What Drugs are Opiates

What Drugs are Opiates: A Closer Look at Dependency and Treatment Options

What drugs are opiates? Unravel the mystery behind these potent painkillers and their impact on health.

What Drugs are Opiates?

“What drugs are opiates?” is a commonly asked question. From pain relief to potential addiction, opiates hold a dual narrative. These substances are powerful and risky, yet they can be both healing and harmful.

In this comprehensive article, we will answer questions like “what drugs are opiates?” and “what are the risks of opiate addiction?” with the goal of empowering people to make informed decisions.

What Drugs are Opiates

The Opioid Crisis

Opioids were misused by 8.9 million people in the past year.1
According to the CDC, over 82,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. involved opioids in 2022. The opioid crisis is one of the most daunting public health challenges today.2
While originally intended for pain relief, their high potential for addiction and misuse has led to a devastating epidemic of dependency and overdose deaths.

Understanding What Drugs are Opiates

Understanding what drugs are opiates is crucial for several reasons:
  • It helps recognize the signs of addiction and the risks associated with prolonged use of these drugs.
  • It informs better prescription practices among healthcare professionals, promoting the use of alternatives where possible to minimize the risk of dependency. 
  • Awareness can foster better community support and resources for those struggling with addiction.

Accessible Healthcare Solutions for Opioid Addiction at MHRC

Mile High Recovery Center (MHRC) stands as a pillar of support in the challenging battle against opioid addiction. Our team is dedicated to providing accessible, comprehensive healthcare services to those entangled in this crisis.

Recognizing the complex nature of opioid dependency, we offer an integrative, whole-person approach to treatment, integrating:

Our Mission

At the core of Mile High Recovery’s mission is the understanding that recovery extends beyond physical detoxification. This is why we address the psychological, social, and environmental factors contributing to addiction for sustainable wellness.
We ensure our clients are not only treated for their addiction but also empowered with the necessary skills to rebuild their lives and guard against relapse.

What Drugs are Opiates?: Combating Addiction

Understanding what opiates are and what drugs are opiates is crucial to fighting back against opiate addiction.
Opiates are a group of drugs derived from the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum.
They belong to a larger class of substances known as opioids, which also include synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of natural opiates.

What Drugs are Opiates?: Classification and Use Cases

Opiates are classified as narcotic analgesics due to their potent ability to relieve pain, induce sedation, and create a sense of well-being or euphoria.
In medical contexts, opiates can relieve severe pain, such as that experienced after surgery or from certain chronic conditions. But, beyond their analgesic properties, opiates also induce a profound sense of relaxation. This leads to their misuse outside of medical settings.
The ability of opiates to produce euphoria has contributed to a long history of opiate use, misuse, and dependence.

Interaction with the Body's Opioid Receptors

Opiates exert their effects by interacting with specific opioid receptors in the brain and body, primarily mu, delta, and kappa receptors. These are part of a system that handles how we feel pain and happiness.
When these drugs bind to these areas, they mimic the body’s natural painkillers. This reduces how much pain we feel while increasing the release of dopamine, a chemical that makes us feel happy and rewarded.
As someone uses opiates regularly, their body adjusts to the drug’s presence, becoming reliant on it to feel normal. If the drug is suddenly stopped, the body struggles to adapt. This results in uncomfortable and sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms.

What Drugs are Opiates?: Exploring Common Types

What drugs are opiates, and how are they categorized?
Opiates are divided into two main categories: prescription opiates and illicit opiates. Each category has its specific uses, benefits, and risks.

