What are Opiates and How are They Used?

Opiates are used to treat mild to severe pain and are a derivative of the opium plant. Many people are prescribed opiates after a surgery or when suffering from different types of pain.

While opiates are used for medical purposes, they also result in issues for individuals who abuse them or struggle with addiction issues. As a narcotic, opiates are a scheduled medication which makes them illegal to have without a prescription.

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Downfalls of Opiates

People who abuse opiates do so because of the euphoric “high” feeling that these medications cause. Opiates produce this high by binding themselves to the brain’s opiate receptors. This feeling is extremely addictive, and people can develop a dependence on the pleasant feelings that opiate provide. Eventually, as addicted individuals get used to the high, they require larger or more frequent doses of the medication. They may become trapped in a cycle from which they cannot escape without the right help and support.

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Types of Opiates

There are several different forms of medicinal opiates. The main forms come in the following categories:

  • Naturally Produced
  • Synthetic
  • Semi-synthetic

The naturally produced forms of opiates include codeine and morphine, the synthetic forms of opiates are methadone and fentanyl, and the semi-synthetic forms of opiates are oxycodone and hydrocodone. Finally, there is a street form, which is heroin. While the other types of opiates are legal if prescribed and not abused, heroin is an illegal, street-made form of opiate.

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Forms of Opiates

There are several different ways in which opiates are used. Opiates can be used in pill form, as an injection, sniffed or snorted, or smoked. Prescription opiates are prescribed in pill or injection form. Generally, a person will only receive an injection form of an opiate when in the hospital, via a needle or IV. However, addicts will often crush opiate pills and dissolve them in water to be injected. Crushed pills can also be sniffed, snorted, or smoked.

Heroin can be injected, sniffed or snorted, or smoked as well. Most users of heroin inject the drug into their veins, while some inject it into the muscles. Many will inject as many as four times per day. By injecting heroin into the veins, the person can feel the euphoric effects within 7 to 8 seconds. While injecting into the muscle can take a little longer, up to 5 to 8 minutes.

“In 2015, Opioid overdoses in large cities increase by 54 percent in 16 states.”

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Opiate Dependence

When an individual uses opiates on a regular basis due to a lengthy recovery from surgery or due to pain disorders, the person develops tolerance to the drug. As a result, the person needs more of the drug to achieve the same results. With increased doses, the person eventually develops a dependence on the drug. After the person becomes dependent upon the mediation, they can develop withdrawal symptoms when no longer taking the previous dose or when they stop taking the drug.

Opiate withdrawal can have many different symptoms, but the most common include headaches and nausea. The longer the person is dependent on the medication, the more likely it is that they will develop an opiate addiction or substance use disorder. An untreated opiate addiction can result in overdose and death.

Opiate Addiction Risks

As mentioned above, when someone becomes addicted to opiates, the same dosage will not result in the desired results. When this occurs, the individual increases the amount that they take over that prescribed by their physician. To get more of the medication, they may turn to purchasing additional opiates off the streets.

If you or a loved one is struggling with any of these types of opiates, call us at

Heroin is the cheapest form of opiate. So, when someone doesn’t have enough money to buy pills, they generally turn to street-made heroin. With heroin, there is no guarantee that the drug is made from quality materials or has an amount of opiate that is safe for use. Many people end up overdosing on heroin, and some die as a result. While heroin has a higher mortality rate than prescription medications, people do die from prescription opiate use as well. Deaths are caused by using the opiate at an unsafe level or with other medications that result in respiratory distress.

Opiate Abuse Statistics


21 to 29%

of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.

An estimated

4 to 6%

who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.

Opiate Treatment

When a person is abusing opiates, they need to address their addiction as soon as possible. However, many will not want to, and others will struggle to stop their drug use. Due to the addiction and the impacts of the drug on the brain, the person feels a compulsive need to have more of the drug no matter what the negative consequences are. Successful opiate addiction treatment often includes addressing the withdrawal symptoms, which include the following:

  • Cravings
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Irritation
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Bone pain

If you fear your loved one needs assistance with an opioid addiction

contact a professional to help reach out to your loved one and encourage treatment. If you need expert advice, contact Rehabinfo.com today. We’re here to help
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