You’ve probably heard mention of the opioid crisis—an epidemic of drug addiction, centered on a specific category of narcotics. Despite all the media attention surrounding opioid addiction, there remains much misunderstanding about what opioids really are.
In this post, we’ll define the category, and offer some insights into what separates opioids from other types of drugs. We’ll discuss how opioids affect body and mind, and also list some specific examples of opioids. Finally, we’ll offer a few words about opioid rehab—and provide some hope for those who are struggling with opioid addiction.
What are Opioids?
- Opioids are originally derived from the poppy plant.
- They have been around for thousands of years, used in both recreational and medical settings.
- Some opioids come from raw, natural opium, while others are synthesized in a lab and made to resemble opium.
- While some opioids are classified as illegal narcotics, others are commonly used by physicians—in particular, to manage pain.
- Opioids are known for their pronounced effect on the body’s central nervous system; this makes them helpful in pain management, but it also makes them addictive.
- While opioid addiction is serious—even life-threatening—recovery is always attainable.
What are the Different Types of Opioids?
There are three main categories of opioid drugs:
- Naturally occurring opioids, derived from opium. Morphine is an example.
- Partially synthetic derivatives of morphine, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.
- Entirely synthetic drugs, made to resemble the chemical structure of opium; examples include methadone and codeine.
Below are some further points about each type of opioid.
What are Natural Opioid Drugs?
As the name suggests, these drugs are all derived from a naturally-occurring source—specifically, poppy plants. These opioids are sometimes considered to be less powerful and therefore less addictive than their synthetic counterparts, yet they still have a significant impact on the body’s nervous systems—and as such, they can still be quite addictive.
There is a long history of natural opioids being used to mitigate pain, yet there is also a track record of these medicines—including morphine—being used to get high, illegally.
What are Semisynthetic Opioids?
The second classification of opioids includes those that are made from both synthetic and natural opioid ingredients—making them sort of a hybrid version. They were initially developed to provide a safer alternative to their synthetic counterparts, yet they have both the same basic structure and the same serious effects as opioids in other forms.
What are Synthetic Opioids?
Finally, there are the opioid drugs that are made in a laboratory and designed to have a similar chemical structure to natural opioids. In other words, these are made without the chemicals found in morphine, opium, and/or poppy plants.
Often, these drugs are used to treat opioid addiction—but the cruel irony is, they can be powerfully habit-forming and addictive in and of themselves. Indeed, they are potentially just as dangerous as natural and semisynthetic opioids.
How Do Opioids Work?
No matter the type of opioid in question—natural, semisynthetic, or synthetic—they all work in roughly the same way:
- Opioids depress the central nervous system, masking the presence of pain and creating a sensation of euphoria.
- This sense of wellbeing, and this minimization of pain, is exactly what makes opioids effective in treating chronic pain.
- However, over time, the nervous system can be thrown off balance by opioids—and the individual may find it impossible to feel happiness without opioids.
- Increasingly large and frequent doses of opioids are needed to maintain this sense of wellbeing.
- Those who become addicted to relatively low-level opioids, such as prescription painkillers, may later become addicted to heroin or other powerful street drugs.
What are the Most Common Kinds of Opioids?
There are a few specific types of opioid drugs to be aware of; again, they all work in roughly the same way, even if some are a bit more potent than others.
- OxyContin. Often called “hillbilly heroin,” this is a prescription painkiller that often leads to addiction and abuse, even when prescribed for legitimate reasons.
- Hydrocodone. Another prescription painkiller, this one is often sold under brand names like Lorcet and Vicodin. It is highly addictive, and, again, often becomes abused.
- Codeine. The most widely-used opioid in the world, codeine has a reputation for being relatively safe—yet it can still be dangerously addictive.
- Methadone. Initially developed to be used as a morphine substitute, methadone can have all the same ill effects as naturally-occurring opioid drugs.
What are the Symptoms of Opioid Addiction?
Again, there are subtle variations in these different forms of opioid drugs, yet the ultimate symptoms and signs of opioid addiction are fairly similar. Some of the primary ones include:
- Intense elation or euphoria
- Sedation or drowsiness
- Slowed breathing
- Chronic constipation
- Constricted pupils
There are also some behavioral symptoms to be aware of:
- Doctor shopping, trying to get more prescriptions for more opioids
- Misusing opioids, or taking them for longer periods of time than needed
- Loss of interest in things that once brought pleasure
- Social withdrawal
- Lying, stealing, or secrecy in order to maintain an opioid habit
And, for those who are in opioid withdrawal, some common symptoms include:
What’s the First Step Toward Opioid Addiction Rehab?
No matter what kind of opioid you are addicted to, or how many symptoms you have experienced, it’s important to know that recovery is always possible—and it starts with clinical treatment.
Take the first step toward your own addiction recovery. Reach out to our team today. Experience Recovery helps individuals develop lifelong sobriety, and prevent against relapse. We individualize our approach, and provide an opioid treatment plan that fits your specific needs. Begin a new life, free from the ravages of addiction; call and ask us about opioid rehab today.