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What are Opiates?

The term “opiate” is an umbrella term used to refer to prescription and illegal narcotics that relieve chronic pain and cause euphoric effects. While opiates refer to drugs that are naturally derived from an opium poppy plant, the term “opioids” refers to synthetic drugs that are manufactured to mimic the effects of opiates. 

Opiates are prescribed by physicians to treat chronic pain in individuals who have suffered an injury, have undergone surgery, or are experiencing other health issues in some instances. While each drug in the opiate drug class behaves similarly in targeting pain, they are unique in their onset times, half-lives, and strength. Most of these drugs have been ruled Schedule II narcotics by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), meaning they have high abuse potential. 

What is Opiate Abuse?

Opiates are highly addictive because of their ability to cause intoxicating effects and treat pain. Because these drugs are known to cause a feeling of overall satisfaction and happiness, they are often misused, which increases the probability of addiction. Also, if individuals do not use alternative means to treat their chronic pain, they may become dependent on the drug to feel normal. 

The overwhelming deaths from opiate use, misuse, and overdose have caused the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to recognize opiate use as a national crisis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), roughly 21-29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them. 

More often than not, the individuals who become addicted to and dependent on opiates were first prescribed them by a licensed physician. 

Types of Opiates

  • Morphine: This medication is prescribed to treat mild to severe chronic pain. It can be found in tablet form, syrup, or injectable form. It is administered under the supervision of medical professionals, and doses are highly controlled.  
  • Codeine: This medication can be prescribed to treat moderate coughs and pain, and it is less potent than other opiates. It is mainly found in syrup form and is not administered under the supervision of doctors, making it more likely to be misused and abused. 

Semi-synthetic Opiates 

  • Heroin: Because heroin derives from morphine, it is known as a semi-synthetic opiate. There is no medical use for heroin recognized by the FDA, so it is considered a Schedule I narcotic. Because it is never regulated or manufactured by professionals, using heroin is incredibly dangerous and puts users at risk of death, overdose, and significant health effects. 
  • Hydromorphone. Also referred to as Dilaudid, hydromorphone is a potent medication used to treat pain if doctors assume the patient will need treatment around the clock. 
  • Hydrocodone. This drug is often combined with acetaminophen to treat moderate to severe pain. It is also a cough suppressant and widely prescribed. 
  • Oxycodone. This drug comes in tablet, capsule, and liquid forms and is one of the most popular opiates. Because it is not as potent as other opiates, it is commonly prescribed even though its abuse potential is still high. 

Synthetic Opiates (Opioids)

  • Fentanyl. This is a synthetic opiate that is 50 times stronger than heroin, and heroin is often cut with this drug. When an individual purchases and doses what they were told was heroin and the drug actually contains fentanyl, the likelihood of a deadly overdose is much higher. It is a very dangerous drug that, if in the wrong hands, can claim many lives. 
  • Methadone. Methadone is approved by the FDA to treat opiate use disorder. Methadone will mimic many of the same effects as opiates but will be administered by a team of medical professionals. Receiving methadone in a safe, controlled environment will help treat symptoms of opiate withdrawal and prevent relapse. 

How Opiates Work 

When someone takes opiates, the chemicals in the drug will attach to proteins called opioid receptors located in the central nervous system, gut, and other areas in the body. Opiates will then block pain messages sent from the body to the brain, relieving pain and allowing individuals to continue their lives. They also make individuals very relaxed, which may cause them to begin misusing the drug. 

If individuals do not explore other natural ways to relieve pain, they may find themselves dependent on opiates to feel normal.  

Short-Term Effects 

Doctors will prescribe opiates to help alleviate moderate to severe pain in patients. Opioid misuse will commonly cause slowed breathing, which is the main concern if an individual is experiencing an overdose. Slowed breathing or hypoxia can cause significant short and long-term damage to the brain and its functions. 

Short-term effects of opiate use may include: 

  • Drowsiness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Euphoria
  • Nausea 
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Opiate Use Disorder 

Many factors such as climate, health, and environment will play a role in an individual developing opiate use disorder. Individuals will find themselves addicted to opiates because of the feeling of satisfaction, happiness, and pleasure these substances can cause. Because individuals who have been prescribed opiates are often experiencing consistent feelings of pain, the replacement of that pain with pleasurable, rewarding feelings can begin to be a feeling they chase. 

Because opiate overdoses are so common, opiate use disorder is a very dangerous disease that should be treated by a team of medical professionals. This disorder will quickly cause damage to an individual’s physical and mental health as well as their closest relationships. The development of an opiate use disorder is the main risk factor for opiate overdose. 

Opiate Overdose 

As mentioned above, a side effect of opiates is slowed breathing or hypoxia. This is the main concern when someone is experiencing opiate overdose because a lack of oxygen in the body can quickly cause organ failure and death. A huge increase in opiate-related deaths in the United States are related to the lacing of fentanyl. Often, patients who test positive for fentanyl in their system at the time of their overdose did not even know they had taken it. 

