Opiate Drugs - Opioids vs Opiates – What’s The Difference?

What Are Opiates?

Opiate drugs are medications that are derived from the opium poppy plant. Described as sedative narcotics, they depress the activity of the central nervous system and reduce pain. Opium plants have been grown for medicinal and recreational purposes since prehistoric times. Scientists have traced its earliest use back to 1500 BC.

Opiate pain-relieving and euphoric effects were quickly realised, but there was little information around the possible dangers of abusing such a powerful narcotic in those days.

Opiates block pain by binding to the brain’s pain receptors and changing the way that the brain interprets pain. Although a very effective analgesic, opiates do not cure any ailments. The euphoria this class of drug produces can send a person into an altered state of consciousness.

Painkilling opiates are legally available today on prescription in stronger strengths and over the counter in weaker doses; both hold the potential to be abused, and both can cause dependence and addiction.

Opiates come in numerous forms and are regularly combined with other analgesics to provide more effective pain relief. Opiates can be pure, synthesised or semi-synthesised. All are equally addictive, and all produce opiate withdrawal symptoms if you have a physical dependence.

Opiates in all their forms, whether prescription, illicit or over the counter painkillers, are being abused worldwide. Deaths rates around the world have risen alarmingly over the past ten years, declaring a worldwide opioid crisis.

There has been much talk over the years about America’s ongoing opiate crisis, but what about the UK?

Prescription opioid painkiller abuse and illicit opiate use have seen a rising trend in the number of deaths resulting from this class of drugs.

Due to what some may say uncareful prescribing of opiate pain relief medications and increased availability on the darknet, prescription pill addiction has risen tremendously. This has resulted in more deaths being recorded on a yearly basis than ever before.

Abuse of any opiate is extremely dangerous. It is important that if you or a loved one have a problem with opiate abuse or opiate addiction that you seek medical and addiction help without further delay. 

opium poppy plant

Opioids vs Opiates – What’s The Difference?

An opioid is a term that was originally used to differentiate synthetic opiates from pure opiates. Opioids were applied to semi-synthetic and synthetic drugs of the opiate class of medicines. Now the terms opiates and opioids are used interchangeably to describe any opiate-based drug or medication synthesised to mimic its effects.

Examples of opioids include Fentanyl, Methadone, Tramadol and Oxycontin.

Examples of opiates include Heroin and Morphine.

Essentially opiates and opioids are the same; some are pure, some synthesised and some semi synthesised. There is a huge variety of opiate-based drugs available.

Synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids were originally developed as they were thought to be less addictive and have less abuse potential than pure opiate-based drugs. However, this theory has since been disapproved. In fact, synthetic and semi-synthetic opiates can be harder to withdraw from where a dependence has developed as chemically, they are more complex in their structure.

List of Opiate Drugs and Medications

Nurofen plus
Solpadeine Max
Opiate transdermal patches

opioids in britain
In the last ten years, there has been a surge in the number of prescriptions issued for opioids.

The Dangers of Opiates

The main dangers are associated with abuse, dependence, addiction and overdose. Anyone that is using or abusing regularly is susceptible to developing dependence and addiction. They are also putting their lives at great risk.

When opiates are abused or mixed with other drugs, there is a sizeable risk of overdose. Most individuals unintentionally overdose through not understanding the dangers of mixing opioids with alcohol or drugs presents.

The dangers are very real. Recent years have seen heroin, morphine and fentanyl-related deaths hit an all-time record high in England and Wales, with the North East of England being the worst affected.

If you are using or abusing either on prescription, over the counter or illicitly – please, please ensure that you are fully aware of the dangers associated with this powerful class of depressant drug.

Our Detox Plus UK helpline receives numerous calls daily regarding abuse and addiction. You can speak to us in the strictest confidence 24/7 for free and receive expert help and advice.

Abuse of Prescription Opioids

Many who abuse prescription opioids may well start with a prescription for a genuine complaint such as post-operative pain, a broken bone or a back problem. The problem with opioids of any kind is that they cause tolerance and dependence to build very quickly – within 2 to 10 days of continuous use.

You may be tempted to manipulate your doctor for a repeat prescription long after the complaint has been resolved, as you fear going through withdrawal.

