What is Opiate Dependence?

Understanding how the body handles pain.

The brain produces endorphins that have an important role in the relief or modulation of pain. Sometimes, though, particularly when pain is severe, the brain does not produce enough endorphins to provide pain relief. Fortunately, opiates, such as morphine are very powerful pain relieving medications. When used properly under the care of a physician, opiates can relieve severe pain but still can cause dependency.

Feelings of pain are produced when specialized nerves are activated in a part of the body that has experienced trauma, either through injury or illness. These specialized nerves, which are located throughout the body, carry the pain message to the spinal cord. After reaching the spinal cord, the message is relayed to other neurons, some of which carry it to the brain. Opiates help to relieve pain by acting in both the spinal cord and brain. At the level of the spinal cord, opiates interfere with the transmission of the pain messages between neurons and therefore, prevent them from reaching the brain. This blockade of pain messages protects a person from experiencing too much pain. This is known as analgesia.

Opiates also act in the brain to help relieve pain, but the way in which they accomplish this is different than in the spinal cord.

There are several areas in the brain that are involved in interpreting pain messages and in subjective responses to pain. These brain regions are what allow a person to know he or she is experiencing pain, and that it is unpleasant. Opiates also act in these brain regions, but they don’t block the pain messages themselves. Rather, they change the subjective experience of the pain. This is why a person receiving morphine for pain may say that they still feel the pain, but that it doesn’t bother them anymore.

Although endorphins are not always adequate to relieve pain, they are very important for survival. If an animal or person is injured and needs to escape a harmful situation, it would be difficult to do so while experiencing severe pain. However, endorphins that are released immediately following an injury can provide enough pain relief to allow escape from a harmful situation. Later, when it is safe, the endorphin levels decrease and intense pain may be felt. This also is important for survival. If the endorphins continued to blunt the pain, it would be easy to ignore an injury and then not seek medical care.

 

What is Opiate Dependence? The Introduction of External Opiates to the Body.

When opiates are prescribed by a physician for the treatment of pain and are taken in the prescribed dosage, they are safe and there is little chance of opiate addiction. However, when opiates are abused and taken in excessive doses, addiction can result.

Findings from animal research indicate that, like cocaine and other abused drugs, opiates can also activate the brain’s reward system. When a person injects, sniffs, or orally ingests heroin (or morphine), the drug travels quickly to the brain through the bloodstream. Once in the brain, the heroin is rapidly converted to morphine, which then activates opiate receptors located throughout the brain, including the reward system.

(Note: Because of its chemical structure, heroin penetrates the brain more quickly than other opiates, which is probably why many addicts prefer heroin.)

Within the reward system, the morphine activates opiate receptors in the VTA (Ventral Tegmental Area), Nucleus Accumbens, and Cerebral Cortex. Research suggests that stimulation of opiate receptors by morphine results in feelings of reward and activates the pleasure circuit by causing greater amounts of dopamine to be released within the nucleus accumbens. This causes an intense euphoria, or “rush,” that lasts only briefly and is followed by a few hours of a relaxed, contented state. This excessive release of dopamine and stimulation of the reward system can lead to dependency.

Opiates also act directly on the respiratory center in the brainstem, where they cause a slowdown in activity. This results in a decrease in breathing rate. Excessive amounts of an opiate, like heroin, can cause the respiratory centers to shut down breathing altogether. When someone overdoses on heroin, it is the action of heroin in the brainstem respiratory centers that can cause the person to stop breathing and die.

There are several types of opiate receptors, including the delta, mu, and kappa receptors. Each of these three receptors is involved in controlling different brain functions. For example, opiates and endorphins are able to block pain signals by binding to the mu receptor site. The powerful new technology of cloning has enabled scientists to copy the genes that make each of these receptors. This in turn is allowing researchers to conduct laboratory studies to better understand how opiates act in the brain and, more specifically, how opiates interact with each opiate receptor to produce their effects. This information may eventually lead to more effective (less addictive) treatments for pain.

If you or someone you know is dependent on opiates, please contact us for more information on how to get them off of opiates safely so that they can get back to living a meaningful life. If you’re not sure if someone you love is displaying dependency behaviors, please visit our lifestyle of an addict page for further information.

The Life of an Addict

If you’ve read on this site about what a dependency is, then you know that a dependency on opiates can sometimes spiral out of the control of the dependent. Long term use of opiates causes an individual’s body to lose the ability to produce natural painkillers; what we know as endorphins. When this happens, addicts will experience more pain than the average human being, and will in turn require more external opiates to mask the pain. The longer this cycle continues on, the more dire the situation can become. The lack of vial treatment alternatives will lead the patient into a new reality where the search for “medication” to coup with the dependency will bring to profound negative changes on the social, psychologic and even medical aspects of the dependent’s life.

According to addictions.com – a National Institute on Drug Abuse resource – these some of the typical behaviors exhibited by an opiate addict:

  • Track marks or needle marks – these come from shooting heroin or other opiates intravenously
  • Lethargic or heavy limbs –heroin and other opiates can make the limbs seem heavy and long
  • Wearing long sleeves – many users will wear pants or long sleeves to cover up their needle marks
  • Hanging out with different groups – many opiate users will choose other groups to hang around that also do drugs rather than spend time with their previous friends who did not use opiates
  • Borrowing money without explanation – many users will borrow excessive amounts of money without any explanation why
  • Lack of appearances – many opiate users will lack on their appearance and not take care of themselves
  • Excessive sleeping – opiates will often cause drowsiness that can lead to excessive sleeping
  • Weight gain – because opiates lead to fatigue many people who become addicted will gain weight
  • Weight loss – because of the excessive sleep and lack of self-help, many opiate addiction will lose weight

There are several other signs that allow us to realize that a person is trapped on a dependency situation.

We must know that once the dependency is established, usually the patient will not seek for help from his immediate surroundings because they don’t expect any effective help from anyone. For that reason, they will be force to hide the problem, lie about it and gradually they feel more comfortable by being in the company of others who are living under the same situation witch will lead them into a situation where they have to learn how to become somebody else.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of the behaviors described above, it’s important to seek help. Dr. Waismann handles all levels of opiate addictions – and the ANR treatment is designed to help addicts, both short term and long term, to successfully remove their dependency on opiates, and allow patients to return to their lives freed from the dependency.

A common concern of addicts, and their loved ones are the side-effects of withdrawal when the presence of external opiates is removed from the body. If you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms described below – it is once again important that you seek help. The ANR method is designed to see that in time, dependents are, more often than not, successfully returned to their pre-addiction cognitive function. Treatment for addiction under the ANR method reduces the intensity of the following side-effects and the cravings to nearly zero, making the success rate higher than most other rehabilitation treatments.

  • Cravings to use the drugs
  • Nausea
  • Cramping in the stomach
  • Sweating
  • Chills or goose bumps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritation or agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Shakes or trembling
  • Insomnia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Bone pain

Some or all of the above symptoms may be intensified or alleviated depending on the severity of the opiate addiction and the length of time the dependent has been addicted. In rare cases, the symptoms can be so dangerous as to become life-threatening. If you or someone you know is experiencing intense side-effects caused by opiate withdrawal, please seek immediate medical attention.

For more information on the life of an addict or about the ANR Method, and how this treatment is able to bring addicts down from their addictions without the painful side-effects of withdrawal, please visit our ANR Treatment Overview page, or contact us through this website.

Below are some tips for getting someone you love to seek treatment for opiate addiction:

  • Provide support and loving care.  Support not mean supporting the “habit.”  Support means being honest with them, helping them to realize that there are answers to their problem. Let them know that you love them and you want to get them the best help you can. If possible, offer to help them with the cost of their treatment – but if nothing else, promise them that you will be by their side.
  • Provide meaningful answers.  Read the contents on our site. Help them to understand what’s happening in their bodies, and let them know that’s it okay – addiction or the dependency, is more powerful than one person can overcome on their own.  If you have additional questions that you need help answering, contact us for more information.

Painkiller Addiction

What does it mean?

You suffer an injury in a car accident, or have a simple slip and fall, or lift a box awkwardly at work, or strain a muscle while playing golf, or tennis or working out at the gym. Perhaps, you’re recovering from surgery, cancer treatment or severe arthritis.

In any case, your physician is likely to prescribe a painkiller to help you manage the discomfort. Yet weeks or months later – long after the initial injury may have healed – you’re still taking Vicodin®, Percocet®, OxyContin®; or other opioid painkillers. In fact, with the pain and discomfort becoming more frequent, you’re taking an alarmingly higher dosage than you were in the beginning.

