What are the Some of the Most Popular Opioid Drugs?

Opioids are a class of highly addictive narcotic painkillers that derive from the opium plant. In modern times, opioid and opiate drug derivatives are commonly known as drugs like Vicodin, hydrocodone, or oxycontin, and have been used for centuries to treat pain. There are many different types of these narcotic painkillers, and all of them are used to treat chronic and acute pain. However, people who take these types of drugs can quickly develop tolerance and physical and psychological dependence on them.

What were some of the first narcotic painkillers?

In the U.S., one of the oldest narcotic painkillers or opioid derivatives ever used was morphine. The drug was first used in the 1860s to treat wounded Civil War soldiers. The drug was administered in a liquid form and was usually drunk in a tea, or smoked out of a pipe as opium. Morphine is still used today in clinical settings for pain management. After the Civil War, many soldiers returned home addicted to opium and morphine. Rates of addiction were highest among returning white Confederate soldiers.

Studies indicate that opium and morphine addiction during the Reconstruction era in the Southern states was the highest in the world. Although opioid addiction has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S in the modern era, the country has experienced these problems before.

In 1898, heroin was invented and imported into the U.S. The drug company Bayer developed heroin as an alternative to morphine, marketing it as a less addictive painkiller. Unfortunately, the introduction of another addictive painkiller only increased rates of addiction and abuse. In response, Congress passed laws placing the first-ever restrictions on the sale of narcotics and opiates. It is with this set of rules that Congress banned the sale and use of heroin. The Controlled Substances Act passed in the 1970s and placed further restrictions on the sale and use of addictive painkillers. The act also divided substances into groups and classes according to their potential for abuse and addiction.

Common Opioids

In the mid-1990s, Purdue Pharma created and manufactured OxyContin, marketing it as a less-addictive opioid drug than other opioids that were being prescribed. For the next twenty years, physicians began to prescribe OxyContin and other newer opioid drugs. Despite lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, opioid use and misuse have reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. Every day, 91 people die from opioid overdoses in the U.S, and the crisis was declared a national emergency in 2017.

Is there a difference between opiates and opioids?

These terms are used interchangeably, but there is a difference between these two classes of painkillers. An opiate is a painkiller that derives directly from the opium or poppy plant. Opiates are morphine, heroin, and codeine. An opioid, on the other hand, refers to opiates and also natural and synthetic substances that bind directly to the naturally occurring opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors are directly responsible for controlling the body’s responses to pain, risk, and reward, and they play a crucial role in addictive behaviors. Synthetic opioids would be prescription painkillers:

  • Hydrocodone or Vicodin
  • Oxycodone or OxyContin
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone

In essence, opiates are opioids, but opioids are not necessarily opiates.

What makes opioids so addictive?

The tolerance window for opioids is very narrow. It does not take much of a dose for a person to form a tolerance to the drug quickly. They will need to take more and more of an opioid to get the desired effect. Opioids also produce one of the most intense, euphoric highs of any drug in the world. The drugs rewire the brain’s risk and reward pathways. Furthermore, opioid withdrawals are painful, and one of the symptoms and possible consequences of withdrawal is severe, clinical depression that can be challenging to treat.

What are the most commonly abused opioids?

The most commonly abused opioids are:

Vicodin is one of the most widely abused opioid painkillers because it is also one of the most frequently prescribed narcotics. Vicodin is prescribed to treat both chronic and acute pain, and doctors often prescribe Vicodin to people recovering from surgery, dental procedures, or injuries.

Heroin is the second most commonly abused opiate drug. It is illegal but can be easier and cheaper for someone to obtain than prescription opioids. Many people start with an addiction to a prescription painkiller before trying heroin. Unfortunately, heroin is incredibly dangerous and increases the user’s risk of overdose and contracting bloodborne illness from injecting the drug. People who use heroin do not know what else is in the dose. Thousands of people in the U.S. have died from taking heroin laced with Fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than heroin.

Morphine is the third most commonly abused opiate drug. It is often given to surgical or injury patients as an IV medication or taken as a tablet.

Codeine is similar to morphine. It is a prescription medication for pain and also a sleep aid. It’s usually taken orally.

Fentanyl is an incredibly powerful prescription painkiller that comes in a patch form. It was initially intended to treat people with chronic, severe pain from cancer or other serious health issues. Fentanyl is sold on the street and also used to cut heroin, creating a powerful, dangerous, and highly addictive mixture.

How can someone get help for opioid addiction?

People who want to get clean from opioid abuse and addiction must have access to integrated treatment and airtight aftercare plans. People in recovery from these drugs will experience intense cravings and are at high risk of relapsing. With aftercare plans in place, they can reduce their risk of relapse and overdose. It is crucial that people with an opioid addiction take advantage of medical detox, and inpatient and outpatient treatment models to beat their addiction and achieve sobriety. Although opioids are incredibly addictive, there is help for people struggling with this disease.

Are you or someone you love addicted to opioids? Please contact Mission Harbor Behavioral Health today. They’ve helped thousands of people beat their opioid addiction and achieve sobriety. Representatives are standing by to assist you with any questions you may have about how to recover from opiate abuse.

The facilities at Mission Harbor are staffed with trained experts to best assist patients with their mental health issues. We are capable of dealing with any and all cases with a licensed staff, equipment, and approved techniques. Our mission is to help those who want to help themselves, and we support your decision in seeking help.

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