What is an Opioid?

Opioids, also known as opiates, are used medically for pain relief and anesthesia. They can create a feeling of euphoria in the same brain receptors that heroin also uses to create euphoria. Opioids include very strong painkillers, including hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), meperidine (Demerol), oxymorphone (Opana), codeine, and morphine (Avinza and Kadian).

Some opioids come from the opium poppy plant, and some are synthetically made, like fentanyl. Heroin is also considered an opioid. Opioids attach to opioid receptors on nerve cells and block pain messages sent from the spinal cord to the brain. They release large amounts of dopamine throughout the body. This strong feeling of dopamine release can make the opioid abuser feel addicted and want to keep taking the pills.

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What do opioids look like?

Opioids come in many shapes, sizes, and colors of pills. Heroin is a white powder that looks similar to cocaine. It can also be a brown powder or a black tar-like substance.


How is an opioid taken?

Some opioid abusers swallow the pills. Some people crush pills or open the capsules, mix it with water and inject it into their vein or muscle. Others snort the pills. Heroin can be snorted and heated with a lighter and spoon or bottlecap before injecting it.

Why do people use opioids?

Opioids are typically used for pain relief and a feeling of euphoria. Opioid abusers use the drugs to feel relaxed and to get “high.” Heroin users may combine the drug with cocaine for a more intense high, or alcohol for relaxation.



  • Vics
  • OCs
  • Oxy
  • Junk
  • Percs
  • Black tar
  • Smack
  • Horse

History of Opioids

Opium has been available in the U.S. since 1775. In the 1860s, soldiers in the civil war took opioids and became addicted to them. In 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Act limited the use of recreational opioids. In the 1990s, physicians started prescribing more opioids. At the time, the medical community convinced prescribers that prescription opioids were not addictive. Shortly after that, the first opioid epidemic started in 1991. Communities that prescribed opioids generously had increased opioid abuse.

In 2010, opioids were harder to obtain, so users found that heroin was a cheaper and easier alternative to fuel their addiction. Deaths from heroin overdoses increased by 286% in a little less than a decade. In the third opioid epidemic, abusers used fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. In 2016, there were 20,000 deaths related to fentanyl.

What are the Symptoms of Opioid Addiction?

You’ll start to notice a loss of control over the dosage of opioids that you take. You may euphoric or energetic, but you’ll also notice you’re sensitive to pain. You may experience flu-like symptoms, and your breathing may become shallow. Opioids in pregnant women can result in neonatal abstinence syndrome. For users who inject opioids or heroin, there is a greater risk of contracting HIV or Hepatitis C from sharing needles.


Signs and Symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Inability to control drug use
  • Cravings
  • Sweating
  • Slurred speech
  • Shallow breathing
  • Pain sensitivity
  • Chronic constipation


  • Pill crushers
  • Pill cutters
  • Lighter or candle
  • Hypodermic needles
  • Spoons or bottle caps
  • Tie-offs


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What Are the Effects of
Opioid Addiction?

The effects of opioid addiction can start small, where you may notice that you or a loved one hasn’t changed clothes or brushed their teeth in a few days and has withdrawn socially. They may avoid work or school, sleep at odd hours, and have mood swings that contribute to financial distress. Opioid addiction can result in overuse and a fatal overdose of the drug. Shallow breathing may cause hypoxia, which limits oxygen to the brain.

Short Term Effects of Opioid Addiction

  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Euphoria
  • Slowed breathing
  • Missing appointments
  • Mood swings

Long Term Effects of Opioid Addiction

  • Being overly energetic
  • Saying things that don’t make sense
  • Lethargy
  • Hypoxia
  • Increase or loss of appetite
  • Sleeping at odd hours
  • Financial hardship
  • Anxiety and irritability

Opioid Addiction Statistics


Americans die every day from opioid overdose.

1.7 million

Americans suffer from substance abuse disorder with opioids in 2017.

$78.5 billion

per year is spent on healthcare, treatment, and criminal justice regarding opioids

How is Opioid Addiction Treated?

Opioid addiction is treated with medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), counseling, and medication-assisted therapy (MAT). MAT is a comprehensive treatment that includes medicine, counseling, and therapy. Here at Gratitude Lodge, you can go through a detox, where medical professionals will help you get rid of your opioid addiction with medication. You can then attend residential inpatient rehab and partake in group therapy.

Medication used to treat opioid addiction includes methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Naltrexone is a medication that is meant to prevent relapse during addiction recovery. It takes away the high you’d normally get with opioids. Methadone and buprenorphine are used to decrease withdrawal symptoms and cravings. They also help restore balance to the part of the brain that has been affected by opioid addiction.

Common Drug Combinations with Opioids?

Opioids are frequently combined with alcohol, which can be deadly. Heroin is often paired with crack cocaine and sometimes benzodiazepines to create an effect called “speedballing,” which can amplify the intensity and high received from both drugs.

  • Ecstasy
  • Crack cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Other opioids
  • Meth
  • Marijuana
  • Xanax
  • Benzos
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