What are opioids?

Opioids are a group of natural, partially synthetic, or synthetic drugs derived from the poppy plant or chemically synthesized in laboratory settings. This class of drugs includes both legal and illegal drugs. Legally prescribed opioids include morphine, codeine, and oxycodone. Illegal opioids include heroin.

What is opioid addiction?

When you are unable to stop taking opioids even if you want to, this state of dependence is called opioid addiction.  Research shows that addiction is a chronic or a long-term disease. Just as with other chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, obesity or heart disease, a relapse or a return to opioid use can occur. 

Who is affected by opioid addiction?

There is no ‘type’ of person that gets affected by addiction.  Opioids do not differentiate between people based on caste, color, gender, geographical location, social status or educational qualifications.

What are the effects of opioid addiction?

Opioids can affect absolutely anyone.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • Babies exposed to opioids in the womb may be born addicted and experience the symptoms of opioid withdrawal at birth.  They may need support to overcome potential problems with behavior, attention, and thinking later in life.

  • Adolescents who abuse drugs may have outbursts, do poorly in school, and are often at risk for unplanned pregnancies, violence, and infectious diseases, such as HIV. 

  • Adults who abuse drugs often have problems thinking clearly, remembering, and paying attention. They have trouble in their personal relationships and while performing at work.

  • Parents who abuse drugs or opioids may inadvertently create a stress-filled home and unknowingly be guilty of child abuse and neglect. These conditions harm the well-being and development of their children and usually set the stage for drug abuse for the next generation.

Is addiction a disease? 

Addiction as defined by the NIDA (National lnstitute on Drug Abuse) is a chronic brain disease, often with multiple relapses, that causes the compulsive pursuit of drug use regardless of the consequences to the addict or their loved ones.  Experimentation with a drug is largely voluntary, however the brain changes that follow drug use may create specific challenges that lead to addiction.

What are co-occurring disorders?

One of the major issues in the area of comorbidity is the nature of the connection between psychiatric disorders and substance use disorders.  Substance abuse can stem or result from co-occurring disorders such as depression or anxiety.

Co-occurring disorders often manifest by way of a person using more than one substance or altering their behavior drastically.  Psychiatric disorders that commonly co-occur with substance use disorders include: depression/mood disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and schizophrenia. Better understanding of the connection between substance use disorders and psychiatric disorders could have a profound effect on prevention and treatment.

How does addiction affect the brain?

Drug addiction manifests as a compulsive drive to take a drug despite serious adverse consequences. This aberrant behavior has traditionally been viewed as bad 'choices' that are made voluntarily by the addict. However, recent studies have shown that repeated drug use leads to long-lasting changes in the brain that undermine voluntary control.

The chemicals in drugs essentially hijack the communication system in the brain and disrupt the functions of nerve cells to send, receive and process messages. These changes can be long lasting. The drugs imitate the brain's messengers and over-reward the reward circuit with dopamine.

Am I an Addict? 

  1. Cravings – Do you experience intense urges or cravings for the drug?

  2. Physical Dependence – do you feel badly or function sub-optimally when the drug is not in your system?

  3. Tolerance – Do you need more of the drug to achieve the same high as you did before?

  4. Withdrawal Symptoms – Do you experience withdrawal when you attempt to abruptly stop using the drug(s) or wean yourself off?

  5. Poor Judgement – do you engage in risky behaviors such as lying, stealing, engaging in unsafe sexual activity, selling drugs, that could land you in prison?

  6. Drug-seeking – Do you spend excessive amounts of time and energy finding and getting your drugs?

  7. Financial Trouble – are you unable to meet your financial commitments because you spend large amounts of money to get your drug(s)?

  8. Neglect Responsibilities – do you choose using or getting your drug(s) rather than meeting your family or work obligations?

  9. Unhealthy Friendships – Have you given up your old friendships / relationships to “hang” out with new friends who may encourage or participate in drug use.

  10. Isolation – have you withdrawn or isolated yourself from your family and friends in order to hide your drug use habit?

If you answered YES to these questions, then you do have an addiction problem and should seek help.

Can opioid addiction be treated?

YES. Progress in the field of opioid addiction has helped make recovery more positive and hopeful than ever before. Like other diseases such as diabetes, it can be managed successfully. Treatment can include counselling, medication, or a combination of both.

What is recovery?

Recovery involves a process of change to improve your health and wellness. To take control of your life and strive to reach your full potential. Treatment and recovery work with all aspects of your life including family, work and are most effective when approached holistically.

Why can’t Drug Addicts Quit on their Own?

Drug-dependent individuals who believe they can stop using on their own and often attempt to do so, without outside help, unfortunately fail. Even though some may be successful in the short term, research shows the vast majority will fail to achieve long-term sobriety without outside intervention. 

Addicts often do not realize that long-term drug use has made significant changes to their brain function and these changes continue long after they cease to use. The drugs have changed the brain’s reward system creating a compulsion to continue to seek and use drugs even when it is their best interest to stop. Many addicts with the best intentions of staying clean have failed to do so by ignoring the warning signs leading up to a drug or alcohol relapse.

