What are opioids?

Opioids are a class of natural, semi-synthetic and synthetic narcotics that are derived from the opium poppy and/or are synthesized in pharmaceutical laboratories.

Substances in the opioid family include both legal and illegal drugs:

  • Legal: Codeine, OxyContin™, Fentanyl, Percoset™, Vicodin™, and other“Pain Pills”; Morphine
  • Illegal: Heroin

Anyone can suffer from Substance Use Disorder.

Opioids are among the most abused substances. They affect brain receptors that govern the release of neurotransmitters (e.g., dopamine), which in turn regulate emotions and allow an individual to cope with physical pain.

When used correctly – e.g., in a medical setting and under a physician’s supervision – opioids can be an effective tool for pain management, and can be taken orally or intravenously.
However, long-term use and abuse of opioids creates the potential for opioid use disorder (OUD). Physical dependence can occur within 6 weeks of the initial opioid abuse, but psychological dependence can occur in as little as 48 hours.
Once dependent on the drug, individuals with an opioid use disorder cannot stop using opioids without triggering acute withdrawal. During acute withdrawal, the individual suffers from severe flu-like symptoms, pain, depression, and anxiety. Thereafter, post-acute withdrawal can last for months or even years. Physical healing of the brain typically begins 12 to 18 months after cessation of opioid abuse.
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) has been proven to be the most effective method of successfully treating opioid use disorder.

FDA Approved Medication:

Methadone​ is the most common medication for treating opioid use disorder, and is the “Gold Standard” for treatment.
Buprenorphine​ is a newer medication with properties similar to methadone; it can be effective in treating early or less serious addictions.