Prescription Opiates

Prescription opiates are often prescribed to manage acute and chronic pain. They’re especially beneficial for patients undergoing surgery, suffering from cancer-related pain, or experiencing severe chronic conditions.
Some common prescription opiates include:
  • Oxycodone: This potent opioid is prescribed for managing moderate to severe pain.
  • Hydrocodone: Prescribed for moderate to severe pain, hydrocodone is often combined with acetaminophen (as in Vicodin) to enhance its effect. 
  • Morphine: As one of the oldest and most effective opioids, morphine is primarily used for severe pain, such as that associated with cancer or major surgical procedures.
These prescription opiates are useful for their unparalleled ability to reduce acute and chronic pain. But, the euphoric effects of these medications can induce many to misuse. The misuse can quickly become an addiction and dependence, leading to undesirable effects.

Illicit Opiates

Illicit opiates are substances that are used without any medical supervision. They also have higher abuse potentials and risks than their prescription counterparts. There are over 2 million U.S. adults struggling with opioid use disorder (OUD), whether it be prescription or illicit.3
The lack of control over production and distribution increases their dangers to the public health system. The two most common types of illicit opiates are:


Heroin is highly addictive due to its euphoric properties. Its use is fraught with serious health risks, such as overdose and death. 96% of people who use heroin also use other drugs at least once.4
The variability in purity and composition of street heroin increases the likelihood of contamination with other harmful substances.


Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is more potent than heroin. 70% of overdose deaths in the U.S. involved illegally manufactured fentanyl in 2022.5
While it helps manage intense pain, its illicit production and distribution have unleashed a wave of fatalities.
Street versions of fentanyl, often mixed with heroin or disguised as other pills, contribute to over 150 deaths every day.6

What Drugs are Opiates: Effects and Risks of Opiates

The dangers of illicit opiate use are either due to their high potency or uncertain composition being primary concerns. People often don’t know the strength of the drugs they’re taking, leading to a heightened risk of overdose.
The presence of contaminants also increases the likelihood of life-threatening side effects. Understanding what drugs are opiates and the dangers of contamination are important for maintaining health and safety.

Short-Term Effects

The short-term effects of opiates include:
  • Sedation: People taking opiates may experience drowsiness or sedation. This can impair their ability to perform tasks that require alertness, such as driving.
  • Nausea and vomiting: This is common in people who aren’t accustomed to opiate use or when taken in higher doses.
  • Constipation: Opiates slow down the digestive system, leading to severe constipation.

Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects of opiates include:
  • Addiction and Dependence: Regular use of opiates can lead to physical dependence, where the body adapts to the drug. People need more to achieve the same effect, and lack of it can result in withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Overdose risk: Increased tolerance can lead to higher doses to achieve desired effects, raising the risk of overdose. An opiate overdose can depress breathing and lead to death.
  • Mental health issues: Chronic opiate use is associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
  • Effects on eye health: Opiates can impact eye health by causing pinpoint pupils, dry eye syndrome, and blurred vision.7
  • Physical health decline: Chronic use of opiates can lead to liver damage, hormonal imbalances, and a weakened immune system. This makes the body more susceptible to infections.

What Drugs are Opiates: Signs of Opiate Addiction

In addition to wondering what drugs are opiates, people often wonder about the signs of opiate addiction.

Opiate addiction is a complex condition that affects people physically, psychologically, and socially. Recognizing the signs of addiction is the first step toward seeking help and recovery.

Behavioral Indicators

Behavioral indicators provide crucial insight into the complex behavioral changes that often accompany opiate addiction.
Below are some important points to consider:
  • Increased secrecy or privacy: People may hide their drug use, lie about their whereabouts, or be secretive about their activities.
  • Financial difficulties: Unexplained borrowing of money, selling possessions, or financial instability may indicate money is being spent on acquiring opiates.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: This includes poor performance at work or school, neglecting household duties, and disregarding family obligations.
  • Changes in social circles: Preferring the company of other people using drugs and distancing from family and friends who do not use drugs.
  • Criminal behavior: Engaging in illegal activities, such as stealing, to get drugs.