Fortunately, for those who are dependent on drugs and who want to quit, research indicates that even the most severely addicted people can recover if they actively participate in a treatment program

How do I cope with a difficult recovery?

Despite best efforts one may experience feelings or situations that make recovery difficult. Even after a period of being opioid free people in treatment may return to using opioids. This is called a relapse (or setback). A return to using is a relapse and it does not mean failure. People who have setbacks can continue with treatment and aim at a full recovery.

How can I avoid a relapse?

It may help to think about how likely one is to using opioids, why one wants to use them, and what one can do to take better care of oneself. In this booklet we have provided you the tools and research to help you monitor your desire to use opioids, to keep track of your situation and environmental factors and to create a fail plan to avoid or manage situations or feelings that make you feel a setback is likely.

If you find yourself saying (or thinking) the following or have similar ideas, you should discuss them with your doctor:

  • “This treatment isn’t working!”

  • “I thought I wasn’t supposed to feel cravings.”

  • “I’m cured! I can control it if I only use with my friends.”

  • “There’s no way I can relapse!”

  • “I can stay away from drugs by myself.”

  • “When I got high, I had so much fun! I never had problems” 

Is drug addiction treatment effective?

Drug addiction treatment can be very effective, but you must scrutinize a program carefully to get the best chance of recovery possible. This program addresses the three factors that keep a person trapped in addiction – guilt, depression and cravings. The RASSIK Complete Recovery program provides remedies to alleviate these factors and the life skills to enable each graduate to make drug-free decisions, leading to its high success rate.

What if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

For patients suffering from drug addiction during pregnancy the option for MAT is still available through the use of Subutex. The use of Subutex while pregnant is considered safer than detoxing without medication. For breastfeeding mothers there is a low amount of buprenorphine that passes into the breastmilk and has been considered relatively safe when monitored by a physician. 

How do I help a loved one suffering from an addiction?

Those suffering from addiction already experience a lot of shame and guilt associated with their substance use. Chances are you will receive a more positive response if you take an empathetic approach. Talk to them. How you approach your loved one is extremely important; being confrontational may cause them to be defensive and less receptive to a treatment plan. Instead, try approaching the situation from a caring and compassionate perspective avoiding blame. Once the addiction has been acknowledged, and they are willing to seek treatment, move forward quickly to get them into a program.  

How can I get a person into rehab if they don’t want to go?

When families have selected RASSIK, they have two paths to help the addicted person arrive at the rehab center. The first is to work with the intake counselor who understands addition. The councilor will coach or guide the family through the steps to handle the resistance from their family member.

If this fails, intake counsellors can provide families with interventionists who will travel to the site and work with the addicted person to help him or her through the decision. Far from the kinds of group encounters seen on television, these interventions act by rekindling the innate desire of the addicted person to get clean and sober again. 

What is Buprenorphine and how does it work?

Buprenorphine is medication that eases cravings and prevents withdrawal symptoms for people with opioid use disorder. The biggest advantage of buprenorphine is that is binds so tightly to the site for opioid receptors that other opioids won’t have an effect, thus preventing a relapse. Buprenorphine is sold under the trade name of Suboxone, Subutex, Zubsolv and Bunivail.  

Is treatment with Buprenorphine trading one drug for another?

No. Buprenorphine is not a drug, it is medication. Buprenorphine is significantly safer than other substances; illicit substances have dangers such as overdose and diseases from use, but buprenorphine doesn’t have these negative outcomes. Buprenorphine is also legal therefore there is no risk of being arrested.

What is the difference between Suboxone and Subutex?

Suboxone contains a combination of both Buprenorphine and Naloxone and comes in tablets and films. Subutex contains only Buprenorphine and comes only in tablets. 

What type of Treatment Programs are available

An outpatient counsellors treatment programs allows you to live at home while receiving treatment. You come to the facility for your intake and appointments. Along with your prescription for medication, they can require you to attend individual, group or family therapy.

  • Individual and personalized therapy: A therapist will explore the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors connected to your drug use. This is especially important if there is a co-occurring mental health issue (dual-diagnosis).

  • Group counseling: Some people feel more comfortable in a group setting where a therapist facilitates a session centered around sharing experiences related to addiction and utilizing coping skills. 12 step programs like AA, fellowships like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous provide their members with a supportive environment and utilize a sponsorship system for ongoing support.

An inpatient treatment program requires you to live at the facility while receiving treatment (typically including intake, detox, therapy, counseling, and medical maintenance). For extra amenities, you may wish to look into one of the following types of centers:

  • Luxury: This option has everything that traditional rehabs do but with added amenities and services that more closely resemble a resort or vacation spot.

  • Executive: This option caters to business professionals who can't take the time off work to attend treatment. These centers generally provide private phones, conference rooms, and internet connection.