If you are using prescribed opioids for prolonged periods, it is very likely that you will build a tolerance to their effects and a physical dependence on them. This means that the dosage prescribed will lose its analgesic effectiveness, and you may start to suffer from opiate withdrawal symptoms.

If opiate dependence occurs, you may well be tempted to increase the dosage yourself. It is crucial that you seek your doctor’s advice if this is your experience. Not adhering to a prescription is how most opiate addictions commence.

Other forms of prescription opioid abuse involve purchasing opiate drugs from the black market; this may be from the darknet or a street dealer. Many individuals also access opiates from friends or families who have prescriptions. You may well see this as harmless and a case of needs must, but there is a very good reason for not taking a prescription medication that does not belong to you, even if you are in genuine pain.

opiate withdrawal symptoms
Prescription opiates and opioids can be abused in many ways.

Another common form of prescription opioid abuse is to seek and take prescription-strength opiates purely for their euphoric and calming effects. This has nothing to do with using them for the purpose intended, which is pain relief.

Abusing prescription opioids purely for euphoric high carries added risks. Individuals are more prone to be reckless, take more risks and mix them with other substances.

If you or a loved one are abusing prescription opioids in any form, it is important that you seek professional help without delay. Prescription opiate withdrawal doesn’t need to be painful, and drug rehabs are able to offer medical opiate detoxes. Please call Detox Plus UK for information on private opiate detox.

What is Opiate Addiction?

Opiate addiction is created through repeated exposure. When opiates are frequently used or abused, the brain’s chemistry and structure changes over time; these changes cause the individual to compulsively seek and take opiates.

Once opiate addiction has occurred, the individual will find it exceptionally difficult to stop opiates and stay drug-free without professional intervention. Even then, staying clean can become a daily battle.

addiction is a brain disease
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Addiction is a progressive illness that only gets worse over time without the correct treatment. By the time the individual reaches crisis point and asks for help, typically, they will have usually lost a great deal in terms of their addiction.

Opiate addiction has been proven to change and restructure the brain. Once manifested, it is very difficult to reverse. Removing the drug through medical drug detox is simply not enough as the brain will remain in the same altered state. An opiate-addicted brain compels the individual to seek and take opiates as a baseline solution to problems and feelings.

Recovery from opiate addiction can be very difficult to maintain. However, it IS possible to stay free of opiates if the individual is prepared to put the work in to help rehabilitate themselves with the assistance of professional treatment.

Successful addiction treatment for opiate addiction requires psychological and cognitive behavioural therapies to assist in changing the individual’s mindset and provide them with strategies and coping mechanisms to maintain abstinence and prevent relapse.

The Link Between Dopamine And Opiate Addiction

Dopamine and how it is controlled is heavily linked in the creation of opiate addiction. Opiates induce euphoria and block pain by binding to the brain’s pain receptors and releasing dopamine into the brain in abundance.

Dopamine is a naturally occurring chemical that acts as a messenger between brain cells. Dopamine plays an important role in many of our daily behaviours. It affects how we move, how we eat, our motivation levels, our emotions, how we learn and whether we become addicted to drugs.

Dopamine is released as a reward and is a feel-good chemical. Drugs such as heroin, opiates, cocaine, alcohol and even sugar cause huge (but temporary) spikes in the levels of dopamine available in the brain. This spike is responsible for the euphoric high received in drug-taking. It is the reward from the dopamine spike that prompts drug addicts to seek out and take drugs again and again – even when there are negative consequences at stake.

Repeated use and abuse of opiates alter the brain’s reward system. Eventually, at the peak of drug addiction, the brain stops producing its own dopamine naturally. The only way an addicted individual can feel any pleasure at all is to seek and take the drug that the brain responds to.

dopamine receptors
Source Wikimedia Commons

This explains why drug addicts continue to take drugs even when they are greatly suffering as a result.

For recovery from addiction to occur, the addicted brain must abstain from opiates, be allowed time to heal and be retrained to seek healthier ways of stimulating the reward system.

