If a loved one is addicted to opiates, you obviously want to help them quit the drug. But to help the person do so, you first need to understand how addiction works.
What is Addiction?
The foremost thing you should understand is – Addiction is NOT a choice, it’s a disease. Initially, a person takes drugs to experience a high but with repeated use, their brain and body develop a necessity for the drug, in order to feel normal again.
The cycle of addiction begins with the first use. Opiates, like heroin, morphine, or codeine create a sense of euphoria. People want to continue feeling good and go back for more. Over time and with repetition, the brain adapts and now needs the drug to feel normal. Meanwhile, the body begins to deteriorate. The time, it takes to become addicted, varies from person to person.
A person is dependent on the drug when they miss a dose and experience withdrawal symptoms. With time, the person needs more of the drug to feel the same effects. This is tolerance – another brain adaptation.
To tell if your loved one is addicted or dependent, consider the following questions.
- Are the person’s responsibilities at risk due to opiate use?
- Does the person crave opiates?
- Does the person end up in dangerous situations due of opiate use?
- Does the person spend a great deal of time thinking about, obtaining, or using drugs?
- Has your loved one continued using opiates despite work, health, or relationship problems?
- Has the person ever tried to quit but failed?
If the answer to any of these questions is a ‘yes’, addiction may be present.
Most addicts deny addiction and fear quitting because –
- they fear withdrawal
- they are scared of dealing with pain
Opiates are the most addictive drugs known and most addicts began taking opiates to combat chronic pain.
The first step is to seek medical help. Without professional help of a reputable treatment program, it may be difficult to detox and achieve long-term sobriety.
To talk to your loved one, about seeking professional help, here are some critical things to consider –
- get some advice before you begin
- plan communication in advance
- prepare as if anything can happen
- provide a solution for recovery
- follow through
Medical detox is the first step in treatment. During detox, opiates leave the body.
While unpleasant withdrawal symptoms may occur but they can be treated as they occur. In fact, doctors can manage the withdrawal symptoms with medications and psychological support.
Treatment begins with assessment of the extent of addiction, the overall health condition and history of addictive behavior. The addiction professional will then create an individualized treatment plan ideal for the person’s needs.
The treatment of opiate addiction may include pain relief without the use of opiates, psychotherapy, counseling and life skills training.