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Opioid Addiction and Overdose

Opioid Addiction

By RaviKrJhaPublished about a year ago 3 min read

Opioids are chemicals that bind to opioid receptors in the brain and body. They make you feel very relaxed and relieve pain, but they can also cause addiction and overdoses.

Doctors prescribe opioids as medicine to help people manage severe pain. But people misuse them by taking more than prescribed or using them for nonmedical reasons.


Opioids are natural or semi-synthetic chemicals that bind to opioid receptors in the brain and body, reducing pain and producing feelings of euphoria. They can be derived from the poppy plant (opium, heroin morphine, codeine), or synthetic (such as fentanyl and oxycodone) or a combination of both.

Regular use of opioids can lead to psychological or physical dependence. People who are psychologically dependent need the drug to feel normal and have a hard time living without it. Physical dependence causes withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug.

If you have a physical addiction, you may need to take medication to help you stop using opioids. Behavioral therapy, such as individual or group counseling, can also be helpful. These therapies can teach you healthy coping skills and help you develop strong relationships. It’s important to talk with your health care provider before starting any treatment program. You can find a counselor by calling your local mental health center or visiting a website like this.

Nonmedical use

People who use prescription opioids without a doctor’s order, or misuse them, may become psychologically and physically dependent on the drugs. They may start using them for their pleasurable effects, like pain relief or euphoria, and then need to take more and more of the drug to get those same feelings.

Pregnant women who abuse prescription opioids during pregnancy can cause a condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). This means the baby goes through withdrawal from the drug in the womb and can have serious problems, like breathing issues.

People who use opioids for nonmedical reasons often also use other drugs, especially central nervous system stimulants (eg, cocaine and methamphetamine) and benzodiazepines (“Z-drugs”). This type of polydrug use is called substance use disorder. It can lead to more frequent and severe opioid use. It costs the United States more than $50 billion each year in lost productivity, criminal justice and health care costs. It also raises the risk of other health problems, like poor heart health.


Pregnant women with opioid use disorder often have co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (also called PTSD). PTSD is a condition that develops after you experience a shocking event, like a violent attack, the death of a loved one or sexual assault.

Using opioids while pregnant can cause serious problems for your baby, including a low birth weight (LBW) and breathing problems. It can also lead to a condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS is when your baby goes through drug withdrawal after birth. It happens when you take opioids during pregnancy, even if your provider only prescribes them for pain after surgery or dental work.

Studies have shown that a woman’s level of opioid use during pregnancy may affect her child’s head circumference and birth length. But these studies are limited and more research is needed. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends universal screening for substance use disorders (SUD) during pregnancy.


Opioid addiction is a long-term condition that changes parts of the brain. It can be treated with medications and behavioral therapy.

Symptoms of opioid use disorder include an overpowering urge to take the drug, losing control of use, and spending more time getting and using the drug than meeting obligations at work or home. Medications like methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, Zubsolv) and naltrexone (Vivitrol) treat opioid use disorder by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Prescription opioids are used to relieve pain from injury, surgery or chronic conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia and cancer. Common prescription opioids are oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin or Lorcet) and morphine. Opioids reduce pain, drowsiness and nausea and increase appetite and body temperature. They also cause euphoria, confusion and constipation at high doses. They can slow breathing and can be deadly in overdose. Pure opiate overdoses most commonly involve pure opiates such as heroin or prescription opioids that have been mixed with other substances such as benzodiazepines, aspirin and acetaminophen.


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