Medical Information

Understanding Opioid Dependance


Opioids are powerful drugs used to treat severe pain, coughs, and diarrhea. Also known as narcotics, they include prescription drugs as well as illegal substances like heroin, the fastest acting and most abused opioid.

Some opioids, such as morphine and codeine, come directly from a substance called opium, which is found naturally in the poppy plant. Others, like heroin, methadone, and meperidine are either partially or purely synthetic. That means they have been chemically altered, or created from scratch, in a laboratory.

Different, But The Same

Regardless of how they're made, all opioids act the same way. By attaching to proteins in your body called opiate receptors, they block the pain messages sent to your brain. At the same time, they affect the regions of the brain that regulate pleasure, which explains why opioids produce a sense of euphoria or "high." Opioids can also cause drowsiness, constipation, and slowed breathing. More importantly, continued use can lead to tolerance, dependence — with serious long-term complications.

Physical And Behavioral Changes

There is an unfortunate belief among some in our society that people with opioid dependence should be able to stop taking drugs simply by sheer force of will. This attitude, we now know, is inaccurate. Today, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that opioids have long-term effects on brain activity that turn drug abuse into a chronic, relapsing illness. The good news is, like many other illnesses, opioid dependence can be successfully treated.

An excellent first step on your road to recovery is to find a doctor near you who is prepared to help with the challenges of dependence and recovery. Physicians qualified to treat opioid dependence with Suboxone are listed on the Buprenorphine Physician Locator maintained by SAMSHA (The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration).

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