Image: What is opioid

If you have a health condition that makes you suffer from severe pain, your doctor may give you a prescription opioid to help relieve that pain.

When used correctly and as prescribed by your doctor, opioids are safe. However, all prescription opioids share a huge potential for abuse. When used incorrectly, opioid use can have risks.

Regular use of opioids can increase your tolerance and you can become addicted to them. As a result, you may feel the need to take higher doses of these medications. In fact, this problem is so widespread that until now, the United States is still facing an ongoing opioid epidemic.

It has once been touted as the worst public health crisis in the country. In 2016 alone, opioid overdoses caused more than 42,000 deaths. Thousands of individuals and their families who fell victim to the drug epidemic have already filed an opioid lawsuit to hold drugmakers accountable for prioritizing profit before public safety.

The opioid crisis is so large that it’s been defined as an epidemic. Just what makes opioid medications so dangerous? Continue reading the article to find out.

What are opioids?

Opioids are a class of pain-relieving drugs that are sometimes called narcotics. They can naturally be found in the opium poppy plant or they can also be synthesized in a laboratory. Under this class of drugs are prescription medications often referred to as painkillers. It can also come in the form of an illegal drug such as heroin.

Some of the most commonly used opioids are:

  • OxyContin
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin
  • Codein
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine

Opioids work by traveling through your blood and attaching to opioid receptors in your brain cells. They block your perception of pain and are often used to treat moderate to severe pain in patients.

However, the same effect that makes these medications recommended for treating pain can also affect its users in an undesirable way. This is because aside from causing pain relief, opioids can also bring people feelings of pleasure, happiness, and relaxation.

As a result, people may crave those feelings. This can make people want to keep using it, ultimately leading to addiction. Doctors also call this an opioid use disorder.

Risks And Dangers

As with any other medications, opioids can also cause side effects. They include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Mental fog
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Euphoria

Respiratory depression or slowed breathing can also cause overdose deaths. Call 911 immediately if you see signs of opioid overdose in someone:

  • Purple or blue lips or fingertips
  • Very limp body
  • Vomiting and making gurgling sounds
  • Pale or clammy skin
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Disorientation
  • Heartbeat or breathing is slow or not there at all

If someone makes unfamiliar, gurgling noises and appears to be asleep, try to wake them up. Many loved ones of opioid users thought the person is only snoring when in fact, they’re already overdosing.

Someone overdosing may also not be awakened with your voice or touch. This situation requires immediate emergency medical treatment. Call 911 right away. In some states, a prescription nasal spray called naloxone (Narcan) is available in case of an overdose.

It’s a safe opiate antidote that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Opioid Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disease that affects your brain and behavior. At first, you may have control over your use of opioids. However, if you don’t take them as advised, you may eventually develop a liking for consistently using them. Over time, changes occur in your brain and these may cause powerful urges to take opioids.

Opioid addiction is also referred to as substance abuse. The signs of substance abuse can be physical, behavioral, or psychological. One tell-tale sign of addiction is not being able to stop taking opioids.

Another is if an individual is not able to stop taking more opioids than what is prescribed by their doctor.

If a loved one is struggling with opioid abuse, you may start noticing these symptoms in them:

  • Frequent flu-like symptoms
  • Weight loss
  • Physical agitation
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in sleeping pattern
  • Abandoning responsibilities
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Isolation from family or friends

Drug Dependence

Opioid dependence means having withdrawal symptoms when you’re not taking the drug. This happens because the drug has affected the way your body works. After all, you’ve taken it for a long time.

Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, including:

  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

If you’ve been taking a certain prescription opioid for a long period of time, talk to your doctor. They can help you avoid symptoms of opioid withdrawal by gradually lowering your dose until such time that you can quit taking the medicine.

How is opioid addiction diagnosed?

When opioid use disorder is suspected, a diagnosis requires a thorough evaluation by a medical health professional. It may also include obtaining results from a urine drug test and prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) reports.

It may also include testing for certain mental health disorders.


Opioid addiction is a chronic illness and should be treated like any other chronic illness. With that said, it should also be continually monitored and managed. Have confidence in discussing treatment options with your doctor.

Each person is different. Therefore, opioid addiction treatment may also vary from person to person. The ultimate goal in treatment is to help you stop using the drug. It can also help you avoid future use.

In the case of prescription opioid addiction, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is considered. This includes medicines, psychological counseling, and support from family and friends.

Counseling involves changing a person’s unhealthy behaviors toward opioid misuse and changing their perspective on the use of these medications. On the other hand, when discussing medication-assisted treatment, three medications are often used:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine/Naloxone
  • Naltrexone

Treatment with medicines is often not enough to resolve the issue of addiction. Psychological and behavioral counseling are often integrated into the therapy.

The Bottom Line

Opioids are medications often prescribed by doctors for pain relief. They may be effective in reducing pain in many people, but they also have a huge potential for abuse. The ongoing opioid epidemic in America is strong evidence of this potential.

Opioids can cause feelings of pleasure and as people may want to continue experiencing those feelings, this might make them want to keep using the medications. This can ultimately lead to addiction.

Drug dependence or having withdrawal symptoms when you’re not taking the drug is another risk that comes with opioid use. In treating opioid addiction, medications, as well as behavioral and psychological counseling, may be used.

What You Can Do

If you’re struggling with opioid addiction, know that you’re not alone. Seek help from your family and friends. You might also consider a rehab that treats opioid abuse.

Thousands of U.S. citizens have already fallen victim to the ongoing opioid epidemic. Get help while you still can. This will be your first step in turning your life around.

Another probable option is to file an opioid lawsuit against its manufacturers. For many years, these companies have been putting profits first over public safety.

If you want to take action and put a stop to this epidemic, you can contact us today.

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