Understanding Opioid Addiction – Opioid Antagonists

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Get help for an opioid addiction at a rehab clinic near you.

Opioid addiction will kill you if you don’t seek treatment. You will keep taking more and more to get the same high, and you will eventually overdose. If you don’t get help, it will be the end of you.

Those who have developed an addiction and are desperate for help to stop can contact us straight away. Schedule a free opioid addiction consultation at the top of the page or give us a call. Those who haven’t committed to quitting yet can learn all there is to know about treatments for the disease, right here on our pages.

What is Opioid Addiction?

An opioid addiction is usually caused by the prescription of pain medications to treat an injury. Opioids[i] include things like tramadol[ii] and codeine, which are freely prescribed here in the UK for exactly this purpose. If you take those pain meds, recover, and still take those pain meds, then you are abusing the drug and are at risk of addiction.

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

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What are some types of Opioids?

An opioid drug is any kind of drug that is derived from opium. Opium comes from the poppy plant and used to be called ‘milk of the poppy’. As for illicit drugs, heroin is the only real opiate asides from opium itself. However, there are plenty of opioid painkillers out there in circulation.

Some of the best known opioids include:

Street Names of Opioid Drugs

You might not recognise their real names, so let’s cover the street names of opioids, too.

Some street names of opioids include:

How are they used?

The way your opioid is taken depends on what you are using. Heroin would be injected or smoked, while most painkiller types will be taken orally. Some may grind pills up and snort them, and morphine is another intravenous drug. Methadone usually comes in liquid form, and you would drink it.

Why are they addictive?

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 can take control of your body’s pain, rewards, and addiction centres[iv]. 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.

What do Opioids Do to you?

Usually, an opioid will take away your pain but as you become more addicted, those receptors have the power to tell you that it still hurts. This means that you might think you are in pain for long after your wounds have healed.

Opioids induce a state of euphoric calm that usually leave the user sleepy. They trigger the reward response resulting in a release of endorphins. The feeling is temporary and yet reassuring, even pleasurable when you consider the neurotransmitters are confused enough to ignore your pain[v].

Symptoms of an Opioid Addiction

If you, your husband, your wife, your son, your daughter, or any friends are in the throes of an opioid addiction, these are the symptoms you should look out for:

If you see any of these signs in your loved one then seek help, they may have an opioid addiction. While they are under the influence, they are at risk of blood clots, respiratory collapse, and any number of other health problems which follow on from long term and short term opioid use[vi].

What causes someone to become an opioid addict?

Addictions are formed by a variety of factors. You could have had an addict as a parent, have been born addicted to drugs, or simply be genetically more likely to use. You could come from a poor area, where everyone else uses heroin and you have easy access to it. You could have gone through traumatic life events – the list is endless.

But the main reason people use opioids lies in pain medication. We get addicted because we were hurt, and the drugs made us feel better.

Opioid Addiction Treatment Options

If you want to go to detox and rehab for opioid addiction, your treatment will look something like this…

Can I Detox from Opioids at home?

Absolutely not… and you shouldn’t try to do it alone. If you want to quit opioids you should talk to your doctor or call us. We can help you get the help you need.

Quitting heroin all at once can kill you. Don’t try it. If you have been using opioid painkillers for a prolonged period, quitting cold turkey could have the same effect. Don’t take that risk. Detox as an inpatient, its far safer.

Drugs used in Opioid Detox

Methadone is used to wean a heroin user off the drug. Although nothing is as addictive as heroin is, methadone can be stepped down at safe levels until you recover. Buprenorphine[vii] or naltrexone might be used to reverse the effects of the heroin or opioids used, but more likely you will be prescribed antianxiety medications and perhaps Valium to help you sleep.

What Happens in Rehab for an Opioid Addiction?

When you are in rehab, the clinical staff will use multiple techniques to help you recover mentally from your ordeal of opioid addiction. They may use a 12 step based therapy program, introduce you to a group of your peers, or recommend that you engage in psychotherapy sessions.

