Narcotics Treatment Tips

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What are my options regarding opiate detox?

Opiate Detox Options

Opiate detox procedures have been a misunderstood, controversial and slowly evolving animal. Clinically speaking, it is suggested that those seeking help for opiate detox do a good deal of "homework" prior to selecting which program works. ( Note : If you are in an urgent situation in terms of need for detox help, then it is most important that you check yourself into the nearest hospital detox program because detoxing alone is a very dangerous decision and one that, because of the intense discomfort, leads to relapse). You have several opiate detox program options to consider.

Traditional detox procedures involve checking into a medical facility where specialists are able to monitor chemical levels and withdrawal symptoms. Detox, however, does not end after initial withdrawal. This kind of procedure lasts a very long time (the thinking, in general, is that it takes at least 18 months to completely rid your system of the substances). While this is a grueling way to detox, it does follow the thinking that there is no quick fix to recovery (and many addicts are seeking a quick fix mentality) and that the changing process must last a lifetime.

Rapid Detox, simply put, is a more neophyte detox method (about 10 years in the making) that suggests opiate detox can be accomplished without adverse affects in a very short time.

This tip information is based on experience in a clinical setting and understanding of the nature of the addictive thought processes and behavioral manifestations. Most addicts would like anything to quickly alleviate a lifetime of adverse experiences (often self-induced). Caution is urged prior to embarking on any quick-fix procedure. However, it is recommended that you speak with other recovering people prior to making a decision on what will work for you. It is also highly recommended that you limit your research to libraries, professional publications and other recovery opiate users. The Internet, while a valuable resource, will also involve a lot of sensationalism and sales-pitch ideas that may affect you adversely when you are in such a vulnerable place.

What are the Signs of Withdrawal from Narcotics?

Withdrawal From Narcotics

Common withdrawal signs are irritability, salivation, intense cravings for your drug of choice, decreased appetite, diarrhea, vomiting and muscle aches. As with any other drug, the more you use and the longer you've used, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms. It is recommended that if you plan to detox from any narcotics from which you experience withdrawal you check yourself into an inpatient medical facility where the staff is trained in addiction/abuse withdrawal.

What are the Signs of Addiction to Narcotics

Narcotic Addiction: Am I Addicted?

"Narcotics" is a broad term used to refer to many types of drugs. The most commonly abused narcotic is heroin. Despite the stereotype of a "street person" being addicted to heroin, many people who are addicted to narcotics become so when prescribed medicine for pain. Drugs such as morphine, Percocet, and Dilauded initially relieve some very intense pain. Unfortunately, though, many people become addicted to either the euphoria or sedation that is stimulated in the central nervous system by such drugs.

If you are taking narcotics for pain and think you may have a problem, it is essential that you pay attention to the symptoms that manifest themselves in your body over time. Some of these are numbness, chronic sedation, shallow breathing, constipation, persistent nausea and flushed skin. These symptoms are common signs of narcotic abuse.

Most importantly, if you feel increased dependence with decreased effects, mental obsession with when/how you will get to your narcotics and withdrawal symptoms upon use cessation, it would be a good idea to seek treatment immediately.

What are some of the physical effects of narcotics addiction?

Physical Effects of Narcotics

The most harmful effect of opiates is not the substance itself, but the addiction it causes. Withdrawal symptoms are so unpleasant -- cramps, shivers, sweats -- that many people quickly become addicted, requiring more and more of the drug.

Methods of consumption can be harmful -- shooting up runs the risk of infection from dirty needles, damage to the veins, abscesses, and blood clots. A blocked vein (thrombosis) can even cause gangrene and occasionally addicts must have limbs amputated. Sharing needles can also spread blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Smoking the drug is damaging to the throat and lungs. Many addicts develop an asthma-like condition with severe cough.

Regular use of opiates often results in constipation, a fairly minor but irritating symptom. Malnutrition is another risk, since opiates can block the feeling of hunger.

What Should I Know About Street Narcotics?

