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More than 10 million Americans (aged 12 and above) use and abuse opiates yearly. That number is only growing. Understanding the effects of opiates is crucial to using them properly.

What are Opiates?

Opiates are drugs created from the opium plant. When taken, opiates can affect and change your brain’s reactions. Most times, opiates focus on relieving pain. Opiates have been used as painkillers for decades. However, this is only done with a doctor’s prescription because of its addictiveness. Heroin which is an illegal substance is also a type of opiate.

What’s the Difference Between Opioids and Opiates?

Opioids and opiates are interchangeably used. While this is not entirely wrong, there is a difference between opiates and opioids. Opiates are gotten directly from the opium plant with its ingredients present. Examples of opiates are codeine and morphine. On the other hand, opioids are manufactured products that have similar effects to opiates. Opioids can be fully or partially synthetic.

Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT
Review Date: 3/1/2023

Popular Types of Opiates

There are three recognized types of bipolar disorder. They are:


Morphine treats severe pain. It is one of the strongest painkillers and is commonly used in America. The downside is that it is also very addictive. An overdose of morphine can even lead to death.


Codeine treats coughing and mild pain. Codeine is less dangerous than other opiates. This makes it more readily available OTC. It can also be prescribed by the doctor.

So, while it is less dangerous, its accessibility increases the chances of getting addicted. Codeine is popular among youths.


Fentanyl is only used to treat intense or severe pain. It is much more dangerous than morphine. Because of its potency, fentanyl should not be mixed with other drugs such as heroin.


Demerol which is also meperidine is used to treat moderate pain and can be very addictive. It should only be taken with a doctor’s prescription.


Methadone treats mild to moderate pain. It can also reverse or reduce cravings for other illicit drugs such as heroin.

When taken regularly, methadone is very addictive. This drug should only be taken with a doctor’s prescription.


Oxycodone treats moderate pain. Popular brand names for oxycodone are Percocet and OxyContin

Other types of opiates include

  • Hydrocodone
  • Dilaudid
  • Darvocet

What is Opiate Abuse or Addiction?

Opiate addiction is the inability to function properly with opiates. Addiction or abuse usually starts from the first intake of the drug. Normally, this comes with a doctor’s prescription.

When taken for long periods, users might no longer feel the effect of the drugs.

This is especially frustrating since opiates usually address pain.

So, users may take a higher dosage than was prescribed by the doctor. The effect is immediate and the users will feel better. However, the body will eventually build up more resistance to the drug.

This can lead to the user increasing the dosage to get that feeling repeatedly. Soon enough, they start to depend on the drugs to feel better.

Full addiction develops when the user can no longer quit using opiates because of their cravings.

What Causes Opiate Abuse?

  • Intense pain- People might want to take opiates to soothe the pain from an injury.
  • High tolerance levels- Users might no longer feel the effect of the drug after taking them for some time.
  • Ignoring a doctor’s prescription

Who is at Risk of Opiate Addiction?

  • Age – Younger people are more likely to abuse opiates
  • Poverty
  • Family History – People with close relatives who abuse opiates are more likely to do the same
  • History of Abusing other substance – If you abuse other meds or illicit substances, you have a greater chance of abusing opiates.
  • People who display reckless or impulsive behavior
  • Unemployment issues
  • Gender – Women are more likely to abuse opiates than their male counterparts. This is because women are more likely to develop chronic pain. This increases the odds of using opiates

Who is at Risk of Opiate Addiction?

  • Weight loss
  • Drowsiness
  • Lower sex drive
  • Intense cravings for opiates
  • Criminal activities such as stealing
  • Unproductivity
  • Isloating themselves from loved ones

Symptoms of Opiates Overdose

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Clamming skin
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Falling unconscious
  • Extreme confusion

An opiate overdose can have serious health ramifications. In worst-case scenarios, it can lead to death. The same also applies to people who mix opiates with other substances such as alcohol.

Short and Long-Term Effects of Abusing Opiates

Abusing opiates can have both short and long-term effects

Short Term Effects
  • Impaired judgments
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Euphoric feeling
  • Weight loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Shallow breathing
  • Itchiness
Long Term Effects
  • Persisting insomnia
  • Liver problems
  • Depression
  • Recurring constipation
  • Addiction
  • Vein damage

How is Opiates Addiction Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually made by a doctor or mental health expert. Your doctor might ask you questions relating to symptoms and dosage.

Blood and urine tests are also taken to rule out other physical conditions. These tests also allow them to see the drugs in your bloodstream.

All guidelines in the DSM-5 are strictly followed.

Opiates Addiction Treatment


The first step toward recovery is to stop using the drugs. This is an important step with its dangers. The process of stopping and removing all traces of opiates from the body is called detoxing.

Detoxing takes about 3-7 days depending on the severity of the situation. Some doctors might prefer the tapering-off method. This involves slowly reducing drug intake as opposed to suddenly cutting the user off opiates.

Patients will usually experience withdrawal symptoms after detoxing. These symptoms can be severe during the first few days and can last for months or years.

Examples of such symptoms include

  • Runny nose
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tremors
  • Constricted pupils
  • Nausea
  • Agitation/restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Depression

Certain medications can reduce the impact of the symptoms and prevent relapse. They include

  • Methadone– This drug fights against dependence. It is mostly used in severe cases of addiction. However, many doctors now prefer buprenorphine.
  • Buprenorphine– This drug fights against withdrawal symptoms by mimicking the feeling of opiates. This is effective in preventing relapse.
  • Clonidine– This drug is effective against anxiety and agitation which are withdrawal symptoms. Unlike buprenorphine, it does not mimic the euphoric feeling of taking opiates.
Rehab Centers

Most doctors recommend inpatient rehab centers after the detox program. Some benefits of this route include

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)– Most inpatient rehabs offer CBT as part of their services. This focuses on transforming negative traits in the patient into positive ones.
  • Support Groups– Support groups are a source of strength during the recovery period. Patients can find encouragement from others who are on the same journey.
  • Counseling– Psychologists and mental health experts can help you figure out how you feel and what you are experiencing

How Can Opiate Addiction Be Prevented?

Here are some best practices for avoiding opiate addiction

  • Fewer Days– Opiates should be used in short intervals. We recommend you stick to 3 days or less. If you have long-term pain, look for an alternative treatment plan.
  • Accessibility– Keep your opiate drugs away from public areas.
  • If you have leftover opiates, return them if possible. If you cannot, safely dispose of them.

When Should You Contact Your Doctor?

Contact your doctor immediately if you have abused opiates. Reach out to California Prime to start your recovery.

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