Opioids and opiates are commonly abused and a widespread problem throughout the United States. In 2020, 68,630 people in the US experienced an overdose death involving any opioid continuing with the opioid crisis.
In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies came out saying that opioid prescriptions were non-addictive and medical providers began prescribing these drugs more frequently. Opioid abuse and misuse became widespread after these statements.
What are Opioids?
Opioids, sometimes referred to as narcotics, are a class of drugs that work by interacting with opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the body. These receptors help control feelings of pain and pleasure which is why opioids can often be prescribed as a pain reliever.
Pleasure receptors can be activated when taking opioids, which can lead to feelings of euphoria and physical dependence. Serotonin levels can also be impacted by the use of specific opioids. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is linked to the stabilization of mood and well-being.
Types of Opioids
Opioids can be synthetic, semi-synthetic, or naturally occurring. Naturally occurring opioids are often called opiates. Opioids can be prescribed by doctors, used illicitly, and are commonly abused.
Fully synthetic opioids are completely manmade and produced in a lab. These types of opioids were developed to help with treating pain by pharmaceutical companies, but can be manufactured and sold illegally.
Examples of synthetic opioids include:
Semi-synthetic opioids are synthesized from naturally occurring opiates and are produced in a lab. These kinds of opioids share similar characteristics to synthetic opioids and opiates that are naturally occurring. Semi-synthetic opioids can be prescribed for pain or be used illicitly.
Examples of semi-synthetic opioids include:
What are Opiates?
Opiates are a type of opioid naturally derived from a poppy plant. Opiates are used to create semi-synthetic opioids and are mimicked when attempting to create fully synthetic opioids in labs.
Examples of opiates include:
Thebaine is a schedule II controlled substance that has a high potential for abuse and physical dependence. Thebaine is often used to create other opioids such as oxycodone, oxymorphone, buprenorphine, and naloxone.
Opioid Use Disorder
Opioids and opiates are considered highly addictive substances that have a great potential for misuse and dependence. Opioid use disorder (OUD) can occur with all types of opioids and is a diagnosis for when dependence or addiction has occurred.
OUD can occur when opioids are taken for a long period of time because tolerance can be built up within the body and a need for more. OUD can affect daily life functions at work, home, or school.
Opioid use disorder often comes with withdrawal symptoms that occur when there is a physical dependence on a drug like opioids. Withdrawal and detoxification from opioids can be extremely uncomfortable without medication and medical supervision, however, withdrawal is not fatal.
Common symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:
- Muscle aches
- Increased tearing
- Runny nose
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea/ Vomiting
Detoxification with Medication
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is often used to help with the detoxification process from all types of opioid abuse. Depending on the opioid being used and how long use has occurred, different medications can be used to help ease the pain from opioid withdrawal.
Three common medications used in MAT include:
- Buprenorphine – opioid partial antagonist that can block the effects of opioids and decrease overdose risk
- Methadone – long-acting opioid antagonist that reduces opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and can block the effects of opioids
- Naltrexone – blocks the euphoric and sedative effects and reduces opioid cravings with no potential for abuse or diversion with this specific MAT medication
Serotonin syndrome, also called serotonin toxicity, can occur as a result of taking medications that boost serotonin. When taking certain opioids in combination with antidepressants or migraine medications, serotonin syndrome can occur. Even certain opiates can cause serotonin syndrome without the addition of other medications.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome can be mild to a severe life-threatening syndrome. Serotonin toxicity typically manifests with altered mental status, neuromuscular abnormalities, and/or autonomic hyperactivity.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome can include:
- Muscle rigidity
Treatment for Opiate & Opioid Addiction
Opiates and opioids are highly addictive drugs that affect the way the brain reacts to pain and pleasure. Opiates are naturally occurring and a subtype of opioids. Opioids include synthetic, semi-synthetic, and natural opiates.
Inland Detox in Temecula, CA, provides detox and residential treatment for addiction to substances including opiates and opioids. If you or a loved one are struggling with opioid abuse, reach out to Inland Detox today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our treatment program.