Commonly, addiction recovery centres use CBT, DBT, and motivational interviewing techniques to engage in relapse prevention. While you are in rehab, you will not be locked in, and you can leave if you want to. You will be given access to facilities on site that will entertain you, such as a tv, common room, or games room.

Rehab isn’t scary. They don’t lock you in and you aren’t forced to mingle if you don’t want to. It’s not like what you see in American movies, so try to remain calm.

What Happens when I leave Rehab?

When you leave your rehab clinic, they should offer your further assistance to help you get back to normal. This usually includes online therapy sessions, group meetings, or telephone support for roughly 6 months after you leave. Different rehab clinics have different secondary treatment programs, so be sure to ask when you select a rehab clinic.

Emergency Opioid Treatments

If you do have an overdose and you rush to the hospital for treatment, the doctors are likely to consider using opioid antagonists to reverse the overdose and save your life. They may also stop your heart and kill you, so again, this is a medical judgement.

Opioid Antagonists

The opioid antagonist is a drug that acts as a blocker to your receptors[viii]. They will 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. Naloxone is the most used antagonist[ix].

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:

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

How Much Does Opioid Rehab Cost?

Opioid rehab will cost the same as other addiction treatments in the UK. This starts at £1,400 for an NHS assisted program and works its way up in price from there. Private rehab clinics cost more and a luxury service will be even more expensive.

Try not to dwell on the costs of rehab and think of it as an investment in your future. You may be able to sort out a payment plan with a rehab clinic.

Opioid Addiction Treatment Timeline

It takes longer to come off opioids than it does any other drug. They need to be tapered off in a medically controlled manner. This means a medically assisted detox is your only option. If you are in private detox/rehab to do this, it will take a few weeks. If you are being seen on the NHS, it may take months or even years before you are admitted[x].

Once you have been cleaned of the drug, you will have to go through the rehab process to stop you relapsing in future. This can take anything up to 28 days. If you are detoxing from painkillers, it won’t take as long as it will with heroin. The timeline for painkiller addiction treatment is closer to one week of detox and three weeks of rehab.

Free Consultation on Opioid Addiction

We offer free, no-obligation consultations that can help you get to grips with opioid use. Contact us for your free consultation and we will talk you through all your options. There’s no risk of being whisked away to a rehab clinic, don’t worry! We just want to talk.

Get Help for your Addiction

You can get help to track down a rehab clinic or detox centre near you throughout England and Wales if you contact our team today. We are experts in matching people to the right rehab clinic for them, to help them recover from drink or drug addictions. If you think you have an opioid addiction, contact 0203 955 7700 today to have a helpful, impartial, and friendly chat about drug use. It might be the best thing you ever do.

Frequently asked questions

No, although possession of opiate medication without a prescription for it, is illegal in the UK. Heroin use is illegal, and heroin is derived from opiates.
There are a few, all of them are related to morphine – which is made from opium. Tramadol is perhaps the best known in the UK, but oxycontin, codeine, and fentanyl are others.
Absolutely, heroin overdose is a huge problem among users. They will take more and more to recreate their first high.

If someone you love has an opiate addiction, it probably started as painkillers prescribed by a doctor. Opiates dull pain and make you not care about your problems. Both altered states are highly desirable in the modern world.

Rehab for an opioid addiction takes a long time but, if you keep at it, it ought to work.

You can contact us to get referred to a rehab clinic. There, they will put you through detox my de-escalating your addiction. This means replacing your heroin with less-addictive substances until you are recovered. Typical substances used include Ketamine and methadone.

If your loved one is trying to get codeine or morphine from multiple doctors, or is getting cranky without their pain medication, they might have an addiction. If they are using it without a doctor’s approval, they have an addiction.
Look out for unexplained needles, changes in sleep, severe weight loss, even flu-like symptoms. A reluctance to go away from the hometown for more than a few hours at a time is also a good sign. Drug addicts don’t like to go on holiday.
You can stage an intervention for all types of addiction. If you need more help on how to stage one that is safe and effective, read more in our pages.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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