Which Opiates Are The Most Commonly Abused?

Opiates is a term also often used interchangeably with opioids, and this refers to a class of drugs prescribed for the treatment of acute pain. While opiates do have therapeutic benefits, they’re unfortunately also the number one cause of drug overdoses in the U.S.

In 2015 there more than 20,000 estimated deaths because of prescription painkillers, and nearly 13,000 deaths related to the use of heroin.

Which Opiates Are The Most Commonly Abused?
Before looking specifically at which opiates are the most commonly abused, it can be helpful to have an overview as to what they are, what they’re used for, and what effects they can have.

Opiates are used to treat pain, and they have highly addictive properties.

Some of the most common prescription opiates include morphine, methadone, and codeine, among others. Illegal street opiates include heroin and opium.

When someone is legitimately prescribed opiates, it’s generally for the treatment of mild to severe pain, and they’re most often given to patients following a serious injury, surgery, or for some kind of chronic pain. They may also be given to patients who are terminally ill with something like cancer.

The most common way people take prescription opiates is in pill form, whereas heroin, which is an illicit drug, is often taken by injection, snorting or smoking the substance.

There is a very high potential for abuse with opiates, and they are incredibly addictive. Even when someone has a prescription for an opioid painkiller that they take legitimately under the instruction of their doctor, there is a significant likelihood of abuse or addiction.

Before looking at which opiates are the most commonly abused, it’s key to consider why they are so addictive. When you take an opiate, the drug enters your bloodstream and floods your body with unnatural dopamine and endorphins. This is what’s responsible for the feelings of pleasure and euphoria that occur. It’s a high that’s very different than what you feel even with a natural rush of endorphins.

When people continue to use opiates their body stops its natural creation of dopamine and endorphins, resulting in the inability of that individual to have feelings of pleasure without the use of the opiates.

When evaluating which opiates are the most commonly abused, it can also be useful to have a background as to the steps that lead to an addiction.

First, a person would develop a tolerance to the opiates they take. This means they would need to continue to take larger doses to feel the same feelings or high as they did initially. Tolerance to opiates can occur very quickly. Then people become physical dependent on opiates, and without the presence of the drugs, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Then a psychological dependence can manifest itself, which is what an addiction is. This refers to the mental cravings for the drug that tend to take precedence over everything else in the person’s life.

Below is a brief list of commonly abused opiates and a short description of what they are.

  • Vicodin: Vicodin is one of the most commonly abused opiates, and it’s prescribed to treat severe pain, often following surgery or an injury. Unfortunately, Vicodin also has the tendency to quickly become something people abuse, even when they’re initially prescribed to use it, and it’s not just the most abused opiate in the U.S., but the most abused of all prescription drugs in the country.
  • Heroin: Heroin is not a prescription drug and is an illegal, synthesized type of morphine. Heroin can be injected, smoked or snorted, and along with the dangers of the drug itself, it’s also particularly dangerous because of the risk that it’s cut with other substances.
  • Morphine: Another one of the most abused opiates is morphine. Morphine is a painkiller extracted from poppy plants, and it’s often used in medical settings and given orally or intravenously.
  • Codeine: Codeine is a narcotic, and it’s similar to morphine. Codeine is also one of the most commonly abused opiates. Codeine can be used not only to relieve pain but also for severe
  • Fentanyl: Fentanyl is a drug that’s become increasingly abused over recent years, and now it represents one of the opiates that is the most commonly abused. It’s a narcotic that is similar in many ways to heroin, and it acts quickly as a sedative and reliever of severe pain.
  • Hydrocodone: Hydrocodone is an opiate that is used as both a pain reliever and cough suppressant.

Along with the opiates that are most commonly abused, in general, four out of five new heroin users began with prescription painkillers. Many adolescents obtain pain relievers from a friend or relative, and ultimately the best thing that can happen to anyone who is abusing opiates is that they receive professional help, because all of the drugs listed above and other opiates are incredibly difficult to stop using.

Which Opiates Are The Most Commonly Abused?
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