Street Narcotics

Street narcotics are becoming increasingly popular among teenagers and adults in recent years. Common street narcotics include ecstasy, cocaine, hallucinogens (psychedelic drugs), crack cocaine, amphetamines, Rohypnol, steroids, inhalants and solvents, ketamine, heroin, marijuana, phencyclidene (PCP) and methadone.

While these individual drugs types will be further explored in individual categories, they are important to note as a family/class of drugs. Many of these "street" narcotics are used in concordance with one another. For example, marijuana is known as the "gateway drug," which can lead to use of more addictive drugs, such as crack/cocaine and heroin.

Most people who indulge in drug use do not limit themselves to one type of drug. Often times, one starts off with alcohol and marijuana, and needs increasing amounts of energy (cocaine), then downers (heroin) and so on. The cycle becomes worse and more intense until none of the sensations are achieving the level of satisfaction for the user that was originally experienced. It is during this time that the user begins to lose important people and things in life, go to jail, or even experience near-death or real death. The other alternative is to get help.

What is the Community Reinforcement Approach to Rehabiliation from Narcotics?

Community Reinforcement as a Form of Rehabilitation

There are numerous types of recovery approaches. One such method is titled the Community Reinforcement model. Simply put, this model promotes a variety of recovery activities that will lead to an overall change in thinking, behavior and support development.

Research proves that combining a variety of treatments, such as individual/group therapy, medication (when necessary), case management support, and membership in some self-help group (Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, Rational Recovery) ensures the most effective treatment outcomes over time.

Those who engage in all aspects of the recovery mix (such as those mentioned above) are the most successful in achieving long-term and fulfilling sobriety. Statistics support this experience. The rationale here is that one's thinking, behavioral and experiential practices have proven unsuccessful and that a support network will be essential in order to make an overall lifestyle and behavioral change.

What are some commonly abused narcotics?

Commonly Abused Narcotics

The following is a list of commonly abused narcotics and their street/slang names:

-- Heroin (dope, horse, smack, skag, H) is an opiate which has no legal medical uses. It is the most commonly abused narcotic in the US and is associated with thousands of deaths each year.

-- Morphine (monkey, white stuff, M) is a drug prescribed for moderate to severe pain. It is not a common street drug, but because of its availability in hospitals it is often abused by hospital workers or patients who have become addicted.

-- Codeine is an opiate prescribed for mild to moderate pain, diarrhea, and cough. Inside the body, it is metabolized to morphine. Vicodin is the brand name for a combination of codeine with the over-the-counter painkiller acetaminophen. Because it is fairly widely available, it is often abused, sometimes as a substitute for heroin, sometimes in combination with alcohol or marijuana.

-- Fentanyl, usually administered by a skin patch, is 50 times more potent than heroin and can potentially stop respiration. It is used as a painkiller in medical settings (where patients' breathing can be monitored) and is the topic of growing concern in the medical community, where anesthesiologists and other hospital workers are at special risk of addiction.

What Else Should I Learn About Drug/Narcotic Recovery?

Learning the Drug Recovery Lexicon

If you are interested in seeking treatment for narcotic abuse, or at least learning more about symptoms you may be experiencing, it is recommended that you first learn the basics. Just like in any field of work or even recovery, there are key terms with which one should become familiar prior to or during treatment. The reason for this recommendation is that recovery can be overwhelming and frightening on many levels. Recovery is often the first time that drug addicts are asked to be honest about themselves and their behaviors over their period of use, so being somewhat comfortable with terms that will be thrown out can be helpful to increased feelings of safety and decreased feelings of shame (based on lack of awareness of the disease component of drug addiction).

eGetgoing is an excellent site that offers "Drug and Alcohol Information: Glossary" and outlines terms such as abstinence, 12-Steps, associated mental illnesses (like ADHD and Bipolar Disorder), detox, and tolerance.

What Should I Know About Legal Narcotics?

Legal Narcotics

Narcotics, which are opiates, can be classified into either prescription (or legal) narcotics/drugs or street narcotics/drugs. It is important to note a common misconception regarding "legal" drugs, which is that they are always safe and/or non-addictive. This is not true. In fact, legal drugs, such as alcohol or prescription narcotics are among the most abused drugs.

