What Are Opioids and How Do They Work?: A Scientific Look Into Opioids

Opioid medications are among the most widely-used drugs in existence today, especially in America.

In fact, US citizens consume over 80% of the opioids manufactured worldwide. 

Opioids are very effective at relieving pain, so doctors commonly prescribe opioids for a wide range of painful ailments.

Unfortunately, they also have other properties that have caused widespread abuse of these drugs across the country. Read on for answers to the question, ‘What are opioids?’ and why they have mass appeal. 

What Types of Drugs Are Opioids?

Opioids belong to a broad category of pain-relieving drugs. These pain-relieving properties rely on their interactions with the opioid receptors in your body.

Opioids occur naturally in the poppy plant and manufacturers still make some opioid medications such as morphine, as well as illegal drugs like heroin from this plant. 

Nowadays, pharmaceutical companies also synthesize opioids, like Actiq and Duragesic, in a laboratory.

When opioid medications enter your bloodstream, they attach to opioid receptors in your cells and make their way to your brain.

On arrival, they release signals that dull your perception of pain. They also release dopamine into your brain, creating pleasurable sensations.

Opioids can react adversely with other medications, so always tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking if they prescribe painkillers.  

What are Opioids Used For in Medicine?

Opioids are very effective at relieving all kinds of pain. They’re usually prescribed for persistent severe pain like backache, chronic headaches, and pain associated with cancer.

Sometimes they’re also used for pain associated with injury due to sports, car accidents, or other mishaps. 

Some of the more common types of opioids include:

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Oxymorphone

When you take opioids as prescribed by your doctor, might feel a little sleepy.

However, when you take more than you need, opioids can have serious side effects. They can slow your heart rate and respiration to such an extent that you could die. 

Why Does the USA Have an Opioid Abuse Problem?

The history of opioid addiction stretches all the way back to the 1860s. 

Due to the pleasurable associations related to opioid abuse, many people fall into the trap of taking this medication unnecessarily.

That’s because our brains start to crave the feel-good effects that opioids provide. The trouble starts when we take opioids more often than prescribed by our doctors. 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of opioid addiction since you won’t suffer any ill effects at first. Unfortunately, like with most addictive drugs, you’ll soon want more of the good stuff.

When people become addicted to opioids, they may lie to their doctor about the severity of their pain, help themselves to someone else’s prescription drugs, or buy them illegally. 

Safeguarding Your Mental and Physical Health

Finding an answer to the question, ‘What are opioids?’ is your first step towards understanding how they can lure you into their clutches.

If you think you’re a little too fond of these medications and would like to step away from their grip on you, now’s the time to consider your options for rehabilitation.

The sooner you get control of your opioid use, the sooner you’ll experience the freedom that recovery brings.

Do you want some more information about common health-related questions? Keep browsing our blog.