Unfortunately, the very drug that was supposed to help you is now hurting you. The pain from the injury or the fear of medical treatment has been compounded by the painful discomfort of withdrawal. Rather than easing your pain, you are experiencing intensified pain levels. Patients suffering at pain levels of two or three often jump to pain levels of eight or nine after one year of painkiller usage.

This scenario is increasingly common. Today, approximately 65% of our patients suffer from a dependency to painkillers, whereas in years past dependencies to heroin were the most common.

Pain Management Traps

Research indicates that every year nearly two million Americans use prescription opioid painkillers, and in some communities, abuse of prescription painkillers has overtaken cocaine and marijuana use. The 2002 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) showed that approximately 9% of the U.S. population has used pain relievers illegally in their lifetime. An estimated 1.6 million Americans used prescription-type pain relievers non-medically for the first time in 1998. This represents a significant increase since the 1980s, when there were generally fewer than 500,000 new users per year.

Among youths aged 12-17, the incidence rate increased from 6.3 per 1,000 potential new users in 1990 to 32.4 per 1,000 potential new users in 1998. For young adults age 18-25, there was also an increase in the rate of first use between 1990 and 1998 (from 7.7 to 20.3 per 1,000 potential new users).

Advanced Treatment for Opiate Dependency

In response to these challenges, the Dr. Waismann ANR Method offers patients a highly successful procedure for the treatment of opiate addiction and painkiller addiction. Not only does this procedure reverse opiate dependency, but it also eliminates the cravings that often accompany traditional detoxification treatments. The Dr.Waismann ANR Method has been clinically proven to be effective for a wide range of opiates, including OxyContin®, Suboxone, Methadone, Codeine, Darvocet, Percocet®, Dilaudid®, Heroin, Hydrocodone, LAAM, Lorcet®, Lortab®, MS Contin®, Norco®, Percodan®, Stadol®, Tramadol, Vicodin®, Zydone®, amongst others.

For a full list of opiates, and their explanations – please visit our Opiates A-Z page.

Types of Opiates A-Z

  • Codeine

    Codeine is a prescription medication which relieves mild to moderate pain. It was originally discovered as a naturally occurring constituent of opium. However, today’s pharmaceutical-grade codeine is produced by methylating morphine. Codeine comes alone or combined with another painkiller such as Tylenol® (acetaminophen). It is formulated into tablets, capsules or liquid to be taken orally. Codeine and codeine-combo preparations are usually taken every 4-6 hours. Since codeine can be habit forming, care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed.

  • Darvocet

    Darvocet is a combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and propoxyphene designed to relieve mild to moderate pain. Propoxyphene binds to the pain receptors in the brain so that the sensation of pain is reduced. Acetaminophen halts the production of prostaglandins which otherwise cause pain. It is formulated as a tablet taken every 4 hours by mouth. Since propoxyphene can be habit forming, care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking Darvocet. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed.

  • Dilaudid®

    Dilaudid® is a preparation of hydromorphone, a very potent painkiller. Hydromorphone inhibits the ascending pain pathways in the central nervous system, increases the pain threshold and alters pain perception. Dilaudid® is formulated as oral tablets and liquid, rectal suppository, intra-muscular (buttock or hip muscle) injection, and intravenous (I.V.) solution. Dosing is every 4-6 hours for the oral forms and every 6-8 hours for the suppository. An I.V. drip allows for continuous administration and around-the-clock pain relief. Since hydromorphone can be habit forming, care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking Dilaudid®. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed.

  • Heroin

    Heroin is a highly addictive drug, and its use is a serious problem in the United States. Recent studies suggest a shift from injecting heroin to snorting or smoking because of the increased purity and the misconception that these behaviors will not lead to dependency.

    Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder. Street names for heroin include “smack,” “H,” “skag,” and “junk.” Other names may refer to types of heroin produced in a specific geographical area, such as “Mexican black tar.”

    Heroin Health Hazards

    Heroin abuse is associated with serious health conditions, including fatal overdose, spontaneous abortion, collapsed veins, and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

    The short-term effects of heroin abuse appear shortly after a single dose and disappear in a few hours. After a heroin injection, the user reports feeling a surge of euphoria (“rush”) accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth, and heaviness in the extremities. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod,” a state of alternating wakefulness and drowsiness. Heroin depresses the central nervous system which clouds the user’s mental functioning.

    Long-term effects of heroin appear after repeated use. Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses (pus-filled pocket inside inflamed, infected tissue), cellulitis (a bacterial infection of the skin), and liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health condition of the abuser, as well as from heroin’s depressing effects on respiration.