The Difference Between Opiate Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction

Opiate tolerance occurs once the brain has adjusted to function on a certain dosage of the opiate drug. The drug, as a result, loses its euphoric and analgesic effects. The individual will need to take more of the drug to gain the original desired effect or swap to a stronger form of opiate. Tolerance to opiates develops over time and with frequent use.

Opiate dependence is where an individual will require a certain dosage of a drug just to stave off opiate withdrawal symptoms. This regularly occurs once a tolerance to opiates has developed.

It is entirely possible for someone to be physically dependent and tolerant of an opiate drug without being addicted. This is common in long term pain management. As they are not abusing the opiates for their euphoric effects, the drug works as it should – as an effective analgesic. They may require a medical detox, but once the detox is complete, they will no longer obsess or crave opiates, unlike an addict would.

Opiate addiction is what kills most individuals who suffer drug poisoning related deaths. Addicts will go to extreme lengths to ensure their addiction is satisfied.

Not only does an addicted individual usually suffer from dependence and tolerance through repeated use, but they also suffer from a mental craving and obsession for the drug rewards that is beyond their control. (6)

The compulsive and obsessive aspect of opiate addiction is what kills so many. They become powerless to stop and stay stopped and will usually chase the drug to the gates of institutions, prisons, insanity or death.

If you have an addiction to an opiate, it is vital that you get help without delay. Most addicts swear that they will “Use this one last time, before quitting”. Sadly for many, their addiction is too powerful to allow for this to happen.

Characteristics of Opiate Addiction

If you have a problem with opiates, there are certain characteristics that will help you determine if you have an addiction. Characteristics of  addiction include:

● Compulsively using opiates despite wanting to stop
● Obsessing over getting and taking opiates
● Being secretive, deceitful and lying about the number of opiates you take
● Withdrawing from family, friends and loved ones to avoid being challenged
● Frequent intoxication from opiate abuse
● Breaking your own moral code of conduct to get opiates. This may involve stealing, dishonesty, prostitution, crime or          theft
● You have managed to stop previously but keep relapsing on opiates
● You stockpile opiates as you are fearful of running out
● You have suffered negative consequences as a result of your drug taking
● Someone close to you has expressed concern that you have a problem
● The thought of living without opiates terrifies you
● Planning, getting and taking opiates take up much of your day

drug abuser
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse

This list is not finite; there are many factors and behaviours that are typical of addiction, but if you do identify with any you certainly have a problem that warrants further investigation by an addiction specialist or medical professional.

What Causes Opioid Addiction?

Opioid addiction is both a mental and a biochemical illness. Opioid addiction is caused by a disease of the brain that develops and progresses over time with repeated exposure or abuse of opioids.

No one knows for sure why some opioid users develop an addiction and others just a dependence, but there is a definite difference between the two.

Addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease; once it has developed, there is no going back to recreational use or controlled use. Abstinence is the only suggested way of stopping the disease from further progressing.

Someone with an opioid addiction will suffer from both a physical craving and overwhelming mental obsession and compulsion to take opioids. Even once the physical aspect of opioid addiction has been treated successfully with detoxification, the mental aspect will remain and often lead to relapse. This is why psychological evidence-based addiction treatments are a critical part of drug rehabilitation.

Signs & Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

The following are considered to be signs and symptoms that are typical of opioid addiction

Frequent intoxication from opioids
● Seeking out the strongest drugs for the most profound high
● Using for the euphoric effects as opposed to analgesia
● Notable changes in appearance and behaviour
● Isolating and changing groups of friends
● Neglecting basic self-care, finances, personal responsibility and family
● Progressing from prescription to illicit drugs
● Progressing from smoking to injecting opioids
● Taking more and more opioids as time passes
● Going to extreme lengths to get the drugs
● Dishonesty, manipulation, secrecy and denial

Risk Factors for Developing Opioid Addiction

There are many risk factors that can contribute to developing an opioid addiction, aside from the fact that it is a very addictive group of drugs. With addiction, there are certain calculated risk factors that can make an individual more susceptible.

opiate withdrawal symptoms
Source: drugabuse.gov

Biological makeup, genetics and environment all play a part. Other risk factors are trauma, mental health illnesses, childhood bullying and neglect. Troubled children are especially at risk as their brain is still in the most critical growth period and very vulnerable to chemical influences.

