What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a type of drug known as a “painkiller.” When taken,
opioids attach to opioid receptors in the brain, which are responsible
for regulating pain, emotions, and certain behaviors. Users typically
experience a “rush” after taking opioids, as the brain is
signaled to release dopamine and other “feel-good” chemicals.
Over time, however, the brain loses the ability to perform this function
on its own. As a result, chronic opioid users must continue taking opioids
to experience feelings of pleasure and reduce uncomfortable symptoms associated
with opioid withdrawal.
Types of Opioids
There are three main types of opioids:
Natural Opioids: Naturally occurring opioids are known as opiates or alkaloids. Natural
opioids are derived from the opium poppy plant and include drugs like
morphine, codeine, and
Semi-Synthetic Opioids: Semi-synthetic opioids are manufactured in labs using natural opioids.
Examples of semi-synthetic opioids include hydromorphone, hydrocodone,
heroin, and oxycodone (the prescription drug OxyContin).
Synthetic Opioids: The third and last type of opioid is strictly manmade opioids manufactured
from an assortment of chemicals that produce the same effects as opium.
Examples of this type of opioid include fentanyl, methadone, tramadol,
What Are the Most Commonly Abused Opioids?
Opioids and opiates are highly addictive drugs, meaning they have a high
potential for abuse. This is true whether an individual misuses a prescription
medication or begins using an illicit opiate, such as heroin.
Some of the most commonly abused illicit and prescription opioids include:
Prescription opioids are frequently abused, as they are relatively easy
to obtain. Furthermore, users may find it easier to hide prescription
opioid misuse and abuse because they have been prescribed these medications
for valid purposes. As a result, it is easier to downplay one’s
own opioid abuse or brush off concerns from others.
Causes of Opioid or Opiate Addiction
Opioids come in many forms. In some cases, they can be legitimate medications
(prescription painkillers) prescribed by doctors for serious medical conditions.
Conversely, they also come as illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl.
As for what causes opioid addiction, it’s usually one of two things.
First, the user might have an opioid prescription that he or she started
abusing over time. This form of abuse often develops due to prescription
opioid users not following their doctors’ instructions.
For example, opioid users may purposely take more pills at one time than
what was prescribed for them with the hope that doing so would relieve
them of more pain more quickly. Other people with opioid prescriptions
may take their opioid medications for longer than prescribed due to persistent pain.
Some people may even abuse prescription opioids to cope with symptoms of
poor mental health or to escape real-life problems. Unfortunately, when
people don’t follow their doctors’ orders when it comes to
their prescription opioid use, they tend to develop opioid addictions.
People tend to use illicit opioids recreationally to escape their real-life
problems or deal with co-occurring mental health conditions or trauma.
When people abuse illicit opioids, it’s often because they’ve
already previously abused other substances that were milder but were no
longer producing the same effects they once did.
What Are the Effects of Opioid Abuse on the Brain & Body?
From a scientific point of view, opioids attach themselves to the pain
receptors in the brain. They serve to interrupt feelings of pain. These
drugs are also popular because they create a bit of euphoria or a state
of relaxation in the early days of abuse.
As time goes on, opioids can start breaking down the body. They can even
cause brain damage. Opioids are also highly addictive. For example, some
people have reported the onset of an addiction to heroin in as little
as a week of significant abuse.
Long-Term Effects of Opioid Addiction
- GI problems
- Respiratory issues
- Increase change on stroke or heart failure
- Negtive impact on reproductive health
Signs & Symptoms of Opioid Addiction
Opioid addiction has the ability to devastate lives. As such, it’s
very rare for someone to have an addiction to opioids without it becoming
quite evident to the people around them. With that in mind, you should
know that the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction can take two forms:
physical and behavioral.
Below are some of the most common signs and symptoms of opioid abuse and
- Inability to manage personal responsibilities like paying bills
- Constant need to keep increasing doses to get the desired effect
- Illicit behavior related to buying or selling opioids
- Relationship problems at school, home, and work
- Unkempt personal appearance
- Significant weight loss
- Sleeping problems
Signs of an Opioid Overdose
Given the dangerous nature of some opioid substances, opioid overdoses
are far too frequent. Perhaps, some overdose deaths would be preventable
if people knew how to recognize the signs of an opioid overdose.
The signs of opioid overdose include:
- Dilated pupils
- Bluish color around lips and fingernails
- Slowed breathing and heart rate
- Unresponsiveness to stimuli
Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
When a person who suffers from an opioid addiction minimizes or discontinues
their use of the substance, they will experience withdrawal symptoms.
Examples of opioid withdrawal symptoms include:
- Rapid breathing
- Hallucinations and nightmares
- Alarming increase in heart rate and blood pressure
- Cramping, convulsions, and tremors in the extremities
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of body control and function
Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Prior to entering opioid addiction rehab, one must typically attend medical
detox due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms and the potential danger
of withdrawal complications.
Many of the top opioid rehab centers offer a medical detox program. They
do this to provide a safe and secure environment for clients to detox.
If you show signs of distress while detoxing from opioids at a medical
detox facility, medical professionals will be on standby and ready to
assist you. If necessary, the medical professionals at a detox facility
can give you prescription medications to help you manage your withdrawal symptoms.
Therapy for Opioid Addiction
After going through the detox process, opioid addicts will go through addiction
therapy. In fact, individuals attending opiate addiction treatment will likely
go through intensive therapy. Intensive therapy is necessary for those
attending opioid addiction rehab so that they can learn why they abuse
opioids, their triggers for abusing opioids, and proper coping mechanisms
to use to manage those triggers.
In many cases,
family therapy are included in the treatment process for opiate addiction. In both of
these forms of therapy, opioid addiction rehab patients get to interact
with other people and build upon their support group. If used properly,
these forms of support could help to recover opioid addicts
Other forms of therapy that are effective when treating opioid addiction include: