Opioids and opiates, two sets of substances with similar effects and characteristics, are highly addictive and commonly abused. While often used clinically to relieve pain and bring relief, they can quickly take a devastating toll. Overcoming addiction is difficult, but it can set a person up for a better life. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, opioid rehab treatment can provide the necessary medical and emotional support.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are drugs that interfere with the opioid receptors in a person’s central nervous system. Often made from opium, a natural derivative of the poppy plant, these substances serve as effective painkillers for many medical patients. Unfortunately, the same calming qualities that make them effective also make them highly addictive. To experience the removal of pain and a sense of overall well-being, habitual users often have to increase dosage alongside increased tolerance. This only worsens the cycle of addiction.

Opioids vs Opiates: What’s the Difference?

Opioids and opiates are two words you’ve likely considered interchangeable. While it’s true that both terms refer to harmful narcotic drugs, there is a slight difference between them.

“Opioid” is the general term that applies to all substances that interact with the body’s opioid receptors. “Opiate,” meanwhile, refers specifically to natural derivatives of the poppy plant. In practice, people generally use the term “opiate” for natural substances and “opioid” for synthetic products made in a lab.

Common opiates include codeine, morphine, and opium in their simplest form. All these products come directly from naturally grown poppy plants.

Opioids include semi-synthetic drugs like oxycodone and heroin as well as fully synthetic substances like methadone and fentanyl. These addictive drugs are among the most controlled substances in the country because of their high probability of abuse.

While understanding the technical difference between the terms can be helpful, opiates and opioids are similar substances with a near-identical effect on the human body. Any drug that interferes with the opioid receptors has an inherent risk of abuse. Whether you’re suffering from addiction to a natural product like morphine or a synthetic substance like fentanyl, you’re at risk and should seek opiate addiction treatment.

Opioid Abuse: The Basics

The effect of opioids on the central nervous system and the pleasant feelings they induce make them especially dangerous substances. While plenty of people use prescription painkillers appropriately, many fall victim to the drugs’ addictive qualities.

Why are Opioids Addictive?

As mentioned above, opioids work to block pain by interfering with the opioid receptors in the central nervous system. They also release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates the experience of pleasure. These effects combine to make the consumption of opioids pleasant for most users.

The release of dopamine and the subsequent surge of pleasure can alter the reward system in the human brain, creating a strong urge to continue using. As abusers increase their intake, a tolerance to the drug develops. This, in turn, makes it necessary for the user to further increase their dosage.

Eventually, a physical dependence on the substance develops. At this point, any attempt to stop abusing the drug will bring painful and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Recovery from such a severe addiction generally requires the assistance of opioid rehab centers.

A Typical Route to Addiction

Not everyone follows the same path to opioid addiction, but certain trends have developed. Many users start out taking opioids that a doctor has prescribed to treat pain. The pleasure they derive from the drug then pushes them to take more than prescribed. They may take more than a standard dosage to increase the effects or seek additional doses after their prescription has ended. Either of these behaviors constitutes an early form of abuse.

As people fall into addiction, they feel a compulsive need to obtain drugs. Some go looking for a doctor to prescribe additional painkillers. Others feel compelled to buy, borrow, or steal the substance wherever they can find it. The urges produced by the addiction are often strong enough to motivate uncharacteristic behavior.

When a person has exhausted every possibility of obtaining the prescription drug, they might turn to heroin, a cheaper and more accessible alternative. Despite its obvious dangers, this semi-synthetic substance serves as a last resort for many desperate individuals.

Whether addicted to heroin or a prescription painkiller, overcoming opioid dependence is the only way out. Opiate addiction treatment can help a person get past withdrawal symptoms and start anew. Opioid rehab centers around the country offer this service to individuals in need of assistance.

Opioid Addiction by the Numbers

Most of us understand the scope of the opioid epidemic from what we see in our own communities. If you’re under the impression these addictive substances are devastating lives around the country, the numbers will back you up. A quick look at some of the most alarming statistics is enough to make the situation painfully clear.

  • More than 2 million Americans abuse opioids.
  • In 2019, 49,860 Americans were known to have died from an opioid-related overdose. This marks a sharp increase from 2010, when opioid overdoses accounted for 21,089 deaths.
  • Of those opioid-related deaths in 2019, prescription opioids like oxycodone accounted for 14,139.
  • Of the opioid-related deaths in 2019, 14,019 were caused by heroin, often in combination with an additional opioid.
  • West Virginia, the most affected state, saw 42.4 opioid-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2018.

These statistics make clear the extent to which opioids are ravaging many American communities. If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction, you are far from alone. There’s no reason to be ashamed. With opiate addiction treatment available from numerous opioid rehab centers, recovery is within your grasp.

What Are the Most Common Types of Opioids?

While there are many different types of opioids in existence, some are much more common than others. These are the opioids Americans are most likely to encounter at some point in their lives.


Often prescribed to treat a cough or mild pain, this opiate is less potent than many of its opioid cousins. All the same, it can prove addictive and is often abused. Younger Americans are especially likely to misuse codeine, often by mixing it with some sort of beverage.


Doctors only prescribe fentanyl, a highly potent opioid, in cases of extreme pain. Many abusers take it alongside heroin, forming a drug cocktail that proves particularly dangerous.


Heroin is an illicit drug with no legitimate medical purpose. Doctors will never prescribe it, but it is often bought and sold on the street. People can inject, sniff, or smoke the substance in order to feel the effects.


Hydrocodone is a powerful pain-killing substance. Some medications use only this single component. Others, like Vicodin, combine it with other ingredients like acetaminophen.


A powerful opioid, methadone can help treat patients with severe pain. Opioid rehab centers also use the substance to reduce cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms in patients addicted to heroin or other dangerous narcotics. While methadone is addictive and dangerous in its own right, it can help wean patients off even deadlier substances.


Often sold under familiar brand names like Percocet and OxyContin, oxycodone is a common painkiller. Its accessibility and addictive qualities make it a common substance of abuse.

What are Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction?

Here are a few signs of opioid abuse to watch out for:

  • Abrupt changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Difficulty concentrating on routine tasks
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Signs of disorientation and intoxication
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Finishing a prescription earlier than expected
  • Visiting multiple doctors in search of prescriptions
  • Purchasing illegal drugs

It’s never easy to see a loved one suffer. All the same, you should always look out for the well-being of someone you truly care about. It’s not always obvious when someone is suffering from opioid addiction. 

If you suspect a loved one is abusing opioids, there’s plenty you can do to help. First of all, talk to them about your concerns. Then, let them know that opioid rehab options are available. The influence of a loving relative or friend can make all the difference.

What are Signs of an Opioid Overdose?

In the worst cases, opioid abuse can lead to an overdose. Here are the signs of an overdose to look out for:

  • Lack of consciousness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fingernails and lips turning purple or blue
  • Constricted pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting

While not all overdoses are fatal, death is a real possibility. To keep yourself or a loved one safe, be on the constant lookout for an overdose with anyone known to abuse opioids. An immediate response can be instrumental. 

If you experience the above symptoms or see them happening to someone else, you need to intervene right away. Call 911 immediately, then do whatever you can to provide care. If you have access to naloxone, administer it immediately to counteract the effects of the opioids. Conduct CPR on anyone who isn’t breathing. When paramedics arrive, be completely honest so they know exactly what they’re dealing with.

What Are Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal?

Withdrawal is often an inevitable component of opioid rehab. A body that has developed a dependence on a drug struggles to adjust to life without the substance. Whether you’re at home or in opiate addiction treatment, you’ll have to go through the process. Here’s what to expect:

  • Abdominal cramps, nausea, and diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Chills and goosebumps
  • Insomnia
  • Pain in muscles and bones
  • Sweating
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Cravings

While these symptoms are highly unpleasant, they’re rarely deadly. Opioid rehab centers use practiced methods to make withdrawal as safe and manageable as possible.

Options for Opioid and Opiate Addiction Treatment

Opioid rehab centers around the country offer patients a safe place to beat their addictions. By overseeing the detox process and counseling patients, opiate addiction treatment can help get people back on track.

Medical Detox for a Safe Withdrawal

Attempting to detox without medical supervision can be dangerous and counterproductive. For one thing, there will be no recourse if any sudden complications arise. An unassisted patient is also liable to relapse when the withdrawal symptoms are at their worst.

Opioid rehab centers provide a safe, supportive environment where people can overcome the worst of withdrawal. Many opiate treatment addiction plans use methadone or buprenorphine to ease symptoms and weaken cravings. Attentive medical care will prevent complications and ward off a devastating relapse.

Addiction Counseling

Once a patient has successfully detoxed, opioid rehab centers move on to the counseling phase of treatment. Caregivers take a comprehensive approach to well-being, looking into a patient’s mental and physical health while also considering social concerns. Understanding why a person fell into addiction in the first place can help prevent a relapse. Ultimately, a patient should come out of opioid rehab with the tools to build a better, drug-free future.

Why Should You Seek Opioid Addiction Treatment?

Breaking free of addiction is a painful, challenging process. For many patients, it represents the most difficult thing they’ll do in their entire lives. Undergoing professional opiate addiction treatment will make the process safer, easier, and more effective. Opioid rehab centers will assist with medical detox, provide inpatient care and counseling, and offer outpatient support after discharge. This continuum of care is what sees patients through to a drug-free life.

BRC Healthcare is Here for You

Opioid addiction is devastating, but there is a way out. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, come to us for resources on inpatient and outpatient care. Our medical professionals can break the chains of dependence and help build a new life from the ashes of addiction. Contact us today to get started.