Scientists estimate that genes, including the effects of environmental factors, have on a person’s gene expression, account for between 40 and 60% of a person’s risk of developing an addiction (7)

Many that suffer from the disease of addiction start experimenting with various drugs at a fairly young age, typically between the ages of 11 and 15. This sets up a pattern for progression on to other drugs, or they may just find the right drug that does for them what they cannot do for themselves straight away.

Avoiding and Preventing Addiction to Opiate Drugs

Addiction can be avoided and prevented. If you are taking opiates and find yourself craving more and more as time goes on, remember you can stop the cycle at any point by asking for professional help.

Education plays a very important part of preventing addiction. It is wise to educate yourself and other family members on the associated risk factors and dangers before taking opiates. If you possess certain risk factors that could make you more vulnerable to developing an addiction, please consider non-addictive alternative pain relief first and discuss your concerns with your doctor or pharmacist.

Exceptional caution around opiates should be exercised by those that have suffered previous mental health issues or addiction problems including alcoholism.

Signs of Opiate Intoxication

The following are signs of opiate intoxication:

● Bradycardia (slowed pulse rate)
● Decreased perception of pain
● Low body temperature
● Hypokinesis (slowed body movement)
● Calmness
● Meiosis (pinprick) pupils
● Slowed, slurred and delayed speech
● Excessively drowsy
● Unsteady on feet / slumped when sitting
● Euphoria
● Confusion
● Nausea
Sedation (8)

Am I Addicted to Opiates?


opiate withdrawal symptoms

If you are worried you may be suffering from opiate addiction, ask yourself if you identify with the following characteristics of an addict:

1. An  addict will often crave opiates and use more than they originally intended
2. An addict will be preoccupied with thoughts of planning, getting and taking opiates
3. An addict will usually make attempts to stop but will not be able to stay stopped without undergoing professional treatment
4. An addict will be extremely fearful of running out of opiates
5. An addict will be dishonest, manipulate, cheat or steal to access the drug
6. An addict will likely suffer  withdrawal symptoms if they are unable to get their usual dose or fix of opiates

If you do identify with any of these common characteristics of an addict, it strongly indicates that you have an addiction problem.

Please contact Detox Plus UK for immediate professional addiction help and advice.

The Long Term Effects Of Opiates On Your Body

Abusing opiates, whether prescribed painkillers or illicit heroin, can have serious consequences to your body and overall health.

Those that use illicit opiates, especially of the very strong variety, i.e. heroin or fentanyl, and inject intravenously are at the most risk of overdose or causing irreparable damage to their body.

Other effects of opiates on the body caused by long term use or abuse include:

● A weakened and compromised immune system
● Gastric problems include constipation, malnutrition through poor absorption and a bowel perforation
● Significant respiratory depression and reduced oxygenation of the body’s vital organs
● A vast number of physical problems and illnesses associated with intravenous administration (e.g. abscesses at injection sites, collapsed veins, DVT, contraction of bloodborne diseases, cellulitis, punctured artery (9) 

Long term use, abuse or addiction to opiates can also cause cognitive impairment and depression.

Opiate Withdrawal – Stages and Symptoms

Opiate withdrawal should never be attempted without first consulting with a physician or addiction specialist. There is a chance that if you are addicted to high levels of strong opiates that your withdrawal symptoms could become life-threatening. This is especially true for those that have had opiate dependence for a substantial period.

Severe withdrawal symptoms or acute withdrawal can be dangerous. Symptoms such as imbalanced electrolytes, rapid heart rate and seizures can put your life at risk. It is for this reason that it is recommended that individuals who have a long term or heavy addiction to opiates attend a drug rehab centre for medical opiate detox. This is clinically proven to be the safest way with a chronic opiate problem.

opioid withdrawal timeline


For further information on private drug rehab for opiate addiction, please call and speak to one of our friendly and experienced drug treatment experts.

Early Stage Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Early-stage withdrawal symptoms typically occur between 4 and 24 hours from the last dose of opiates, depending on the type of opiate drug and frequency of administration.

