Types of Opioids and Opiates: Signs of Abuse

JourneyPure Staff

July 25, 2019

More than 3 million Americans are currently addicted to opioids. The scope of this public health crisis includes a rate of 130 opioid-related deaths per day and the highest rate of opioid overdoses ever recorded in the history of the county. For many people, the vast enormity of the opioid crisis was something they could have never imagined prior to the introduction of prescription painkillers in the 1990s. 

During this decade, pharmaceutical companies rapidly pushed to sell as many new opioid-based painkillers as they could. These pills included brand name drugs like OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin. At the time, healthcare providers were only aware of the impacts of prescribing opioids based on what pharmaceutical companies were telling them, which was inaccurate information that has now led to countless deaths. These companies irrefutably sold these medications as non-habit forming drugs, leading to the loose prescribing practices of healthcare providers. Fast forward nearly three decades later and the country is losing thousands of people each year to opioid addiction. 

Because of how common opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose is today, people are discussing these drugs more than ever before. And while everyone can agree that they are dangerous and deadly when misused, there still exists a level of miseducation about these toxic substances. This is especially true when it comes to the terms “opioids” and “opiates.”

Types of Opiates

Opiates are substances that are naturally derived from the poppy plant. Some of the most common opiates include the following:

  • Heroin — Heroin is a derivative of morphine, which can be found in certain types of poppy plants. These plants are widely cultivated in South America and Asia, where the majority of the world’s supply of heroin comes from. Heroin can be injected, snorted, and smoked and is highly addictive. In fact, heroin accounted for 15,482 deaths in 2017 alone. 
  • Codeine — Known mostly as a cough suppressant, codeine is derived from opium, which also comes from the poppy plant. It was originally used for medicinal purposes and it remains a medication used by healthcare providers today. However, like other opiates, codeine produces strong feelings of relaxation and contentment. These effects paired with the physical and psychological dependence it can create in a person is what makes codeine one of the most widely abused opiates in the world.
  • Morphine — Like codeine, morphine is also derived from the opium found within the poppy plant. Morphine has a strong and steady history in the medical field, as it is used to help treat pain of all kinds, ranging from severe pain stemming from a kidney infection to end-of-life care for cancer patients. Morphine abuse really came into light during the Vietnam War, where it was used to treat injured soldiers who ended up hooked on it upon returning home.

Types of Opioids

Opioids, unlike opiates, are not fully derived from nature. Instead, opioids are either entirely synthetic or semi-synthetic. The catch with the term “opioid” is that all opiates can be referred to as “opioids” but opioids cannot be referred to as “opiates.”

Today, opioids are some of the most commonly prescribed medications and include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Oxycodone – Oxycodone, the generic name for OxyContin, utilizes thebaine, which is found in opium. However, drug manufacturers modify the thebaine found in opium, making it a semi-synthetic opioid. Oxycodone is considered one of the most prescribed drugs in the country and has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths.
  • Hydrocodone – Hydrocodone is the main opioid ingredient in Vicodin and is just as addictive as other opioids. This particular opioid is synthesized from codeine, which makes it a semi-synthetic opioid. 
  • Fentanyl — Fentanyl is undoubtedly the most commonly discussed opioid in the country right now, primarily because of how deadly it is. It is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and is entirely synthetic. In many states throughout America, fentanyl is taking more lives than any other opioid.

prescription opiate pills in hand

Signs of Opioid Abuse

When opioid abuse is occurring, attempting to hide it from others can be an impossible feat. Regardless of what opioid a person is abusing, he or she will start showing signs of that abuse. Those signs can grow in number and severity the longer that the abuse continues for. 

Signs of opioid abuse can include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

  • Isolating from friends and/or family in order to use
  • Running into trouble with the law
  • Struggling to maintain roles in school and/or work
  • Neglecting responsibilities 
  • Unpredictable mood swings
  • Drowsiness or lethargy 
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in diet habits
  • Continuing to use despite experiencing negative side effects as a result 

Abusing opioids often can quickly lead to opioid dependence, which means that serious withdrawal symptoms set in when a person does not use as much as he or she is used to or just stops using altogether. Once someone is dependent on opioids, it is nearly impossible to end use and maintain long-term sobriety without the help of professionals.

Opioid Addiction Treatment at JourneyPure Lexington

At JourneyPure Lexington, we know how difficult the struggle is to be dealing with opioid abuse or addiction. We understand that the very idea of ending use can be frightening enough to keep you using. We also know that if your use continues without any professional care, it is likely that you will continue to suffer negative effects within your life. 

Do not let another second go by — you cannot afford to do so. Reach out to us at our intensive treatment program today to get started on your path to recovery.