    Additionally, street heroin may contain additives that do not readily dissolve thereby clogging the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. This can cause infection or even death of small patches of cells in vital organs.

    Reports from SAMHSA’s 1995 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which collects data on drug-related hospital emergency room episodes and drug-related deaths from 21 metropolitan areas, rank heroin as the second highest drug involved in drug-related deaths. From 1990 to 1995, the number of heroin-related episodes doubled. Between 1994 and 1995, there was a 19 percent increase in heroin-related emergency department episodes.

  • Hydrocodone

    Hydrocodone is an effective antitussive (anti-cough) agent, and as an opiate it is also an effective analgesic for mild to moderate pain control. Five mg of hydrocodone is equivalent to 30 mg of codeine when administered orally. Early comparisons concluded that hydrocodone and morphine were equipotent for pain control in humans. However, it is now considered that a dose of 15 mg (1/4 gr) of hydrocodone is equivalent to 10 mg (1/6 gr) of morphine. Hydrocodone is considered to be morphine-like in all respects.

    Sales and production of this drug have increased significantly in recent years (a four-fold increase between 1990 and 2000), as have diversion and illicit use. Trade names include Anexsia®, Hycodan®, Hycomine®, Lorcet®, Lortab®, Tussionex®, Tylox®, Vicodin®, and Vicoprofen®. These are available as tablets, capsules, and/or syrups. Generally; this drug is abused by oral rather than intravenous administration. Currently, about 20 tons of hydrocodone products are used annually in the United States.

  • LAAM

    Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride, also known as Levo-alpha-acetylmethadol (LAAM), or Levacetylmethadol (LAM) is an oral narcotic analgesic used to treat opiate dependencies. Similar to methadone, it is a synthetic opiate used as a replacement therapy for illegal heroin use. It does not cure heroin dependency, but it does help prevent withdrawal symptoms when the patient stops using heroin. As a maintenance drug, LAAM binds to pain receptors in the brain which may decrease the patient’s cravings for other street drugs and reduce withdrawal symptoms. LAAM is marketed under the brand name ORLAAM® and is only available in government-approved drug treatment clinics. Unlike methadone, LAAM does not need to be taken every day.

  • Lorcet® Addiction

    Lorcet® is the brand name for the combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and hydrocodone. Lorcet® is prescribed for moderate to moderately severe pain. Hydrocodone binds to the pain receptors in the brain so that the sensation of pain is reduced. Acetaminophen halts the production of prostaglandins which otherwise cause pain. Lorcet® is available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form and is taken every 4-6 hours by mouth. Since hydrocodone can be habit forming, care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking Lorcet®. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed.

  • Lortab®

    Lortab® is the brand name for the combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and hydrocodone. Lortab® is prescribed for moderate to moderately severe pain. Hydrocodone binds to the pain receptors in the brain so that the sensation of pain is reduced. Acetaminophen halts the production of prostaglandins which otherwise cause pain. It is available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form and is taken every 4-6 hours by mouth. Since hydrocodone can be habit forming, care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking Lortab®. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed.

  • Methadone

    Methadone is a synthetic substance with pharmacological properties similar to morphine and heroin. Methadone is prescribed for patients with severe pain, such as those with serious injuries or those who have undergone major surgery. Methadone works in the brain to decrease the sensation of pain and to mute the emotional response to pain. It comes as tablets, dispersible tablets, liquid, and liquid concentrate. Patients take it every 3-4 hours for severe pain and every 6-8 hours for chronic pain. Since methadone can be as addictive as morphine and heroin, care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed. Methadone is one of the most difficult drugs to detox from since its effects are long-lasting and it is readily stored in the body’s tissue.

    Methadone is also used as a replacement-opiate therapy for opiate dependency. A legal dependency (methadone) is substituted for an illegal dependency (heroin). Methadone is available in government-approved drug treatment clinics and by prescription in some areas.

  • MS Contin®

    MS Contin® is the brand name for morphine sulfate which is prescribed for moderate to severe pain. Morphine sulfate binds to the pain receptors in the brain so that the sensation of pain is reduced. MS Contin® comes in the form of tablets, capsules, liquid, and rectal suppository, which are taken every 4 hours. Long-acting tablets and capsules can be taken every 8-12 hours or 1-2 per day, respectively. Morphine sulfate is very addictive, so care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking MS Contin®. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed.