Early withdrawal symptoms include:

● Watery eyes
● Runny nose
● Excessive sweating
● Anxiety
● Agitation
● Irritability
● Muscle aches
● Abdominal cramps (10)

The early symptoms tend to be mild to moderate in severity and give way to the later stages of opiate withdrawal.

Later Stage Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

The later stage of withdrawal symptoms generally starts between 30 and 72 hours after the last dose of opiates. Again this time frame can be affected by the strength, route of administration and type of opiate.

Later stage withdrawal symptoms include:

● Diarrhoea
● Vomiting
● Increased heart rate and blood pressure
● Restlessness
● Muscle cramps and tightness
● Brain fog
● Headache
● Chills
● Goosebumps
● Shakiness
● Strong cravings
● Anxiety
● Panic
● Depression
● Dilated pupils
● Loss of appetite
● Lethargy
● Insomnia
● Yawning
● Sneezing
● Seizures (usually only in the most severe cases of withdrawal) (10)

The later stage tends to last for anything between 4 and 21 days depending on the type of opiate, route of administration, dosage, frequency and duration of opiate dependence.

The final stage of withdrawal only tends to occur in those that have had a long term chronic dependence or addiction to opiates. Symptoms can be protracted and go on for some time. In some cases of severe addiction, it can last for months and up to 1 year.

Protracted Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Protracted withdrawal symptoms or PAWS for short presents symptoms that tend to come and go in waves. The waves of PAWS tend to become less frequent and diminish in their severity over the course of time.

Protracted  withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) include:

● Depression
● Anxiety
● Insomnia
● Cravings
● Muscle aches and pains
● Lethargy
● Poor decision-making skills (10)

It is important for any individual experiencing PAWS symptoms that they access addiction support to help them through this difficult time. Regularly accessing addiction support helps to reduce the chances of opiate relapse.

How Long Do Opiates Stay In Your System?

How long opiates stay in your system depends on several factors, including the following:

● The method of testing, i.e., urine test, blood test, saliva test or hair test
● The length of time the person has been using the opiate drug regularly for
● The strength of the opiate
● Whether it has been swallowed, injected or smoked
● Whether the opiate drug is quick-release or slow-release
● The individual’s gender, BMI, metabolic rate, age, organ efficiency

Because of the above factors varying from person to person, it is not possible to give a definitive answer as to how long opiates stay in your system. However, there are guidelines that are issued to local drug and alcohol teams that can be considered.

A urine test is used to detect the presence of Codeine in your system – 2 days.
A urine test is used to detect the presence of Dihydrocodeine in your system – 3 days.
A urine test is used to detect the presence of heroin in your system – 2-3 days.
A urine test is used to detect the presence of Methadone in your system – 3 days, or 7 to 9 days with a methadone maintenance programme or chronic user.
A urine test is used to detect the presence of morphine in your system – 2 days

opiate withdrawal symptoms

As a guiding rule, opiate drugs can be detected in saliva for longer than in urine. Hair samples can pick up traces of opiates weeks to months after the opiates have been stopped in a chronic user.

Reducing Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Pharmaceutical medications are available to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. However, it is likely you will only be able to access medications if you undergo a full opiate drug detox within a CQC registered detox clinic or rehab centre.

The worst part of opiate withdrawal is the psychological symptoms which include acute anxiety, strong cravings and paranoia. These psychological symptoms of withdrawal can amplify the physical withdrawal symptoms to a point where the individual seeks relief in more opiates.

Opiate withdrawal symptoms can be reduced in several ways, although dealing with full-blown withdrawal in the community will test most individuals’ resolve never to use again.

Assuming you are unable to access drug rehab for opiate treatment, it is wise to discuss an opiate reduction regime with a doctor before starting. Having someone with you while you detox can be very helpful, providing they are going to support you in your attempt to stop.

It is important to ensure that you stay well hydrated while detoxing to avoid electrolyte imbalances which can become life-threatening if not medically treated. If you are unable to stomach food, speak to your doctor or pharmacist as to which dietary supplements are best for you. Regular paracetamol and ibuprofen will assist with fever and muscle aches.

Your pharmacist or doctor will be able to make recommendations for dealing with stomach cramps and diarrhoea.

Community Opiate Detox

If you are undergoing a community detox, it is helpful to engage in community therapy or self-help groups such as Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery. Your local drug and alcohol team will also be able to provide groups and keywork sessions also. Moral support can go along the way in encouraging you through the worst of the psychological symptoms associated with withdrawal and help prevent relapse.

It is possible to undergo a community detox with the assistance of your doctor or local drug and alcohol team. Please enlist both to ensure you have as much support in place as possible before starting.

Private Drug Rehab – Medical Opiate Detox

opiate withdrawal symptoms

If you are able to finance private drug rehab, full medical opiate detox is recommended. This is clinically the safest way to detox as you will be monitored throughout and provided with approved prescription medications to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. You will also undergo proven addiction treatments to help prevent relapse and show you how to live an opiate-free life.

Unearthing and healing the root causes associated with an individual’s addiction is an integral part of successful addiction treatment. Talking therapies and holistic therapies also assist in reducing symptoms and psychological rehabilitation.

For more information on our CQC registered opiate detox clinics and drug rehabs, please call and speak to Detox Plus UK. We can assess you as an individual before making appropriate recommendations.

Where can I find help, treatment and support for opioid addiction?

There are three main pathways to accessing treatment for opioid addiction; they are:

1. Refer yourself to your local drug and alcohol team for treatment on the NHS. 

2. Access self help support groups such as SMART Recovery and 12 Step fellowships such as Narcotics Anonymous

3. Access private opioid addiction treatment through a rehab where inpatient and outpatient programmes are available. We can discuss this particular option with you in-depth, so please call and speak to one of our addiction treatment experts and counsellors.

Pharmacological Interventions for Opiate Dependence and Treatment Implications

Pharmacological interventions assist in treating the physical withdrawal from opiate addiction and dependence. They work by reducing the withdrawal symptoms and making the detox more manageable.

Pharmacological interventions should only be conducted professionally and with support, ideally within a rehab environment, to avoid complications. Clinical guidelines state that professionals and medical care should be available 24/7. Realistically this level of care can only be delivered within a residential drug rehab environment.

Opioid detox medications should only be used on a short term basis to assist with the worst of the withdrawals. When used long term, there is the added implication of the individual developing a secondary addiction to the medication.

Furthermore, any pharmacological intervention used to treat addiction needs to be part of a full rehabilitation programme. This helps to prevent relapse and ensures that all aspects of the addiction are treated in full.

Medications To Treat Opioid Dependence

The NICE guidelines recommend the following pharmaceutical medications for opiate detoxification. Opiate detoxes need to be bespoke and take into account numerous factors personal to the individual to determine which medication is likely to work best for them.

Medications approved to treat opioid dependence include:

– Methadone
Buprenorphine (Subutex)
– Dihydrocodeine
– Lofexidine
– Clonidine (13)

To find out more about private inpatient opiate detox, please call Detox Plus UK today.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Opiate Drugs

If you need treatment for an opiate abuse problem, dependence or addiction and also suffer from a mental health illness, accessing the correct professional treatment is crucial to your long term recovery.

Addiction and long term opiate use is often accompanied by depression; this results from the opiates affecting the way the brain’s rewards system works. If you suffer from both depression and addiction, it is imperative that both conditions are treated simultaneously for the maximum chance of long term recovery.

Treating depression, anxiety or another mental health illness while you are still using opiates will prove pretty fruitless, as any medicinal or therapeutic treatment will be counteracted by the effects of opiate drugs.

Treating your addiction and leaving the remaining depression untreated is likely to result in drug relapse.

The best dual diagnosis treatment available is through private rehab, which can simultaneously treat both conditions.

Extended rehab care is highly recommended if you suffer from a dual diagnosis. Secondary rehab care or supported living accommodation can be helpful in enabling you to make a full recovery.

Extended rehab care and supported living to allow for additional time and support while you adjust to living drug-free. Once the opiates have been safely stopped, you can also be comprehensively assessed and monitored for any remaining mental health illness and receive appropriate treatment where needed.

What Is The Treatment For Opioid Addiction?

There are many evidence-based addiction treatments for opioid addiction. Treatment plans should incorporate all aspects of the person’s addiction and any additional illnesses presenting. It is important to treat the mind, body and spirit as a whole.

