Opioids are abused worldwide and carry some of the highest risks of addiction and overdose. Once an addiction has developed it can be exceedingly difficult to overcome without help, as detox and withdrawal from these substances can be extremely painful. If you are concerned about someone you know, then it’s important to speak in confidence to one of our admissions staff, who will assess the extent of your problem, and make recommendations for treatment.

The Difference Between Opioids and Opiates

Opioids and opiates exist in different forms from illicit, to prescription, to over the counter. This class of drugs produces intense feelings of euphoria. It affects the central nervous system classifying them as psychoactive, meaning mind-altering. Opioids trigger endorphins which help numb pain and increase pleasure, which is why they are commonly prescribed to assist in pain relief. Opioids and opiates are terms often used interchangeably. The term opioid was originally used to differentiate synthetic opiates from pure opiates. Opioid is now the umbrella term used to define the type of drug that includes any opiate-based drug.

Opiates are a classification of drugs derived from the opium plant, a chemical that naturally occurs in poppy seeds and other plants. Opiates can be pure, synthetic and/or semi-synthetic. Examples of naturally occurring opiates include heroin or opium, which have been used for centuries as pain relievers. A well-known synthetic, or man-made opioid, is methadone. All types of opiates have a high risk for addiction, particularly if used over a prolonged period of time, this includes prescription medication. 

Prescription to Addiction

Opioid addiction often begins after a prescription. Prescription opioids are generally safe when taken as prescribed by a health care professional such as your GP or psychiatrist. Unfortunately, opioids always carry potential risks of addiction, even when taken as prescribed. You may have been prescribed a specified dose by your doctor, often with no intention of abusing the medication. Over a period of time, it’s highly likely that the drug was no longer as effective. By this stage, your body would have built up a tolerance to the drug and this is one of the first signs to look out for.

Dependence occurs due to chemical changes in the brain after prolonged use. In order to achieve the initial feelings of euphoria and pain relief you once experienced you would need to take a higher dose than recommended. Physical dependence may be imminent, causing you to experience withdrawal symptoms if use is suddenly stopped or reduced. If left unchecked, an opioid dependency can quickly turn into a full-blown addiction. Many people turn to cheaper and more easily accessible options such as heroin.

Initial Signs Of Opioid Use

Recognising opioid use in someone else could be lifesaving. At first, signs of use are mainly physical. Some of the most obvious indicators include:

  • Lightheadedness 
  • Lack of coordination 
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Constricted pupils

Signs Of Opioid Addiction

Addiction is far more serious than a strong desire to use drugs. Addiction is a neurological disease that feels inescapable to the person suffering. An individual struggling with a substance abuse disorder will often have a desire to quit but feels unable to do so on their own. As seriously addictive drugs, if a person is abusing or misusing opioids, there are sure to be signs. Someone suffering from an opioid addiction often prioritises their drug of choice over everything else. An individual’s drug-seeking behaviour might scale completely out of control, compromising their physical and mental health. 

There are a number of visible signs to look out for if you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction. You might begin to see changes in these areas of their life:  

  • Physically
  • Financially
  • Professionally
  • Legally
  • Socially
  • Interpersonally/relationally

Behavioural signs to be aware of, include: 

  • Using a friend or family member’s medication
  • Visiting various doctors 
  • Borrowing or stealing money
  • Selling valuables for money
  • Risk-taking 
  • Decreased interest in hobbies or activities they once loved and participated in
  • Deception/lying
  • Violence/aggression
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Regular intake of opioids

The Dangers Of An Opioid Addiction

As with any drug, prolonged or excessive use is dangerous. Whilst there may be a feeling of invincibility when taking these drugs, permanent damage can be done physically and psychologically. The more severe symptoms and side effects of opioid addiction include:

  • Low blood pressure 
  • Loss of appetite which could lead to malnutrition 
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slowed heartbeat 
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Coma
  • Impotence
  • Dental issues
  • Brain damage
  • Blood infections

The only way you can fully overcome the grips of an addiction to opioids is by seeking treatment, most likely at an inpatient rehabilitation facility or clinic.

How is Opioid Addiction Treated?

Addiction treatment is available on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Your decision will ultimately be based upon your individual needs and circumstances. While residential rehab is considered to be the most effective form of treatment for opioid addiction, clinics like CATCH Recovery offer exceptional outpatient addiction treatment. 

Effective treatment for any addiction consists of a medical detox where necessary. Withdrawal can be extremely agonising, so a medically supervised detox is always recommended where opioids are concerned. Detox should then be followed by an intensive course of therapy. 

While detox is an important part of overcoming physical dependency, treating the psychological aspects of addiction will provide you with the tools you need to maintain long-term sobriety. Psychological dependence is the term used to describe the emotional and mental components of substance use disorder. This is usually characterised by strong cravings for a particular substance or behaviour and the inability to function without it. 

CATCH Recovery uses evidence-based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), grief and trauma therapy, one-to-one counselling sessions, group therapy and online therapy. We also teach relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation which can help with managing stressful situations, in addition to withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia. 

 Whether it’s residential rehab or intensive outpatient therapy, finishing a programme can also feel daunting. You may feel overwhelmed without the structure and safety you’ve become accustomed to. With this in mind, we have created an exceptional aftercare programme designed to prevent relapse and help you deal with the stressors of everyday life. 

Help for Opioid Addiction in the South East

If you’re suffering from opioid addiction or are concerned about a loved one, get in touch with CATCH Recovery to find out how we can help you begin your journey to sobriety. 

You can call our admissions team for your free addiction assessment, and they will be able to advise you on the next steps. 

Our clinic is based in South West London, which is accessible from anywhere in the UK. However, if you need additional support but don’t live in the South East of England, you may benefit from some of the outpatient services we offer. If you require residential rehab and are unable to travel to London, we also provide referrals to rehabs in other areas in the UK and Ireland.