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Opioid Definition

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What is Opioid

Opioids are a group of pain-relieving drugs. They work by binding to the so-called opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, as well as other areas of the body.

What is an Opioid?, What Opioid Medications Do, Are Opioids Dangerous?, What is Opioid Addiction?, Signs of Opioid Abuse and Addiction, Rehab is Your Best Chance


In 2020, almost 75% of all drug overdoses were associated with opioids, according to the Center for Disease Control. Most people who end up abusing opioids were drawn by its calming and euphoric effects. Teens are exposed to the highest amount of risk when it comes to opioid abuse because these prescription painkillers are easily accessible.

The thing about opioids is that these medications are perfectly safe if used as directed by the doctor. They can help reduce pain, including the pain you experience after surgery. But even prescribed opioids have the potential to be dangerous.

This is why it is essential to understand what this type of drug is, how it works, and how it can affect an individual. Knowing the dangers of opioids is half the battle. It can help you help someone you love if they are struggling with addiction. Let’s take a closer look.


What is an Opioid?


Opioids are a class of drugs that are derived from the opium poppy plant. Technically, these are synthetic substances derived from the opium poppy plant, while “opiates” are natural substances derived from the same. However, the terms “opiates” and “opioids” are commonly used interchangeably anyway.

Synthetic opioids are meant to mimic the natural substances found in the opium poppy plant. As for their purpose, opioids are used for pain relief, primarily. Opioids are also referred to as painkillers or narcotics.

Opioids activate an area of nerve cells in the brain and body that are called opioid receptors. They work as painkillers because they can block incoming pain signals between the body and the brain.

Morphine, codeine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, fentanyl, methadone, tramadol, buprenorphine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and even the illegal drug heroin are classified as opioids.

Someone who uses opioids for a long time may develop physical dependence, tolerance, and even overdose, which can be fatal. If you think someone who has taken opioids is at risk of an opioid overdose, watch out for symptoms like drowsiness, euphoria, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and slowed breathing.

Because these drugs can induce a temporary feeling of pleasure, they are often abused or misused. Certain illegal drugs like heroin are considered opioids, but most of them are prescription opioids that are available as medication for pain relief.


What Opioid Medications Do

Opioids are a group of pain-relieving drugs. They work by binding to the so-called opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, as well as other areas of the body. They then block incoming pain signals, essentially telling the body and brain that it is not in pain.

A pain management specialist may prescribe it for moderate to severe pain, particularly in cases wherein other pain medications are not working. It can also be used to reduce pain following an injury or surgical procedure.

Opioids can be made naturally using the poppy plant, but it can also be synthesized in a laboratory. Morphine is an example of opioid that is naturally derived from the opium poppy plant, while fentanyl is a synthetic example.

These medications can travel through the bloodstream, attaching to opioid receptors. Aside from affecting our brain’s perception of pain, it can also provide a euphoric sensation, boosting feelings of pleasure. This sensation is what makes these substances addictive.

Opioids may be given orally, intravenously, under the tongue, or through a skin patch.

Are Opioids Dangerous?

As useful as opioids are when it comes to providing pain relief, they can also prove to be dangerous.

Lower doses of opioids will only make you sleepy, but it can get a lot more dangerous than that when taken at higher doses. Large doses of opioids can slow a person’s breathing and heart rate, both of which can be life-threatening.

Opioids are dangerous in the way that you can get hooked on the euphoric high that it produces. Opioid drugs can make you feel good, which can influence the reward center of your brain, pushing it into seeking out the substance. This is how addiction develops.

Following your doctor’s prescription carefully can reduce the risk of dangerous side effects from opioids. Make sure to take your medication exactly as prescribed. If you are taking any other medication or supplements, let your doctor know about it. This will lower your risk of an overdose.

A fatal overdose happens due to opioids slowing a person’s system to extreme levels. The risk of a fatal overdose is higher for someone who is taking large amounts of opioids, taking medications that interact with opioids, or has a condition that affects their ability to breathe.

Respiratory depression and respiratory arrest are dangerous conditions that can put a person’s life at risk. Misusing an opioid drug can have these effects.

Remember that even under a doctor’s supervision, opioid use still poses certain risks. You can develop tolerance with regular use of prescription opioids. Eventually you will have to take higher doses just to get the same effects.

It is also possible to become physically dependent on these drugs. Drug dependence is when the body has adjusted to the constant presence of a certain substance, in this case opioids. When a person who has been taking opioids for a long time suddenly stops or reduces their intake significantly, their body would have an adverse reaction. This is called withdrawal.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can range from mildly inconvenient to life-threatening.

What is Opioid Addiction?

Opioids are addictive. These are highly potent drugs that can create a euphoric sensation, which means anybody taking them can get hooked. Prescription opioids and illegal opioids alike can cause this euphoric high.

It is worth noting that not everybody who takes opioids experiences these euphoric sensations. But for those who do, the risk of developing an addiction is greater.

Addiction is characterized by the compulsive use of a certain substance even when the person is already suffering from its adverse health effects. In this case, opioid abuse can lead to serious physical and mental health risks.

An opioid use disorder can develop even if a doctor prescribed opioids for a patient. These substances are very addictive because of their pain relieving and pleasurable effects. Addiction can develop even if the opioid is only taken for a short time.

Overdose, withdrawal, and death are also possible effects of opioid use. But generally speaking, an addicted individual will keep seeking out the substance and start losing interest in things they used to enjoy. They will spend most of their time thinking about opioids, finding ways to get more opioids, using opioids, and recovering from its effects.

As addiction takes hold, the person begins to neglect their responsibilities in favor of using the drug.

Some people take opioids recreationally in order to relax. They do so by swallowing capsules or tablets, inhaling powdered opioid drugs, or injecting them directly into their veins using a needle.

Signs of Opioid Abuse and Addiction

If you think someone you love is abusing opioids, it helps to know the signs and symptoms of drug abuse.

An addicted individual may exhibit sudden changes in their appearance or hygiene. They may lose or gain weight for no apparent reason. Other physical signs of substance abuse include insomnia, nodding off, and slurred speech.

Also watch out for behavioral changes like isolation from friends and family, mood swings, participating in risky behaviors, poor academic performance, or losing interest in things they used to enjoy. They may get in trouble with the law, steal money, or suffer from financial problems due to their opioid abuse.

They may run out of their prescription earlier than they are supposed to because they are taking more opioids at a time or taking it more often than prescribed.

Doctor shopping is one of the most obvious signs of opioid addiction. Doctor shopping is when a person visits multiple doctors to try and get the same opioid prescription repeatedly.

Remember that a lot of people might be in denial about their condition. In some cases, an intervention may be necessary to help the person understand the gravity of their situation.

If you were given an opioid prescription, stay in touch with your doctor and report any unusual symptoms you may have while taking it. Do not stop taking your opioid medication without consulting with your doctor first.

Your doctor will slowly wean you off of the medication once you are ready to stop opioids. Do not quit cold turkey. You need to give your body enough time to readjust. Otherwise, the withdrawal symptoms may get uncomfortable.

They need to manage your opioid intake so they can closely monitor any opioid side effects.

Opioid drugs are extremely helpful for those with chronic pain. But the dangers are there and you need to be careful with how you use these medications.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an opioid use disorder or opioid addiction, it is important to seek proper treatment. Look for an addiction treatment facility near you today and find out more about their treatment programs. Some facilities specialize in treating opioid addiction. Your road to recovery starts today.


Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.

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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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