There may be no arguing the fact that any and all addictions are difficult to cope with and resolve, and that some addictions may be similar in some respects, but this does not mean that all addictions are the same. In fact, there can be marked differences between addictions, and these differences explain why rehabilitation treatment must be designed to handle the specific addiction the individual is suffering from. This is certainly true of opiates and stimulants.
Opiates vs. Stimulants
Opiates are depressant drug substances that are derived from the Asian poppy plant. These drugs are best known for their ability to relieve pain and generate euphoric highs, and they come in both illicit form (like heroin and opium) as well as legal medication form (like morphine, hydrocodone and codeine). Hydrocodone is normally used to treat pain related to dental work and injuries. Morphine is normally used to treat severe pain before and after surgery. Codeine is normally used to treat mild pain, such as occurs with persistent coughing or severe diarrhea.
When ingested, opiates enter the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract and other organs of the body where they block the specific proteins known as opioid receptors. By blocking these receptors, opiates effectively reduce the individual’s perception of pain. They also affect the areas of the brain that are responsible for controlling emotion, which then also works to diminish the effects of painful stimuli. Opiate medications can also cause an individual to feel euphoria since they interact with the areas of the brain that are responsible for pleasure and reward. It is not uncommon for an individual who is taking prescription opiates to become tolerant of these substances, and then seek to intensify their experience by taking the drug in ways other than described–either by increasing their dosage amounts, crushing pills that are meant to be swallowed, or some other method of abuse. Of course, opiate abuse often leads into opiate addiction.
In opiate addiction, the individual compulsively continues to use these substances despite experiencing serious adverse consequences, which can include reduced respiration, heart rate, blood pressure and more. The individual withdrawing from opiate use often experiences restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps and involuntary leg movements.
Stimulants are drug substances that increase an individual’s alertness, attention and energy. They also elevate the individual’s blood pressure, heart rate and respiration, often to dangerous levels, making them essentially opposites to depressant opiates. Stimulants have had and continue to have some limited usefulness in treating conditions such as asthma and other respiratory problems, as well as obesity and neurological disorders, where their stimulating effects actually work to help individuals recover from these conditions. However, they are often abused for their stimulating effects, which individuals can use to stay up longer, work harder, party more and so on.
When ingested, stimulants move into the brain where they mimic neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. These natural chemicals are responsible for regulating the functions of various organs and systems in the body, which is why stimulants effectively speed up these functions. A high increase of dopamine production can result in a euphoric feeling in the individual, which may drive him to abuse the drug by taking higher doses more frequently.
An individual who is addicted to stimulants is compulsively taking these drug substances despite their adverse consequences, including feelings of hostility, paranoia or psychosis as well as a dangerously high body temperature or irregular heartbeat. When the individual tries to withdraw from stimulant use, he normally experiences fatigue, depression and a disturbance of normal sleep patterns.
Neither opiate nor stimulant addiction is something to be taken lightly. Both conditions require immediate treatment by trained professionals, but they are nonetheless quite different from each other, especially as regards how they affect the individual and how they must be treated.