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Facts About Opioids

In 2017, more than 244 million prescriptions were written and filled for opioids.


Opiates and opioids are medications used to relieve pain. They work by reducing the intensity of the pain signals sent to the brain. They also affect brain centers that deal with emotions and diminish the effect of painful stimuli.

There are many regulations today on how doctors prescribe opiates because they are so addictive. Why is this?

  • Opioid dependence can happen after just five days because the drugs are some of the strongest on the planet. 1
  • After 3 months of use, the risk of addiction is 15 times greater than the first 5 days.
  • According to the CDC 11.5 million people reported misuse of their prescription pain medication in 2016. 2
Prescribed Opiates fall into four categories:
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
Nerve cells in the brain have specific responses to pain. When an patient abuses opiates, the brain begins to rely less on it's own natural process and relies more on opiates to respond to the pain.
When someone wants to quit using opiates, the brain has a hard time dealing with this radical change, and the person experiences a painful response in the form of withdrawal symptoms.
This effect can happen to anyone and everyone, regardless of a person's experience with addiction or substance abuse in the past.
Although many patients find themselves relying on opioid medications for pain relief, some grow dependent on them even after their underlying pain has gone away. Use of opioids can also cause you to become more sensitive to pain as a result of taking opioid medication. This is called hyperalgesia.


Prescription opioids can be useful to manage chronic pain, but they come with risks even when used appropriately. In addition, when used too frequently, inappropriately, or without a prescription, they can also cause serious life-threatening effects. Here just a few of the risk:

Short-term effects of opioids and morphine derivatives include:

  • Drowsiness

  • Slowed breathing

  • Constipation

  • Unconsciousness

  • Nausea

  • Coma

  • Physical dependence and addiction.

  • Unintentional overdose and even death

Long-Term Effects of opioids and morphine derivatives include:

  • Physical dependence and addiction

  • Unintentional overdose and death - Respiratory Depression and Failure

  • Constipation, sleep-disordered breathing, fractures, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysregulation

  • Tolerance can also occur, meaning that long-term users must increase their doses to achieve the same high.

  • Actual changes to the brain chemistry - brain’s perception of everything from reward to pain management becomes fundamentally distorted

  • Liver damage

  • Increased risk of depression

  • Sexual dysfunction

Risks of stopping abruptly (WITHDRAWALS):

  • Restlessness,

  • Muscle and bone pain

  • Insomnia

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Cold flashes

  • Goose bumps – (this is where the term “cold turkey” came from) 

If you are interested in learning more about medical detox, please call us today.

Within 1 month of daily use, opioids can start to change the ability of the brain to function normally. 

Recognizing which medicines are opioids is an important step to prevent opioid overuse emergencies!


Opioids attach to receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and gut. This produces a range of effects that include the release of chemical messengers to the brain, resulting in pain relief.

In addition to relieving pain, opioids can also cause life-threatening side effects, which include:

1) Slowed or shallow breathing
2) Weak pulse
3) Low blood pressure

These effects can start as quickly as 5 to 10 minutes after taking an opioid and, depending on whether opioids are taken by mouth, via a skin patch, or by injection, can peak within 30 minutes to an hour.

Did you know that ~83% of opioid-related deaths are unintended/accidental?

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