Legal drugs are, as already stated, alcohol and prescription narcotics (i.e. Codeine, Methadone, Morphine, Percodan, Vicodin, Percocet). While all are addictive, the latter three are particularly dependence forming. Tranquilizers, sedatives, certain muscle relaxants, prescription amphetamines, oxycotin over the counter drugs (i.e. mouthwashes and diet aids) can also be addictive.

It is important to note that if you are someone who struggles with a history of addiction of any kind, that you tell your health care provider this prior to being prescribed any of the above substances. And even if you are not an addict currently, it is recommended that you really weigh the costs and benefits of taking certain medications. There are many people whom become addicts due to chronic pain and increased dependency on chemical substances for physical relief. Narcotics can be very helpful in reducing intolerable pain/discomfort, but, again, be certain that your motivations for use are "clean" and that you are open and honest with your doctor regarding use patterns and physical need.

Are Twelve Step Programs Successful in Helping Addicts Recover?

Self-Help/12-Step Groups as Part of Recovery

Recovering from drug addiction is a grueling, often difficult and ultimately rewarding process. While the research regarding 12-step program success rates is limited, often due to the anonymity principle indicated in such programs, clinical evidence shows that the overall success rates are very high-given a willingness to practice new behaviors and an authentic desire to receive help.

Getting sober is the most difficult decision a person may every make, as it is a willingness to let go of the only "support network" you have come to know. Chances are that you have lost or are beginning to lose friends, jobs, family and, more importantly self-respect. This doesn't get better over time, only far worse.

The reason 12-step programs appear to be successful is because they offer a network of support where you will not find judgment for your mistakes/losses, but understanding. You will feel less lonely and isolated. Additionally, you will find people who will hold you accountable for your past behaviors and current behaviors, while continuing to treat you with respect. From a clinical perspective, such cohesiveness and installation of hope do give people the desire/openness to change.

That being said, 12-step programs do require action (not money, though) on the part of the recovering person. You must do something different in order to get different results. It is suggested that you pick up a copy of both the traditional Alcoholics Anonymous text ( The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous ) and the Narcotics Anonymous text (which was derived from the original). If you identify with any of the stories, suggestions in this book, then you will most likely benefit from 12-step programs.

Is Methadone Recommended as part of Heroin Detox?

Heroin Detox: The Methadone Question

As with any detox, it is essential that you check yourself into a detoxification program where your body will have time to safely heal from the physiological dependency it has acquired on heroin. Heroin detox generally lasts between 7-14 days..

The next step is deciding whether or not you plan to engage in methadone management. One opinion is that methadone management is not a treatment regiment that promotes total and long-term sobriety. That being said, however, since the risk of relapse and possible death are highest right after initial detox, methadone can help some people early on.

Although methadone produces a different and more time-released high, many people become dependent on the methadone as well. The addictive mind and body are generally looking for any "out" from discomfort. Methadone can be a tricky and dangerous way to try to treat a brain that is already addicted/dependent upon a chemical substance to function. That being said, it is always recommended that you do your own research. Go to the library, go to 12-step meetings, talk with the medical professionals at your detox center and speak with both professionals and other addicts who can give you information based on their clinical and personal experiences as well.

What are some of the emotional effects of narcotics addiction?

Emotional Effects of Narcotics

Opiates are depressants. Many people who try them report an initial feeling of comfort, lessening of anxiety, and general well-being. As the drug wears off, though, the drug tends to magnify any depressive tendencies the user already has, and some people may even become suicidal.

Addiction can radically change a user's psychological outlook. All of the user's previous priorities (work, family, school, religion or morals) will go by the wayside if they get in the way of access to the drug. Getting and taking the drug becomes the person's sole focus in life, and many addicts do not enter recovery before suffering serious social consequences (homelessness, rejection by family, encounters with the law).

What are some of the ways people get addicted to narcotics?