  • Norco®

    Norco® is the brand name for the combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and hydrocodone. Norco® is prescribed for moderate to moderately severe pain. Hydrocodone binds to the pain receptors in the brain so that the sensation of pain is reduced. Acetaminophen halts the production of prostaglandins which otherwise cause pain. Norco® is available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form and is taken every 4-6 hours by mouth. Since hydrocodone can be habit forming, care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking Norco®. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed.

  • OxyContin®

    OxyContin® is the brand name for the time-release formula of oxycodone, a narcotic analgesic for moderate to severe pain. It is used to treat terminally ill cancer patients and chronic pain sufferers as well as relieving postpartum, postoperative and dental pain. OxyContin® comes in liquid and tablet forms taken every 6 hours. Long-acting tablets are available to take every 12 hours. Oxycodone is an opium derivative and is the active ingredient in Percodan® and Percocet®. Oxycodone binds to the pain receptors in the brain so that the sensation of pain is reduced. Since oxycodone can be habit forming, care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking OxyContin®. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed. Since its FDA approval in 1995, the illegal use of OxyContin® as increased significantly, and the recent OxyContin-related deaths have attracted media attention, thereby illuminating the problem.

  • Percocet®

    Percocet® is the brand name for the combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and oxycodone. Percocet® is prescribed for moderate to moderately severe pain. Oxycodone binds to the pain receptors in the brain so that the sensation of pain is reduced. Acetaminophen halts the production of prostaglandins which otherwise cause pain. It is available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form and is taken every 6 hours by mouth. Since oxycodone can be habit forming, care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking Percocet®. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed.

  • Percodan®

    Percodan® is the brand name for the combination of acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) and oxycodone. Percodan® is prescribed for moderate to moderately severe pain. Oxycodone binds to the pain receptors in the brain so that the sensation of pain is reduced. Acetylsalicylic acid halts the production of prostaglandins which otherwise cause pain. It is available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form and is taken every 6 hours by mouth. Since oxycodone can be habit forming, care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking Percodan®. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed.

  • Stadol®

    Stadol® is an analgesic for moderate or severe pain. This formulation of butorphanol is administered every 3-4 hours either as a nasal spray or injected into the buttock or hip muscle or into a vein. Stadol® is typically prescribed for patients recovering from surgery or for migraine headaches and works by binding to the pain receptors in the brain. Since Stadol® became available in nasal spray form, abuse has increased, and more than 40 deaths have occurred. The FDA does not regulate Stadol® in most states. Butorphanol is believed to be highly addictive and if taken by a person already dependent on another narcotic, withdrawal symptoms may occur. Care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking Stadol®. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed.

  • Suboxone (Buprenorphine)

    Suboxone (Buprenorphine) is a semi-synthetic narcotic; Suboxone is a sublingual formulation that is a combination of Buprenorphine and Narcan. Suboxone cannot be injected, because the Narcan component causes instant opiate withdrawal. In this form (taken sublingually) the Buprenorphine is absorbed through the mucus membrane, while the Narcan is not.

  • Tramadol

    Tramadol is used to relieve severe pain. Tramadol may be used to treat pain caused by surgery and chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia or arthritis. Tramadol is an opiate (narcotic) analgesics. Tramadol works by decreasing the body’s sense of pain.

    Tramadol is habit-forming if abused. Tramadol should only be taken under a doctors care and orders. Call your doctor if you find that you want to take extra medication or notice any other unusual changes in your behavior or mood.

  • Vicodin®

    Vicodin® is the brand name for the combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and hydrocodone. Vicodin® is prescribed for moderate to moderately severe pain. Hydrocodone binds to the pain receptors in the brain so that the sensation of pain is reduced. Acetaminophen halts the production of prostaglandins which otherwise cause pain. Vicodin® is available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form and is taken every 4-6 hours by mouth. Since hydrocodone can be habit forming, care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking Vicodin®. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed.

  • Zydone®

    Zydone® is the brand name for the combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and hydrocodone. Zydone® is prescribed for moderate to moderately severe pain. Hydrocodone binds to the pain receptors in the brain so that the sensation of pain is reduced. Acetaminophen halts the production of prostaglandins which otherwise cause pain. Zydone® is available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form and is taken every 4-6 hours by mouth. Since hydrocodone can be habit forming, care must be taken to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking Zydone®. Do not take a larger dose, or take it more frequently, or take it for longer than the doctor has prescribed.

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