Dangerous Opiates: List of Commonly Abused Prescription Opioids

dangerous opiates

It’s no secret that there’s an opiate addiction problem in the United States today. Many people don’t realize the seriousness of the problem, though.

Did you know, for example, that more than 130 people die every day from an opiate overdose?

While some people overdose on illegal opiates like heroin, many people are overdosing on prescription drugs that they get legally from their doctors. 

Read on to learn more about some of the most commonly abused prescription opiates.

You’ll also learn the signs of opiate abuse and how to seek treatment for opiate addiction.

What Are Opiates?

Opiates are a type of drug that is derived from a substance known as opium. Opium can be naturally produced from the poppy plant, or it can be made from semi-synthetic alkaloids. 

How Opiates Affect the Brain

Opiates are narcotics that have a depressant effect on the central nervous system (also known as the CNS).

Opiates affect the central nervous system by binding to specific opioid receptors in the brain. When they do this, they mimic the effects of natural pain-relieving chemicals that the body produces on its own. 

When opiates bind to the opioid receptors, they block your pain perception.

Prescription opiates are often given to those who have recently been involved in an accident, experienced a serious injury, or are struggling with chronic pain. 

Opiates don’t just relieve pain, though. They also produce feelings of euphoria. Opiates also come with a number of side effects, including nausea, drowsiness, and feelings of confusion.

Opiate Addiction

Many people who take opiates, especially those who take them long-term, find that they develop a tolerance for them after a while.

As a result, they need to consume opiates in higher doses in order to experience the same pain-relieving benefits.

The longer a person takes opiate drugs, the greater their risk of becoming dependent on them.

Most Commonly Abused Prescription Opiates

There are many different prescription opiates that have the potential to be abused. The following are some of the most commonly abused prescription opiates:

Vicodin

Vicodin, also known generically as hydrocodone/acetaminophen, is one of the most frequently abused opiates in the country. It’s also one of the most frequently abused drugs in the country, period.

In fact, Vicodin is so heavily abused that the FDA is beginning to crack down and place more stringent regulations on it.

Vicodin is often prescribed for those who are suffering from severe pain. It’s most commonly prescribed after an injury or surgery.

Morphine

Morphine is another frequently abused opiate. It is a powerful painkiller that is extracted from the poppy plant.

Morphine is most often used in a hospital setting, where it is given either intravenously or orally.

Morphine is not prescribed as often as other opiate drugs, likely because physicians are more aware of its habit-forming nature.

Codeine

Codeine is an opiate that is often prescribed as both a painkiller and as a cough suppressant. Codeine is very similar, chemically speaking, to morphine.

Codeine is prescribed much more often than morphine. This is due, in part, to its effectiveness for those struggling with a severe cough.

Many doctors prescribe cough syrups that contain codeine even though it only suppresses the cough — it does not treat the cause of the cough.

Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that has grown in popularity over the last few years and is being abused with increasing regularity.

Fentanyl is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and has a very similar effect on the body to heroin. It acts very quickly and is characterized by its powerful sedative properties.

Signs of Prescription Opiate Abuse

It’s not always easy to spot signs of prescription opiate abuse. If you watch carefully, though, you can often tell whether or not someone is struggling with an addiction.

Here are some tell-tale signs that someone is addicted to opiates:

  • Digestive disorders, especially constipation
  • Nausea
  • Strong feelings of euphoria
  • A slow breathing rate
  • Feelings of drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Poor coordination and balance
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Mood swings

People who are abusing opiates also tend to exhibit problematic behaviors.

These behaviors include stealing or selling prescriptions and taking prescriptions in higher doses than was originally prescribed. They may request early refills on a regular basis, too, or they may continually “lose” their prescriptions and need new ones.

Opiate Abuse Risk Factors

Anyone can become addicted to prescription opiates. The following people are more likely to develop an addiction, though:

  • Those who have a history of addiction
  • Those who have a family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Those who have pre-existing mental health conditions
  • Those who spend a lot of time around others who abuse prescription drugs
  • Those who have easy access to prescription drugs

Those who lack knowledge of the effects of prescription drugs and the risks associated with them are also prone to opiate addiction.

Prescription Opiate Abuse Treatment

If you, or someone you know, is exhibiting signs of opiate abuse, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible.

There are many different treatments options available to those struggling with opiate abuse, including the following:

  • Medications like buprenorphine and methadone
  • Inpatient detox programs
  • Inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation programs
  • Mental health counseling
  • Support groups 
  • Alternative practices like meditation

In order to get sober, people struggling with addiction must first go through a detox phase. It is best to go through this phase under the supervision of a trained and licensed physician.

Inpatient detox programs provide you with access to this supervision, as well as other resources that will increase your chances of overcoming addiction successfully.

Get Help Today

Opiate addiction is a serious problem, and prescription opiates are especially problematic.

Many people are under the impression that, as long as they’re taking drugs that were prescribed by a doctor, there’s nothing to worry about. This definitely isn’t the case, though.

Are you struggling with opiate abuse? Or is it affecting someone you love? 

Either way, help is out there.

Contact us at Coastal Detox today to learn more about our drug detox program and the different types of treatments we have available to help you get and stay sober. 

Article Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.