Opiates are part of the opioid class of drugs. While the terms opioid and opiate are now often used interchangeably, “opiates” has traditionally described drugs that are derived from opium poppies, while “opioids” are man-made or synthetic drugs. All of these substances are also known as “narcotic painkillers.” Some commonly prescribed opioids/opiates include hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Vicodin, morphine, and codeine. Heroin is also an opiate, but unlike painkillers, it is an illegal drug. Opiates effect how the brain interprets pain.
Opiate use interrupts the body’s natural methods of recognizing, reducing, and coping with physical pain. Ongoing use of opioids decreases and eventually stops these natural processes.
A person who first uses opiates may feel temporarily relaxed or free from pain. The brain is quick to catch on to what is happening and it will eventually stop producing natural painkillers of its own. As the production of natural endorphins in the brain slows, higher doses of opiates are required to keep the user from experiencing painful symptoms of withdrawal.
In many cases, opiate addiction is fueled by the fear of severe withdrawal symptoms that could begin as soon as the person stops using opiates. Overcoming opiate cravings and recovering from this intense opiate dependence can be a difficult process. The good news is that there are ways to help fight cravings and live a normal, healthy life.
Is Methadone a Good Option?
Some people become so dependent on these drugs that the very idea of having to quit creates a great deal of anxiety. Others may try to recover from these drugs and find themselves in a cycle of relapse. Medications like methadone and suboxone can help some people. Methadone is used with some treatment programs to lessen the symptoms of withdrawal and also to block the effects of opiate drugs
Everyone is different and there is a debate in the recovery community: Is using methadone simply substituting one addiction for another? The answers vary, but the important thing to know is that addiction recovery is not always one-size-fits-all. It is important to discuss your options with a trusted medical provider or licensed rehab program.
Establishing a Healthy Environment to Overcome Opiate Cravings
One way a recovering opiate user can overcome and potentially eliminate opiate cravings is to live in a positive environment that supports sober living. Returning to a home where others may enable addiction behavior, or have prescription painkillers or alcohol readily available is dangerous for a recovering opiate user and can ultimately lead to relapse.
If you design your environment to make the default choice a better one, then it’s more likely that you’ll make a good choice now and have more willpower for other challenging times.1 It is also important for a recovering opiate user to maintain positive relationships with family members and friends. If there are strained relationships, the family troubles and stress that results can intensify cravings to use opiates. Family therapy can help. Treatment programs like the one at Michael’s House offer family weekends, family counseling, and family education to help bring every family member to wellness.
Surrounding yourself with a strong support system of healthy family, friends, or recovery group can give you something to turn to other than opiates when cravings arise or life becomes difficult.
Support Groups Help Users Overcome Opiate Cravings
Support groups are a big part of recovery. Structured groups are offered in many treatment programs. Group therapy at Michael’s House offers supportive education and time to discuss new skills, build new connections, and find better ways to recovery.
Groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are an excellent resource for any person in recovery. At a support group, you can surround yourself with people who understand, first-hand, how difficult (and rewarding) this journey can be. Support groups meet on a regular basis so that strong, personal relationships can be formed. Support groups are more than just therapy: they offer a new place to meet friends, a space to share your journey, and a variety of new activities to enrich your life.
In many cases, a sponsor can be found through a support group. A sponsor is someone in recovery who provides personal accountability and support to an individual in recovery. If you experience cravings or fears that relapse may occur, your sponsor is available to help guide you through the craving.
Opiate Addiction Treatment and Recovery Help
Opiate addiction is impossible to overcome without treatment. If you are ready to take back control of your life, we are here to help you take the first step. You owe it to yourself to begin a better life today. Call 760-548-4032 today.
By Kathryn Millán, LPC/MHSP, Contributing Writer
1 Clear, J. How To Stick with Good Habits When Willpower is Gone. Psychology Today. 2014.