Physical Indicators

Physical indicators offer tangible evidence of the toll opiate use takes on the body and provide vital clues for intervention and treatment.
These include:
  • Changes in appearance: Sudden weight loss, poor personal hygiene, and neglect of physical appearance.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Experiencing flu-like symptoms (nausea, vomiting, sweating, shaking) when not using opiates.
  • Tolerance: Needing increasingly larger doses of opiates to achieve the same effect.
  • Withdrawal avoidance: Continuously using opiates to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Psychological Indicators

Psychological indicators highlight emotional turmoil and psychological distress. The most common among them are:
  • Mood swings: Rapid and unexplained changes in mood, ranging from euphoria to deep depression.
  • Anxiety and depression: Increased levels of anxiety and periods of depression that seem out of character.
  • Lack of interest: Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable.

Impact on Relationships, Work, and Well-Being

Relationships suffer as trust is eroded by unusual behaviors. This leads to isolation from loved ones. Work performance also declines, risking:
  • Job loss
  • Financial instability
  • Furthering the cycle of addiction
Recognizing these signs early can be key to seeking and receiving help before the addiction becomes more severe. Make sure to approach the situation with empathy and understanding.

What Drugs are Opiates: Treatment Options for Opiate Addiction

Opiate addiction is a complex condition, but with the right approach, recovery is possible. Treatment options are diverse and can be tailored to each person’s specific needs, offering hope and a path to recovery.

These treatment options include:

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

MAT is a highly effective approach that combines medications with counseling and behavioral therapies.

The FDA-approved medications used in this strategy helps normalize brain activity. They also block out the euphoric effect of opiates and reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

The medications combined with psychotherapy help people understand the triggers of addiction and develop new coping mechanisms.

Therapy and Counseling

Therapy and counseling offer a path to understanding and overcoming the psychological aspects of substance dependence. Counseling sessions may include individual, group, or family therapy. This provides a supportive space to address the psychological and social aspects of addiction.

The most common types of therapies beneficial for opiate addiction are:
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Art therapy
  • Equine therapy
  • Meditation
These therapies are adaptable to individual or group formats. They can improve recovery outcomes by addressing underlying issues, promoting emotional healing, and teaching effective coping strategies.

Support Groups

Support groups facilitate a shared space where people can exchange personal stories, challenges, and achievements related to their addiction journey.
The collective experience found in these groups can significantly enhance a person’s resilience against relapse. With regular meetings, participants can learn coping strategies that reinforce their commitment to recovery.
What Drugs are Opiates

Achieve Sustainable Recovery With MHRC

Mile High Recovery Center in Colorado offers a range of addiction treatment programs tailored to people struggling with opiate addiction. Our programs are designed to address the physical, psychological, and social aspects of addiction, providing a holistic approach to recovery.
With a combination of MAT, personalized therapy, and aftercare services, MHRC helps people understand what drugs are opiates, overcome addiction, and rebuild their lives.

Importance of Education and Easy Care Access

Understanding what drugs are opiates, their uses, and the risks involved can empower people to make informed decisions about their health. It’s through this knowledge that they can begin to peel away the stigma associated with addiction.
Access to credible treatment centers can offer a lifeline to those caught in the grip of addiction. But, these resources must be made more readily available and accessible to those in need, regardless of their circumstances.
MHRC seeks to provide accessible, comprehensive addiction treatment to anyone who needs it.

Contact Mile High Recovery Center Today

Mile High Recovery Center is dedicated to supporting people affected by opiate addiction. Our approach is grounded in compassion, understanding, and a commitment to personalized care. Our team is here to help you navigate the challenges of recovery.

For more information about what drugs are opiates and how to get help for opiate addiction, please contact us directly. Your journey to recovery is important, and you don’t have to face it alone.

Let MHRC be your partner in finding the path to a healthier, opiate-free life.

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If you or a loved one are ready to regain autonomy over your lives and well-being, recovery starts here. Let us guide you toward sustainable wellness and sobriety through our personalized treatment plans tailored to your unique needs and experiences. We look forward to hearing from you!