Successful opiate addiction treatment programmes are individually devised according to personal treatment requirements. Just because two people take the same drug does not mean that they would both respond to the same treatment methods.

Treatment plans also need to be flexible and regularly reviewed with the patient to ensure that they are receiving the best possible care at all times.

The UK Guidelines on clinical management of drug misuse and dependence, issued by the Department of Health, emphasises the need for cognitive and psychosocial interventions:

“To address common associated or co-occurring mental disorders, for example, cognitive behavioural treatment to address depression.

The type of psychosocial intervention should be selected based on the problem and treatment need of the specific patient, guided by the available evidence base of effectiveness, and not solely according to the interests of the clinician”

Private drug rehabs adopt these guidelines and provide counselling and psychotherapy using proven talking therapy techniques that formulate a trusting alliance with each patient.

For patients that find expressing themselves through talking difficult, private rehabs also offer other mediums of communication that enable patients to express their feelings safely – such as art or music therapy.

As with treatment for any substance addiction, opioid addiction treatment needs to be flexible so that each patient has their treatment needs met. It is a well-known fact that these needs are met better by the private rehab sector than in the NHS healthcare system.

Treatment For Protracted Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)

For individuals that suffer from protracted withdrawal symptoms, usually chronic users, ongoing support and treatment is a must.

Some rehab clinics do offer supported living in the community, and for an individual suffering from PAWS, this can be invaluable in terms of ongoing support. Detox Plus UK works with several rehabs that offer the third stage supported living accommodation. Call us today to find out more.

Evidence-Based Treatments For Opiate Addiction

Evidence-based treatments for  addiction include:
Talking Therapies for dependence and abuse

● Integrated counselling
● Person-centred counselling
● Trauma therapy
● Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
● Dialectical Behavioural Therapy
● Psychosocial interventions
● 12 Step model therapy
● Self-empowerment therapy
● Individual therapy
● Group therapy
● Educational Workshops
● Motivational therapy
● Relapse prevention techniques and strategies
● Peer-led therapy
Family therapy

Other evidence-based treatments involving other types of therapy (expression mediums)

● Art therapy
● Music therapy
● Equine therapy
● Drama therapy
● Dance therapy
● EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
● Hypnotherapy

Holistic Therapies For Opiate Addiction and Abuse

As well as therapeutic treatments designed to enable the patients with a safe form of communication, holistic therapies have also proven useful in treating opiate addiction.

Holistic therapies have limited availability in the community on the NHS but are available in most rehabs to complement an opiate rehabilitation programme. They include:

● Meditation
● Mindfulness
● Mindful fitness
● Yoga
● Spiritual development
● Tai Chi
● Reflexology
● Acupuncture
● Massage

A good opiate treatment programme will include elements of all of these different types of therapies and also assist with financial management, education, housing and life skills to ensure that the patient is being treated as a “whole person.”

To ensure that you or your loved one access the treatment that is correct for your individual treatment needs and requirements, we suggest calling Detox Plus UK. We will conduct a free of charge assessment and make appropriate recommendations based on the outcome.

Opiate Abuse and Overdose Statistics For England and Wales

The UK is currently facing an opioid crisis; stronger and purer drugs are available on the streets and on the black market. Over the last decade, there has been a marked increase in illicit opiate purity.

Heroin, a Class A illicit opiate, is now often contaminated with other drugs to make it more potent, including Fentanyl and Carfentanyl. These two extremely powerful opiate drugs have been responsible for a substantial rise in overdose deaths relating to IV Heroin users.

In 2017, there were 1,164 deaths involving Heroin and Morphine in England and Wales. A staggering number of deaths could have been prevented if the correct opiate treatment had been accessed in time.

Fentanyl and Carfentanyl Deaths Recorded in England and Wales 2017

2017 saw yet another rise in Fentanyl-related deaths, with the number of deaths recorded for England and Wales peaking at 75. This is a 29% increase from the previous year, which recorded 58 fentanyl-related deaths for England and Wales.

Carfentanyl, a synthetic opiate much more potent than fentanyl, was first seen mentioned in death certificates in 2017 and accounted for 27 deaths. 87% of the 31 deaths were related to fentanyl analogues in 2017.

opiate withdrawal symptoms
Comparison of lethal drug doses

Codeine related drug deaths also increased from 131 in 2016 to 156 in 2017, an increase of nearly 20%.