Paths to Narcotics Addiction

If you are taking medication prescribed by a professional, and following the instructions provided with that medication, you may be dependent, but you are not addicted.

Addiction is a physical craving that includes an element of harm to yourself or others. Seeking drugs that aren't medically needed, taking drugs to escape from ordinary responsibilities, or feeling unable to stop using a drug are signs of addiction.

Addictions usually begin by wanting to experience the feelings of relaxation and euphoria that narcotics can bring. They may be looking for an escape from stress or looking to fit in with friends who are users. Some act out of boredom, rebellion, or curiosity. Many of these people never become addicted, but there is no way to predict whether you will be one of them.

What kind of aftercare is needed for narcotics addictions?

The Value of Aftercare

Once a patient has been through a rehab program, the real work of building a drug-free life begins. Left to their own devices, patients may gravitate back to familiar places and situations -- and wind up using again. Before departing rehab, they should have an aftercare program in place, including continuing therapy (often in a group setting with other recovering addicts) and referral to self-help groups.

Aftercare should also include treatment for any psychological conditions such as depression or anxiety that may have emerged as factors in the person's addictive patterns.

Those who continue on a methadone maintenance program may choose to be weaned off the drug later under medical supervision.

How Does Narcotic Abuse Relate to the Abuse of other Substances?

Narcotics and Other Drug Abuse

According to a 2002 report by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) out of the U.S. Department of Health; oxycodone, alcohol, benzodiazapines, and cocaine are commonly used in conjunction with each other. This means that seeking treatment for the abuse of oxycodone or heroin does not mean that these are the only drugs you will need to give up.

It is common in the recovery/treatment lexicon to refer to a particular substance as one's "drug of choice." The vast majority of treatment plans, however, including those found in hospital settings, outpatient settings and in 12-step settings advocate complete cessation of all chemical substance in order to maintain a sober life.

This may seem to be a tall order at first, but if you wish to lead a happy, healthier and more fulfilling life complete susbstance abstinence is the only way. If you don't give it all up now, you will quickly find that the insidious nature of the thinking and obsessive aspects of addiction will simply lead you to another primary substance to abuse.

What is it like to withdraw from heroin or other opiates?

Narcotics Withdrawal

Heroin and morphine have similar withdrawal patterns; dependencies on other opiates, such as Vicodin addiction, follow the same pattern but with less intensity. Withdrawal can pose medical risks and is best conducted in a hospital or drug treatment center.

Symptoms of opiate withdrawal include yawning, sweating, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, and fever. In addition, the patient can experience goosebumps, muscle spasms, and involuntary leg movements, a combination which led to the phrase "cold turkey" to describe an abrupt withdrawal from drug use.

Patients in heroin detox also experience irritability and anxiety, coupled with obsession with getting the drug. Those whose bodies have become damaged, either by the drug use itself or through such corollary ailments as infections from dirty needles, may even be at risk of death if not medically supervised during this time.

This initial phase lasts a few days to a week. However, lower-grade withdrawal symptoms may continue for up to six months after drug use ends. These include insomnia, poor appetite, muscle aches, and inability to tolerate stress or physical discomfort.

Do narcotics have medical uses?

Pain Relief vs. Addiction

Many of the most commonly abused narcotic drugs -- morphine, codeine, oxycodone (OxyContin) -- are also prescribed medically for anesthesia or pain relief. Long-term use of these drugs is sometimes necessary in cases of chronic pain, yet can lead to dependency. Experts are careful to define "addiction" as a more extreme form of dependency, in which the patient continues to seek and take the drug even when it causes harm.

Doctors must balance these risks when prescribing such drugs. In some cases, patients who become dependent on a narcotic are not in danger of becoming criminals or dangers to society -- for instance, in cases of terminal illness -- and it is kinder to focus on simply alleviating pain.

When a patient has higher risk factors for addiction to opiates or other narcotics -- for instance, low socioeconomic status, past history of drug abuse, or low self-esteem -- pain management specialists should work with the patient's physician to wean her off the drug and find other ways to manage pain.

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