Opioids are a type of pain-relieving drug. They are one of the largest categories of drugs, spanning prescription medication to illicit drugs like heroin. Many people and medical professionals simply refer to opioids as painkillers because of their primary function. Prescription opioids play a valid role in certain medical situations, such as for pain relief following surgery. However, they can also be addictive. Opioid drugs must be taken with care. Even prescription use may be at a level that could create tolerance and dependence given enough time.
What Are Opioids?
Even though opioids are a type of painkiller, they are not considered to be in the same category as over-the-counter pain relievers like Advil or Tylenol. No opioid drugs are available as over-the-counter options. The list of opioids is long. Here are a few of the most common opioids that people are prescribed or may try to access illegally:
Even though that list of opioids share the same category and base properties, it is wrong to assume they are interchangeable or of equal strength. Oxycontin and Vicodin are two opioids that are commonly prescribed and which people take for short periods to relieve pain. They are much stronger types of pain relief medication than something like Tylenol. Yet their strength pales in comparison to heroin or fentanyl.
For instance, fentanyl is one of the most potent opioids in circulation today. Illegal varieties of fentanyl can be 100 times more powerful than prescription varieties of opioids. Being more powerful means a drug like fentanyl has a much more significant effect on the user. It also means it is more dangerous and addictive.
Why Are Opioids Drugs So Addictive?
Not all drugs are addictive in the same way. So why are opioids addictive? Their addictive nature is related to how they activate the pleasure centers in the brain—using opioids releases endorphins, a neurotransmitter responsible for emotional regulation and pleasure. This neurotransmitter is why using opioids produces a temporary high.
Ultimately, the amount of endorphins released by opioid use is not replicable by the brain in between use. This discrepancy creates a deficit scenario where a person wants to use opioids more often to recreate that pleasurable feeling. The longer someone uses an opioid, the more this issue compounds. This use can advance to the point where the body naturally produces fewer endorphins, which creates a dependence on opioid use to make the amount of endorphins the body needs to feel pleasure.
Opioid Drug Addiction Prevention
Drug addiction is treatable. Yet it is always preferable to avoid addiction in the first place. The first step is understanding what makes a drug potentially addictive. From there, you can put guardrails in place to ensure that if you are legally taking an opioid, you are not in danger of developing an addiction.
The safest way to approach opioids is to ensure any use is incredibly short-term. If you receive an opioid prescription following surgery, work with your doctor to ensure you get the lowest dose possible and for the shortest time possible. Other steps you can take to help prevent opioid addiction for yourself, your family, and your community include:
- Safeguard opioid medications by not allowing access to others
- Safely dispose of extra or leftover opioids
- Never give your prescription opioids to someone else
- Follow your prescription guidelines exactly
- Be open with your doctor about how a prescription opioid is affecting you
Overcome Opioid Addiction at Rockland Recovery
Rockland Recovery is here to support you or someone you love in addressing opioid addiction. Don’t wait and allow addiction to get out of hand. Seek opioid treatment today by calling 855.732.4842.