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opioid addiction treatment

Which Opiates Are the Most Commonly Abused?

Opioid addiction is a serious issue currently affecting millions of people in North America. In fact, experts describe the current addiction issue as an “epidemic” worse than anything we’ve seen in the past three decades. Because it’s such a widespread problem, it’s important to understand the basic facts surrounding the issue to better handle any potential situations you might face in the future. With that goal in mind, let’s take a closer look at opioids and which opiates are the most commonly abused before talking about opioid addiction treatment and how it can help your loved one recover.

opioid addiction treatment

Opiates vs. Opioids

You might have seen the terms “opiate” and “opioid” used interchangeably in discussions about the growing opioid crisis and wondered about their definitions. Are they the same thing? And if so, why do two words for the same substance exist?

There is a difference between opioids and opiates, but not a particularly large one in terms of practicality. Opiates are substances whose active ingredients are naturally derived from the opium plant. This includes codeine and morphine, both of which are made from opium obtained from poppy plants. Opioids, on the other hand, are substances whose active ingredients are either fully or partially synthetic. They aren’t entirely derived from naturally-occurring opium, in other words, and are instead manufactured to mimic the effects that natural opium has on people.

This might seem like a very significant difference, but the reality is that they both work the same way and have the same effects. Opiates and opioids both work by depressing the central nervous system and activating Mu receptors in your brain. These receptors then release endorphins that create a feeling of calmness and relaxation. Because they work the same way and have the same addictive qualities, the terms are often used interchangeably.

How Does Opiate Addiction Start?

For those of us unaffected by the substance, it can be difficult to understand exactly how someone becomes addicted. It’s important to understand that many people begin taking opiates at their doctor’s recommendation, particularly in the use of pain management after an injury, procedure, or in the case of chronic pain. They are incredibly potent pain relievers and are often one of the only effective solutions for people struggling with significant pain and many legitimate prescriptions are written for them every day.

The problem is that even though the prescriptions themselves are for legitimate issues and the people taking the opiates are doing so because they’re trying to find relief from pain, the addictive qualities of the substance remain the same. And if you’re struggling with pain, or even mental health issues like anxiety and depression, the sense of peace and calm that opiates invoke can be incredibly alluring. This is how addiction begins – with the appreciation of the effects of the drug.

Not everyone’s addiction begins from prescribed opiates, of course. Some individuals seek out the substance intentionally because they’re interested in “trying” it. But the addiction process and end result are the same regardless of where the opiates in question originated, and the individuals who were curious about the drug also often find themselves struggling with addiction and considering opioid addiction treatment.

Most Commonly Abused Opiates

There are a number of opiates on the market, but not all of them are abused equally. Opiates are classified as one of two different types: agonists and antagonists. Antagonists include medication like Naloxone and Naltrexone and are often considered the less addictive type of opiate. Agonists hold the higher risk for abuse because they work to create that calming and pain-relieving sensation discussed earlier in the paper. This type of opiate includes fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and heroin, all of which are highly abused. Take a look at the most commonly abused opiates below.


Codeine is one of the less-potent opiates and is used to help relieve coughing and mild pain. It’s even available in some over-the-counter (OTC) medications and is quite easy to obtain via prescription as well, typically as a cough syrup. This opiate is most often abused by young adults by combining it with sugary drinks and consumed as a recreational beverage.


Demerol is somewhat less commonly prescribed today than it used to be in the past thanks to its high risk of addiction, but it is still prescribed to treat severe and moderate pain. Its effects have been compared to those of morphine.


Darvon and Darvocet are incredibly addictive painkillers that affected thousands when they were commonly prescribed. They have since been banned by the FDA, however, the pills are desirable enough that there is a black market for the substance.


Hydrocodone is the main active ingredient in medications like Vicodin and is a particularly powerful painkiller. It is available combined with other substances like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, however, it is also prescribed as a pure hydrocodone formation.


Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous opioids on the market that is up to 100 times the potency of morphine. It is quite difficult to come by a legitimate prescription of the substance as it is only recommended in cases of severe pain, however, it is commonly produced and sold as a street drug. It should be noted that this is particularly dangerous as street-produced fentanyl is often laced with other dangerous substances that can increase its already-high risk of overdose.

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Opioid Addiction Treatment

If your loved one is struggling with opioid addiction and you know or suspect they are abusing opiates, it’s important to secure help for them as quickly as possible. That might not be a pleasant conversation to have, but is a vital one nonetheless.

Make sure that you enlist the help of an experienced and capable opioid addiction treatment team, like the team at Freedom from Addiction, to ensure that your loved one has the best chance of success possible. Reach out to us today for more information about our services and how we can help set your loved one firmly on the path to successful recovery.


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