Opioids are among the most commonly used painkillers, but they can be addictive. Not all opioids are the same, however. Since they were first invented at the turn of the twentieth century to now, pharmaceutical companies have manufactured varying strengths of opioids. Most opioids, despite their use as painkillers, are controlled substances.
These drugs usually require a physician’s prescription to get them from a legitimate place. Unfortunately, illicit opioids have become quite common. Opioid addiction has made it profitable to sell illicit opioids to people who want them. Even so, there are several legitimate uses for opioids.
What Are Opioid Drugs Used For?
Opioids are typically used as painkillers. Within the human brain are a series of receptors known as opioid receptors. These receptors are used in pain transmission, and opioids fit perfectly into their slots. Because of this, they occupy positions that the body would use to transfer those pain signals to the brain. The competitive inhibition means less of those pain signals get to the brain, resulting in a lower incidence of pain. Unfortunately, there are nasty side effects that impact the brain directly.
How Do Opioids Work in The Brain?
Within the brain, opioids cause a massive release of dopamine – the chemical responsible for the feeling of happiness and contentment after accomplishing something. Unfortunately, the brain doesn’t know how to handle so much dopamine at one time. This flood results in the brain rewiring itself to cope with this influx of dopamine. The fallout from this rewiring is that the brain needs far more dopamine to feel the same way in the future. Nothing the person does can make that level of dopamine, so they turn to drug use to keep that feeling going.
Side Effects of Opioid Drugs
Opioids carry both short-term and long-term side effects as part of their use. Among the short-term side effects a person may have while on Opioids are:
- Mental Fog
- Dry Mouth
Over the long term, a person may also experience several side effects, including:
- Increased Pain
- Hormonal Problems
- Abdominal Cramps
- Increased Risk of Heart Attacks
How Are Opioids Taken?
Generally, Opioids are taken in pill form swallowed with a sip of water. However, there have been reports of people using opioids in different ways. Dissolving opioids and injecting the solution into a vein or a muscle can speed up the onset of euphoria and how fast the person comes down from the high. Some opioids are sold as suppositories, meaning they can be inserted anally and dissolve in the bloodstream.
A List of Opioids From Strongest To Weakest
The opioids that have the highest impact on people because of their strength are:
- Fentanyl: A synthetic opioid almost fifty times as potent as heroin. It’s typically used to treat severe pain after surgery
- Heroin: Derived from morphine, heroin has a high potential for abuse. It has no medical application and is readily available on the street, thanks to drug cartels.
- Hydromorphone: This drug is commonly known by its trade name Dilaudid. It’s significantly more potent than morphine (from which it’s derived) and is used as a painkiller, sedative, and relaxant.
- Oxymorphone: Also known as Opana (its trade name), this drug is also used for severe pain relief. However, it has the potential for abuse since it gives the same sense of euphoria when taken as other opioids.
- Methadone: Methadone has been used with great effect as a replacement addiction therapy to ease people off heroin addiction. Many people think methadone is safe because it’s used to treat addiction, but a person can just as quickly become addicted to it as to any other opioid.
- Oxycodone: Also referred to as “Oxy,” this drug is sold under a series of trade names, including Oxycontin and Percocet. It is often prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain, but it can still be abused.
- Morphine: Morphine is one of the earliest available opioids and was used to significant effect as a painkiller in World War 2. Individuals who abuse morphine usually inject it because of the instantaneous high they get from the injection.
- Hydrocodone: Commonly known by its trade names Vicodin and Lortab, this painkiller is among the most commonly prescribed pain medicines in the US. Because it’s so easy to get, there have been a lot of reports of polydrug use involving this opioid.
- Codeine: Typically found in cough syrups, codeine is also used as a mild painkiller. It is much weaker in potency than other opioids but still has the potential for abuse.
- Meperidine: This was the first synthetic opioid that came onto the market and had a significantly smaller impact than other painkillers. Unfortunately, physical dependence and tolerance develop much faster than other opioids.
- Tramadol: At the bottom of the list is Tramadol, also known as Ultram. It has a similar strength to Meperidine but has a lower risk of tolerance and dependence.
Does The Strength of An Opioid Make It More Addictive?
Opioid strength may have something to do with its addictiveness. Addiction comes from the physical and mental changes in the brain because of the presence of dopamine. A more potent painkiller has more intense effects on the brain.
As we can see from the list, the opioids at the bottom have a lower chance of addiction than those at the top. There are exceptions to the rule, of course. Meperidine can cause a person to develop dependence and tolerance much faster than other opioids, despite being weaker overall in painkiller strength.
Proven Treatments for Opioid Addiction at Pathfinders
Opioid addiction is difficult to treat because it is hard to quit using the substance. Because there are so many opioids on the market, many people who become addicted to one simply switch to another when their preferred one is unavailable or becomes too expensive. Overcoming opioid addiction requires a rehab center that understands how people cope with this disease.
Pathfinders Recovery is such a recovery center, dedicated to offering our clients the best treatment, backed by scientific principles and a caring, supportive staff. Our goal has always been to give our recovering patients a space to feel safe and comforted throughout their recovery. Are you ready to experience recovery care that is unique and streamlined? Give us a call today, and let’s help you walk the road to recovery.