkiller abuse and medication addictions further spurned on by the pharmaceuticals industry drastically underestimating the extent of the level of addiction opium inspires.

Before we truly understood opioid medications we already had an addiction crisis. Before proper research was conducted, we were already dying from overdoses in the streets. Opioid addiction will most definitely kill you if you do not stop. Help4Addiction is here to help you stop. Call us now, on 0203 955 7700 to speak to a consultant for free advice, and don’t waste a single second longer.

Now that we have established that we are here to offer help and impartial advice; let’s delve in to the topic of opioid addiction and antagonists. We want to know what they are, how they work, and whether or not they are a good treatment option.

What is an Opioid?

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First of all, let’s officially classify an opioid. Opioids (sometimes known as narcotic drugs) include any medication or any drug that contains opium as a source of pain relief. Opium is highly addictive but it isn’t just heroin. Opioids could be prescription painkillers, street drugs, or worse. Some lesser known opioids that cause UK addictions are:

  • Morphine – this pain killer is effective but incredibly addictive. Visit this NHS page if you suspect you have a morphine addiction.
  • Oxycodone – Oxycodone addiction in the UK is treatable, Medical News Today have all the information you need on the signs and symptoms of oxycodone addiction.
  • Methadone – methadone addiction is similar to morphine addiction. It is a powerful analgesic drug that can be used as a replacement for stronger drugs – but that is also highly addictive… in the case of substituting methadone for heroin it is like weaning the abuser on to the lesser of two evil substances. Methadone is much less likely to kill you than heroin is.
  • Codeine – Codeine addiction is a massive problem in parts of the UK. Most commonly known as one of the main chemicals found in Tramadol. Tramadol addictions are also on the rise.

If you are struggling with any of these opioid addictions personally then get in touch. We can put you into contact with the correct resources to get you help.

What is an Opioid Antagonist?


Opioid addiction is a physical addiction because it changes the way our brains operate, if we let it go on for long enough. The brain has three main opioid receptors as a matter of course. Everyone has these, but they are only triggered by two things. One is naturally occurring neurons which trigger the release; the other is by external stimulation from opioids.

If you continue to use prescription medications which contain opiates your body will begin to tell you that it feels pain even when it does not. Opiates have the ability to take control of your body’s pain, rewards and addiction centres. This means that if these three receptors start to malfunction, they can make you feel physical pain until you get your next ‘fix’.

It is these opioid receptors in the brain that make heroin addiction so difficult to overcome. It is also these receptors that play a large part in the role of the opioid antagonist.

The opioid antagonist is a drug that acts as a blocker to your receptors. They will absolutely not allow your brain to receive any opiates, or to simulate the neurons which will fire these receptors. Instead, the opioid antagonist will counter the effects of any opiates that remain in your body and cause you to expel them.

The opioid antagonist your GP may prescribe can act on the receptors individually, or can act across the board. As much as this may seem like an attractive way to combat substance abuse in the UK – there are risks of making such drastic changes to body chemistry while in the throes of heroin addiction.

The Pros and Cons of Rapidly Reversing Opioid Addiction


While Opioid antagonists can rapidly reverse the effects of addiction, they are not always deemed safe to use. The shock they produce can be deadly, besides anything else.

Some of the pros of using an opioid antagonist include:

  • They can be long or short lasting.
  • They can bind in part, or to all of, the body’s receptors.
  • They can actively displace opiates, meaning the patient is effectively ‘cold turkey’.
  • They help correct the body’s natural neurological processes.

While some of the cons of using an opioid antagonist include:

  • They can cause huge amounts of shock to the system, particularly to those with heart conditions or who have been addicted to opioids for a long time.
  • They can make a patient incredibly sick.
  • The patient will start to feel physical pain as the drug leaves the system.
  • It is the equivalent of having every trace of a feel-good substance removed from your system, all at once. It is harsh, but sometimes a GP will deem it necessary for your recovery.

Do you get access to Opioid Antagonists on the NHS?


You can receive specialist addiction therapies, including opioid antagonist medications, through the NHS. You can learn more about this from your GP or from your local rehab centre. Antagonists may not be suitable for those with underlying health conditions, nor will they be deemed suitable for those who have been on opioids for prolonged periods of time. However, they do work for some patients.

Is An Opioid Antagonist right for you?


Is an Opioid antagonist an effective means of treating heroin and methadone addiction in the UK? Perhaps. Your doctor is best equipped to make this decision with you. The most important take away from today should be that you landed in our pages.

Help4Addiction are able to help you recover from substance abuse – with or without the opioid antagonists! Call us today, on 0203 955 7700 for some free advice, and to start your path to recovery!


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    Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

    The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

    Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

    • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
    • Lorazepam (Ativan)
    • Diazapam (vailium)

    Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

    There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

    • Naltrexone
    • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
    • Nalmefene
    • Acamprosate (campral)

    Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

    There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

    Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

    A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

    Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

    The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

    Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

    Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

    Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

    *based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

    There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

    If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

    If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

    Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

    How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

    There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

    Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

    There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

    Local treatment

    Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

    Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

    Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

    Treatment Away

    Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

    As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

    When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

    There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

    Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

    There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

    Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

    Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

    Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

    Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

    Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

    Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

    How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

    The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

    Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

    Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

    Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

    You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

    The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

    There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.