What is an Opioid?

What is an Opioid?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others. All individuals who take opioids run the risk of addiction. As such, when asking “what is an opioid?” it is important to know the different types, the signs of addiction, and the signs of an overdose.

Prescription Opioids

Opioids interact with the opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. This interaction interferes with communication between the body’s nerves and the brain. For individuals suffering from chronic pain, whether from injury, surgery or other chronic pain condition, this can provide much-needed pain relief that over-the-counter medications are not strong enough to control.

Along with interfering with pain receptors, opioids also provide a euphoric high to relax the user. This feeling can trigger the reward system in the brain. Eating delicious foods, being with someone you love, or seeing a beautiful view can also trigger the same reward system. As such, the body wants more and more until, eventually, dependency and addiction have taken over and withdrawal symptoms kick in. This is why opioids need to be slowly tapered off when they are prescribed so that uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms do not occur.

Opioids by Name

When asking “what is an opioid?”, it is important to know all the different types of prescribed opioids. Opioids are more commonly known by their brand names, which include:

  • Abstral (fentanyl)
  • Actiq (fentanyl)
  • Avinza (morphine sulfate extended-release capsules)
  • Butrans (buprenorphine transdermal system)
  • Demerol (meperidine [also known as isonipecaine or pethidine])
  • Dilaudid (hydromorphone [also known as dihydromorphinone])
  • Dolophine (methadone hydrochloride tablets)
  • Duragesic (fentanyl transdermal system)
  • Fentora (fentanyl)
  • Hysingla (hydrocodone)
  • Methadose (methadone)
  • Morphabond (morphine)
  • Nucynta ER (tapentadol extended-release oral tablets)
  • Onsolis (fentanyl)
  • Oramorph (morphine)
  • Oxaydo (oxycodone)
  • Roxanol-T (morphine)
  • Sublimaze (fentanyl)
  • Xtampza ER (oxycodone)
  • Zohydro ER (hydrocodone)

Non-Prescription Opioids

Heroin is a non-prescription, illegal opioid. Over 80% of heroin users first abused prescription opioids before switching to heroin. This is because heroin is less expensive and easier to obtain than prescription opioids, and this switch to heroin is a major red flag that addiction has taken control of an individual’s life.

Heroin often contains additives, such as sugar, starch, or powdered milk, that can clog blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain, causing permanent damage. Also, sharing drug injection equipment and having an impaired judgment from drug use can increase the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.

Opioid Statistics

  • Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them
  • More than 115 people died of opioid overdoses every day in America in 2016
  • Opioid-related deaths accounted for nearly two-thirds of the approximately 63,632 Americans who died of a drug overdose that year
  • In 2018, it is estimated that more than 2 million Americans have suffered from addiction to prescription or illicit opioids
  • The Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017

Signs of Opioid Addiction

Opioids frequently causes users to become dependent, even if the individual is under close medical supervision. According to Truth Initiative, opioid dependence can happen after just 5 days. Consequently, it is important to identify the signs of opioid addiction as early as possible, even if the signs seem subtle.

  • Taking more opioids than prescribed. Running out of opioids before an individual is supposed to is one of the first signs of addiction.
  • Unable to stop or slow use. This is a reg flag for dependency and is not unusual for opioid users. However, if efforts to slow or stop using are abandoned, it should be seen as a cause for concern.
  • Denial and isolation. Withdrawing from loved ones and hobbies, as well as defending use and denying a problem is present, are signs that addiction is present.
  • Drug-seeking behavior. Individuals may seek multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors, drive to different pharmacies, switch to heroin, and go to other great lengths to obtain more opioids.
  • Negative consequences. Poor performance at work, financial issues, legal troubles, and suffering relationships are all negative consequences stemming from opioid use.
  • Inappropriate use. Becoming high from opioids first thing in the morning, before driving, during work hours, or in order to feel “normal” are all forms of inappropriate use.

Signs of Opioid Overdose

There are three main signs of opioid overdose, which are collectively referred to as the opioid overdose triad. They include:

  1. Pinpoint pupils (i.e. contracted and small)
  2. Respiratory depression
  3. A decreased level of consciousness or unconsciousness.

Those are not the only signs of an opioid overdose. More symptoms to look out for include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Inability to talk despite consciousness
  • Unresponsive to outside stimulus
  • Slow, erratic, or halted breathing
  • Choking sounds or gurgling noises
  • Vomiting
  • Limp body
  • Skin tone turns bluish purple (for paler complexions) or grayish (for darker complexions)
  • Lips and fingernails turn blue or purplish black
  • Heartbeat is slow, unstable, or nonexistent

About Cliffside Malibu

Opioids are a dangerous, highly-addictive substance. Actions should be taken at the first sign of addiction to ensure the best long-term results, however, this can come too late for many. Luckily, treatment and recovery are possible for anyone suffering from addiction.

Since no two addictions are the same, Cliffside Malibu offers an individualized treatment plan for every client. We are committed to providing evidence-based treatment through a continuum of care model including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment, and outpatient services. Our program also includes family therapy and holistic therapy, as well. Whether an individual is suffering from substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction, our programs are structured to create a supportive environment where healing can begin.

In addition to world-class treatment, Cliffside Malibu offers luxury accommodations, a serene environment, five-star dining, and plentiful amenities. We understand that addiction treatment is a rigorous process. Therefore, we provide for your comfort and relaxation at every turn, allowing you to rejuvenate, and meet the demands of treatment with your greatest energy and attention.

For more information on Cliffside Malibu, visit cliffsidemalibu.com

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About Jaclyn Uloth