Prescription drug abuse has also increased, leading to more opiate-related deaths.
In 2016, 2,038 deaths were recorded as a result of opiate abuse in England and Wales; 1 209 of those deaths were caused by heroin/morphine and the rest attributed to medicinal opioids.

87% Of All Scottish Drug Deaths Related To Opiates and Opioids in 2017

Drug deaths in Scotland paint an even bleaker picture. In 2017 a shocking 934 Scots suffered a drug-related death. This is the highest number of drug-related deaths recorded for Scotland since the record first began in 1996.

Figures released by the National Records for Scotland showed that Opiates and opioids, such as heroin, morphine and methadone, were implicated in or potentially contributed to 815 deaths (87 per cent of the total number in 2017). Benzodiazepines such as diazepam and etizolam were implicated in or potentially contributed to 552 deaths (59 per cent).

opiate withdrawal symptoms

Scotland’s hot spots recorded by the NHS boards for the most drug-related deaths in 2017 were identified as:

● Greater Glasgow and Clyde – 280 drug deaths (30%)
● Lothian – 137 deaths (15%)
● Lanarkshire – 102 deaths (11%)
● Tayside – 94 deaths (10%)

Of the 934 drug-related deaths recorded for Scotland, 70% were male. Scotland’s figures imply a drug-death rate that is higher than those reported for any EU country in 2017, and it is evident that opiates and opioids have a huge part to play in this.

The Darknets Role In Rising Opiate Abuse

Over recent years there has been more availability of prescription opiate painkillers that can be purchased online without a prescription. This has contributed considerably to the rise in prescription opiate drug abuse.

The Global Drug Survey conducted in 2015 reported that the United Kingdom and Scotland are ranked 5th and 6th, respectively, out of all countries surveyed for purchasing the most illicit drugs from the darknet.

Q&A on Opiates

How do I avoid withdrawal symptoms?

The best way to avoid withdrawal symptoms is to take them on a very short term basis only, under the supervision of your doctor, so that you do not become physically dependent. Alternatively, discuss less addictive alternatives with your GP or pharmacist.

What helps with cravings?

If you are physically dependent on opiates, the withdrawal will produce intense cravings for opiate drugs. Opiate cravings can be helped by taking an approved detox medication. Holistic and therapeutic interventions are also very helpful.

Can I get free rehab for opiate addiction?

Free rehab for opiate addiction has extremely limited availability. Please contact your local drug and alcohol team to find out if you are eligible to apply for local rehab funding.

What is the best rehab for opiate addiction?

The best rehab for opiate addiction depends on the individual’s treatment needs. Treating addiction is complex, and so what works for one person may not work for another. To discuss your personal treatment requirements and find out which rehab is best for you, please call Detox Plus UK.

Does Buprenorphine/Subutex block opiates?

Is Diazepam an opiate?

What happens when you mix alcohol with opiates?

How long do opiates stay in your system?

What is Black Tar Heroin?






  1. Wikipedia Opiate
  2. ONS / NHS Digital
  3. ONS Office for National Statistics
  4. NICE National Institute for Health Care and Excellence
  5. https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/explainer-what-dopamine
  6. https://www.drugabuse.gov/international/abstracts/characteristics-drug-dependent-people
  7. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drug-misuse-addiction
  8. https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-gb/professional/special-subjects/recreational-drugs-and-intoxicants/opioid-toxicity-and-withdrawal#:~:text=Acute%20opioid%20intoxication%20is%20characterized,decreased%20bowel%20sounds%2C%20and%20constipation.
  9. https://drugabuse.com/opiates/
  10. https://drugabuse.com/opiates/withdrawal/
  11. http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/
  12. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg52/evidence/drug-misuse-opioid-detoxification-full-guideline-196515037
  13. https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/news/2018/934-drug-related-deaths-in-scotland-in-2017
  14. https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/the-global-drug-survey-2015-findings/
  15. NHS Digital
  16. NIH
  17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opioid_antagonist
  18. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buprenorphine
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