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Opioid Medications and Their Risks

July 10th, 2018 12:00am

Opioid Medications and Their Risks

Opioids have been used for medication and recreation for millennia, but it’s only been in the last few years that the modern pharmaceutical variants have become so widely misused that they’ve been implicated in one of the worst addiction crises in the U.S.

Each day, more than 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose, and unlike other addictive drugs, many who abuse opioids have them legally prescribed by their doctor.1 Despite nationwide efforts to curb opioid misuse, these drugs are still, in many cases, being overprescribed to treat pain when less damaging alternatives may be available.

What Are the Common Opioid Medications?

Opioids are derived from the opium poppy plant. Some are made from the plant directly, while others are made in labs using the same chemical structure. Opioids like morphine and oxycodone are commonly used to relieve pain, while others, like heroin, are used recreationally to get high. Some of the most common prescription opioids include:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana®)
  • Morphine (Kadian®)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl

How Do You Misue Opioids?

Not everyone who is prescribed opioids will misuse them. However, they are classified as Schedule II drugs, making them very dangerous with a high potential for abuse.2 They’re considered safe if taken as directed for a short time, but can be misused by:

  • Taking the medicine in a dose other than prescribed
  • Taking someone else’s prescription medication
  • Taking the medicine to get high

What Are the Effects of Opioids on the Body?

Opioids activate certain receptors in the brain, spinal cord and other organs. When they attach to these receptors, they block pain signals sent from the brain to the body and release dopamine – lighting up the brain’s reward center and making the user want to continue taking the drug.3 Though opioids can ease pain and make people feel relaxed, they can also have harmful effects, such as:

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Slowed breathing

Opioid misuse can also cause hypoxia – a condition that happens during an overdose in which too little oxygen reaches the brain. It only takes three to five minutes of oxygen deprivation to cause a permanent brain injury.4 Hypoxia can also lead to coma and even death, which is why seconds are crucial when it comes to reviving overdose victims.

How Are Overdoses Treated?

When a person overdoses on an opioid, immediate medical attention is necessary to ensure they have the best chance of surviving with minimal permanent damage. If you suspect someone has overdosed, call 911 as soon as possible. Once medical personnel arrive, they will administer naloxone – a medicine that binds to opioid receptors and blocks the effects of the drug. Some states, including Arizona, allow the sale of naloxone without a prescription in an effort to reduce overdose deaths.5

Addressing the Opioid Crisis

National agencies are leading the charge in addressing the opioid crisis. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) developed a five-point strategy, which includes:The risks of opioid abuse and misuse across America. Recovia in Scottsdale, AZ can help you with your addiction. Call today!

  • Better addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services
  • Better data
  • Better pain management
  • Better research
  • Better targeting of overdose reversal drugs6

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working to prevent overdoses by:

  • Building state/local/tribal capacity
  • Conducting surveillance and research
  • Empowering consumers to make safe choices
  • Partnering with public safety officials
  • Supporting healthcare providers and payers7

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has prioritized reducing the existing American addiction and slashing the rate of new addiction through:

  • Assessing benefits/risks of medications
  • Fostering development of alternative pain treatment therapies
  • Improving enforcement of drug trade
  • Supporting treatment of people with opioid use disorder8

Opioid Drugs and Their Risks

Get Help With Recovery from Opioid Addiction in Scottsdale, AZ

Opioid abuse is destructive – not just for addicts, but also for their family and friends. If you or a loved one struggle with opioid addiction, there is hope. Seeking treatment is the first step in turning your life around.

Recovia offers an outpatient opioid detox program designed to help patients comfortably detox from opioids. Addiction involves the brain and body, so we provide a comprehensive treatment plan to restore both. Our protocol involves medication-assisted treatment (MAT) administered by a licensed medical practitioner, ensuring patient safety.

Call our specialists today at 480-712-4600 or contact us online to begin your journey to recovery.



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