The opioid crisis has been big news for at least a decade. Even though opioids can be very helpful in relieving pain, they are also, unfortunately, very dangerous and carry a high risk of addiction. The dangers of taking opioids are hard to understate. Many people have found themselves dealing with opioid use disorder, and have needed to seek help from an opioid rehab center.
What are Opioids and Where Do They Come From?
Opioids are drugs which are derived from the opium poppy. Some are natural, meaning that they are directly manufactured from the plant, while others are synthetic, meaning that they are created in a lab. Opioids, in general, contain chemical compounds that attach to receptors in the brain which subdue the feeling of pain and promote the feeling of pleasure. This, of course, makes them highly addictive, even under supervision of a doctor.
Some opioids are used in medical treatment and manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. Others, like heroin, are illegal in the United States and manufactured in illicit labs, often in other countries. Some pharmaceutical opioids are also made by counterfeiters, which is especially dangerous because the consumer has no way of knowing what they are actually taking. This is one of the reasons that illicit substances are so dangerous.
What are the Most Dangerous Opioids?
All opioids can be dangerous if used incorrectly, without a prescription, or without a doctor’s supervision. However, some are much more dangerous than others. The three most dangerous opioids are:
- Heroin – In the past 20 years, over 140,000 Americans have lost their lives to overdoses involving heroin. Heroin use can put a person at risk of HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne illnesses. Heroin can also cause damage to the cardiovascular system over time, causing users to suffer heart failure and other severe issues.
- Fentanyl – In 2020, synthetic opioids, of which fentanyl is one, accounted for over 50,000 deaths in the United States. Fentanyl is often used to adulterate other opioids on the black market, which is extremely dangerous. Only a small amount of fentanyl is required to provoke an overdose, especially in someone with little tolerance for opioids. This makes it one of the most dangerous opioids out there.
- Fentanyl analogs – These drugs include carfentanil, acefentanyl, and others. Fentanyl analogs are especially problematic because they are often used in the counterfeit market. Originally intended for use by large animal veterinarians, these drugs were never meant to be taken by humans. They are far stronger than most other opioids and extremely dangerous.
How Can Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder Help?
For people who are struggling to stop using opioids, it may help to speak to a licensed counselor or substance use disorder treatment professional. Opioid use disorder is an illness characterized by an inability to stop or control one’s opioid use despite harmful consequences and disruptive effects. In the past, terms like “substance abuse” and “addiction” were used to describe this condition, but the current understanding of SUDs is more nuanced. Heroin addiction treatment programs, as well as fentanyl addiction treatment programs can help those who are ready to stop using and begin their journey of recovery. With the right kind of treatment and support, recovery from opioid use disorder is possible.
If you or someone you love is dealing with opioid use, don’t wait—get help today. People who receive treatment can often maintain their recovery, return to work and school, and rejoin activities that they previously enjoyed. Reach out to a counselor, a doctor, or a treatment center near you and learn how to take the first steps on your journey to recovery.