Opiate Addiction
clock_iconSeptember 28, 2020 clock_icon6 min read

Opiate addiction has fluctuated in popularity over the years, yet it remains one of the most serious types of drug addictions. Opiates, sometimes called narcotics, are a type of drug. They include strong prescription pain relievers, (for example, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and tramadol). Heroin is an opiate as well, which is well known among the illegal drugs. Some opiates are made from the opium plant, and others are synthetic (man-made).

What are Opiates?

Those who are addicted to opiates are dependent on drugs in the opium family. All the opiate family drugs are derived from the poppy plant. One of the first and most common feelings among the users is euphoria and then the body instantly craves the high. An opiate addiction tends to quickly take complete control of people's lives. There are a number of opiates we have talked about in our previous articles, such as:

Opiates include controlled prescription substances that are derived from opium, which is a chemical that naturally occurs in poppy seeds and plants. These drugs, which are clinically used for treating mild to severe pain in patients, are also referred to as “opioid painkillers.” Due to their intensely calming effects, opioid painkillers have tremendously high rates of abuse which, in many cases, can lead to addiction.

An addiction to painkillers often begins after someone is prescribed the medication for pain following an accident or injury. Patients are given a prescription and specified dose from a doctor, with no intention of abusing the medication. However, over a period of time, a person may feel that the drug is no longer as effective as it was in the beginning. This feeling is caused by an increased tolerance to the painkillers, which means that the substance has built up within a person’s body.

Tolerance Caused by Opiates

A tolerance can also cause a person to take larger doses than their recommended amount in order to achieve the effects they want. Increasing the medication dosage can lead to a physical dependence, whereby they need to continue taking the drug to feel normal. Eventually, a physical dependence can lead to cravings, which are characterized by growing urges to continue using the drug – despite negative consequences that may occur.

When a person’s drug-seeking behavior scales completely out of control and begins to compromise their physical and psychological health, a full-blown addiction is present. Addiction is far more serious than a strong desire to use drugs – it is a neurological disease that feels inescapable to the person suffering.
An individual who struggles with a substance abuse disorder will often wish to quit but feels unable to do so on their own. 

Types of Opiates

Opiates are prescribed for a wide range of medical needs. There are two main classifications for this type of drug: antagonists and agonists.
Antagonists such as Naltrexone and Naloxone are considered to be less addictive than agonists, though the potential for abuse still exists. They are often used to help with the detoxification process, which often takes place as the first part of addiction treatment.

types of opiate

Agonists mimic the effects of naturally-occurring endorphins in the body and produce an opiate effect by interacting with specific receptor sites in the brain. Agonists include drugs like morphine and fentanyl, which are most commonly used in medical settings and have the strongest effects. Many substances in this category have a very high potential for abuse and addiction. Other examples of agonists include hydrocodone, oxycodone, heroin, and buprenorphine.
The most common opiate agonists can be found in the list below:


Though now banned by the FDA, Darvocet and Darvon are propoxyphene-based painkillers that were responsible for thousands of hospitalizations and deaths during their prime. While these prescriptions are no longer being produced, a black market still exists for this drug.


A narcotic used to treat moderate to severe pain, Demerol is less frequently prescribed in modern times because of its high potential for addiction. Demerol is the brand name for meperidine, which has euphoric effects similar to morphine.


Sometimes referred to as “hospital grade heroin,” Dilaudid is a powerful type of painkiller. Available in extended-release tablets, Dilaudid abuse can quickly lead to breathing problems or even death.


A main ingredient in many powerful painkillers, hydrocodone can be found in drugs such as Vicodin. It is typically combined with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but the FDA has also approved pure hydrocodone medications.


Oxycodone is sold under different brand names including OxyContin and Percocet. It is a widely prescribed painkiller and has a high potential for abuse.

Difference Between Opiates and Opioids

Many people have questions surrounding the difference between opiates and opioids. As it turns out, both terms are often interchanged because these substances largely produce the same effects.


Opiates are substances with active ingredients that are naturally derived from opium. Common opiates include morphine and codeine, which are both directly made from the opium found in poppy plants.


Opioids are synthetically manufactured substances that mimic the “natural” effects of opium. Some opioids are fully synthetic, while others are only partially synthetic – meaning they still contain natural opium.

Both opioids and opiates work by activating Mu receptors in the brain and depressing the central nervous system. When these receptors become activated by one of these drugs, they release “feel-good chemicals” known as endorphins. The release of endorphins caused by opiate or opioid use leads to feelings of relaxation and calmness, which can be highly addicting.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if a drug was derived from a natural source or chemically manufactured. Both opiates and opioids carry an equal potential for abuse and addiction. It’s always best to discuss these risks with your doctor before taking an opiate or opioid medication.

Opiate Effects and Abuse

Opiates produce euphoric and tranquil effects when taken in amounts that are larger than prescribed. The pleasant, care-free feelings a person experiences when taking these drugs are often what leads to destructive patterns of abuse.

illegal drug abuse

The pathological urges to use these drugs can also drive people to borrow, buy, or steal the drugs from friends and family. As an act of desperation, some individuals may resort to seeking out heroin, an illegal substance that closely mimics opiate effects is commonly purchased off the streets. Despite the well-known dangers of heroin, it is often easier and cheaper to obtain than opioid pills.

Treatment at West Valley Detox

The only way a person can fully overcome an addiction to opioid painkillers is by seeking treatment at an inpatient rehab center.
If you are addicted to opiates, West Valley Detox can give you professional help as one of the best drug and alcohol treatment centers in Los Angeles. Opiate withdrawal can be painful and discouraging, and users who attempt to quit on their own can relapse. Our opiate addiction treatment programs can help you overcome your addiction. Here at West Valley Detox, our professionals will design an individual drug addiction treatment plan that will work best for you.

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