what are opioids

What Are Opioids?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Here is a quick rundown of the source of the opioid epidemic:

What Is an Opiate?

An opiate is a chemical derived from opium poppy. It’s a key ingredient in heroin and morphine.

What Is an Opioid?

The narcotics that are prescribed to us by the doctor for pain management—codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, among others—these are synthetic (manmade) versions of opiates. These are referred to as opioids. One of the biggest effects of all of these drugs is pain relief. This relief is powerful and effective.

Clumped Together: Opioids

To make matters more confusing, these days the term opioid pretty much covers both natural and synthetic drugs in common conversation. While technically opiates are natural drugs and opioids are the man-made ones.

How Do They Work?

We have millions of opiate receptors throughout our bodies, and the chemicals released by these drugs connect with the receptors—this virtually minimizes all pain. Along with pain, these drugs can deliver a powerful euphoric high.

The Harm of Opioids

Over time, this process replaces the body’s natural ability to stop pain or even deliver pleasure. Chemicals that our body naturally produces, such as endorphins are actually opiates, as well. These are feel-good delivery systems for when our body needs it. However, if a person continually replaces their endorphins with natural or synthetic opioids, eventually the body will stop making its natural painkillers. This makes the person dependent on the substance. Here is more information on what is involved in na an opioid detox.

Why Are Opioids So Deadly?

Another result opioids have is to slow down essential life-systems such as breathing and heart rate. Often people with an addiction to opiates will combine usage with other depressants—most commonly alcohol. The danger with this kind of double depressant is that those body functions could actually stop altogether, resulting in overdose and death. It is now more common for a person in California’s Central Valley to die in this way than in a car accident.

(If you believe someone you love might have an addiction to painkillers, use the linked resource to make an initial assessment.)

More on Opioids

Opioids are used to ease pain and suppress coughs and diarrhea. Interestingly, they can also be used to reverse the constipation that comes from opioid use. They are highly addictive drugs and a patient is at risk of developing a dependency if they are not prescribed and taken with care. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 8 to 12 percent of people who are prescribed opioids develop a substance use disorder, and 4 to 6 percent of these people later transition to street heroin.

Common Opioids Include:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Carfentanil
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Thebaine
  • Tramadol

The Opioid Epidemic

As of 2017, the United States is in an opioid epidemic. The latest statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services claim that 12.5 million people misused prescribed opioids, and 33,091 people died from opioid overdose in 2015. Deaths from drug overdose are the number one cause of injury deaths in the country.

Researchers believe that this has come about because opioids once prescribed for excruciating and intractable pain like the pain of terminal cancer is now prescribed for milder and acute forms of pain. It is not unheard of for a physician to prescribe a powerful drug such as oxycodone for the discomfort a patient may experience after a relatively minor operation. This over-prescription has lead to vast amounts of people struggling with substance use disorder and opioid addiction.

Opioids in California’s Central Valley

California’s Central Valley is a roadway for drug trafficking for opioids made in Mexico. The 5 freeway offers a direct rout from Tijuana to Vancouver, and as such, there is more opportunity for suburban and rural outlets to become points of operation. Central Valley is seeing an influx of opioids and a rise of heroin use in the bigger cities. The result is a rise of overdose and illicit activity surrounding drug addiction.

First Steps Recovery is committed to the solution for the Central Valley. We are here as a premier treatment center ready to help you or your loved get the treatment they need for lasting recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to opioids, please call us today, 844-244-7873.

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