Opioids 101

Opioids come from opium, a dried sap of the opium poppy, typically grown in Asia, North Africa, South America and the Middle East.

Commonly prescribed by medical professionals to relieve pain after surgery or to help patients with severe acute or chronic pain, opioids can be safe when taken as prescribed.

Opioids are highly addictive because they activate endorphins. Endorphins are the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain. With regular use, the brain develops a tolerance, which causes a need for increasingly more opioids to produce that “good” feeling.

Types of Opioids

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet)
  • Diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza, MS Contin)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic)
  • Propoxyphene (Darvon)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Meperidine (Dermerol)
  • Methodone

Street names: Hillbilly heroin, OC, oxy, percs, happy pills or vikes

Signs and Symptoms

A serious danger of opioid use is a reduction in heartbeat and breathing, reduced blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting, which could lead to death. There is also an increased risk of overdose.

  • Fatigue and repeated health complaints
  • Sudden mood changes, including irritability, negative attitude, personality changes, and general lack of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Secretiveness and withdrawing from family
  • Declining performance at home, work or school
  • Rapid weight loss or deterioration in personal appearance or hygiene
  • Pin-sized pupils, red or glazed eyes, or dark circles under eyes
  • Drug paraphernalia (lighters, syringes, cotton balls, burnt spoons or bottle caps)
  • Damaged relationships and joining a negative peer group
  • Deterioration in hygiene and personal appearance
  • Theft

Types of Treatments

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation recommends using a multifaceted approach to treat substance use disorder. It’s important to work with a team of certified counselors, licensed psychologists and psychiatrists, medical personnel, and wellness, recreational and spiritual specialists, as well as the patient’s family, to create an individualized assessment and treatment plan. Examples of multidisciplinary approaches are a dedication-assisted treatment with a Twelve-Step program and making a long-term recovery plan.

There are four critical components to recovering from opioid addiction.

Critical components for recovery