Signs of opiate overdose include: 

  • Unresponsiveness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Snoring sounds 
  • Cold skin 
  • Discolored lips 

If you ever believe an individual is experiencing an opiate overdose, it is essential to try to wake them up and call 911 right away. Once emergency services arrive, they will be able to provide life support and prevent death. 

Opiate Dependence and Withdrawal 

As someone continues using opiates to treat chronic pain, their brain and nervous system will begin adjusting to the presence of substances in the body. They may even notice that the same amount of the drug is not treating their pain as it had previously. This is the indication that they have developed a tolerance. Once the person decides they would like to stop using, their body will react to this sudden absence of the drug in adverse ways, which can easily cause an individual to relapse. 

Symptoms of opiate dependence include: 

  • Needing more of the drug to achieve the same pain-relieving effects 
  • Experiencing symptoms of opiate withdrawal if use stops or slows down
  • Intense cravings for the drug 
  • Willingness to try illicit drugs like heroin to alleviate cravings 
  • Changes in behavior and attitude 

These withdrawal symptoms happen anytime an individual attempts to stop using, and they can be a critical driving force in why drug use continues. Relapsing greatly increases the risk of deadly overdose, so it is important that individuals receive trusted care and around-the-clock supervision while they undergo opiate detox. 

Symptoms of opiate withdrawal include:

  • Agitation 
  • Anxiety 
  • Insomnia 
  • Nausea 
  • Muscle spasms
  • Runny nose 
  • Sweating 
  • Stomach cramps 
  • Fluctuating blood pressure 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 

These symptoms can begin within 24 hours from the last dose and may continue up to 6 months. This is why it is essential individuals receive the help they need through this time so they can remain healthy and motivated toward positive change. While opiate withdrawal is not considered medically dangerous, diarrhea and vomiting can cause severe dehydration, leading to death. 

Treatment for Opiate Addiction in Orange County 

Opiate addiction and dependence are often all-encompassing, taking a toll on an individual’s physical and mental health, relationships, jobs, and spirit. Someone may not even know where to begin healing all of these areas of their life. Starting treatment for opiate addiction in a safe, accredited treatment center, they will be able to have their symptoms addressed and treated to begin working toward positive change and living self-directed lives. 


Doctors may prescribe medications during opiate detox to treat any serious and impacting withdrawal symptoms and discourage withdrawal. These medications have been manufactured to address withdrawal symptoms without causing the euphoric effects that come with opiate misuse. The length of opiate detox will depend on each unique participant, but some medications like methadone are meant for the long-term treatment of the more long-lasting effects of withdrawal like cravings. 

Partial Hospitalization Program  

The partial hospitalization program (PHP) at Crescent Moon Recovery is our most immersive program, and it will provide our participants with 24/7 care and support for opiate use disorder. PHP will require participants to adhere to a schedule of individual and group therapy activities, which will allow them to focus solely on their recovery with minimal distractions. 

Intensive Outpatient Program 

IOP, or intensive outpatient program, will typically occur after a participant has completed detox or residential treatment. This program will allow participants to reside at home or in one of our provided sober living homes while they receive the same standard of care as a residential treatment program. 

Outpatient Program 

Crescent Moon Recovery’s outpatient program will focus on transitioning our participants back to everyday life. The stress of work, school, and home life can often cause cravings and a desire to return to opiates. In outpatient treatment, our participants will learn how to manage this stress and become better prepared for the healthy, fulfilling life ahead of them. 

Opiate Rehab in Fountain Valley 

Throughout each stage of recovery from drug or alcohol use disorder, our staff at Crescent Moon Recovery will be there to support, advise, and provide resources for our participants. We understand that addiction is not due to moral failure, and we will be the first people to believe in your success. 

Addiction treatment requires many therapeutic modalities that will address the unique needs of each participant. Crescent Moon Recovery provides both men and women suffering from opiate use disorder with a safe environment filled with people who fully support their decision to reinvent their lives. Our staff will help you become an advocate for your own life through evidence-based treatment modalities. 

Individualized Care Plans 

The treatment goals and plans for each of our participants come from an open discussion between the participants and their licensed therapist at the beginning of treatment. Because we are dedicated to patient-centered care, we encourage our participants to share with us their needs and goals in recovery. From there, we can develop a personalized care plan that will address the specific needs of our participants throughout treatment. 

Therapeutic Modalities 

Through intensive therapy that will focus on unique challenges, our participants will first address and then begin healing from the largest risk factors that led to the development of opiate use disorder. With individual and group therapy, our professionals will target negative thought patterns and behaviors and begin introducing positive coping mechanisms to deal with stress. These behavioral therapies, such as CBT or DBT, have been tested and proven to effectively treat opiate use and co-occurring disorders.

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Get Help Today! 

Opiate use disorder is a very dangerous substance use disorder that can affect a person’s mental and physical well-being as well as do great damage to their relationships. Call Crescent Moon Recovery in beautiful Southern California today to begin your journey in recovery with licensed professionals and individualized care plans at (714) 464-8474.

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