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Opioids, also referred to as narcotics, are pain-relieving substances. Prescription opioids are used mostly to treat moderate to severe pain, though some opioids can be used to treat coughing and diarrhea. Opioids are naturally found in the opium poppy plant and can be chemically created in laboratories or are directly derived from the organic plant. The American Society of Anesthesiologists explain that opioids are used by “people with chronic headaches and backaches, by patients recovering from surgery or experiencing severe pain associated with cancer, and by adults and children who have gotten hurt playing sports or who have been seriously injured in falls, auto accidents, or other incidents.” Opiates refer exclusively to the natural version of opioids. They are defined as “chemical compounds that are extracted or refined from natural plant matter (poppy sap and fibers) … [such as] opium, morphine, codeine, heroin…” Opiates are among the most addictive substances in the United States. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 0.5 million deaths are attributed to drug use, worldwide, and more than 70 percent of these deaths are related to opioids.

How They Work

Opiates are a drug class that is used to designate substances that function by binding to opioid receptors on cells located in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure. Different types of opiate substances can act as agonists (receptor activators) or antagonists (receptor blockers). Rather than allowing the body to naturally release endorphins, opiates create artificial endorphins, causing the user to initially experience feelings of euphoria. Over time, the brain will reduce its natural production of endorphins and begin to rely on opiates, which can strongly reinforce the act of taking the drug, making the user want to repeat the experience. When an individual uses illicit opiates, uses prescribed opiates in greater doses than recommended, mixes opiates with other drugs and/ or alcohol, or ingests opiates by way of a method other than intended (e.g., crushes pills and snorts them) he or she raises the risk of overdose and developing other medical complications. Further, excessive abuse of opioids can lead to changes in how one’s brain functions.

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com.

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