Opiate and Opioid Information and Resources
Opioids are synthetic opiate painkillers such as Percocet, Vicodin, Dilaudid, Methadone, Fentanyl, and Oxycontin, and are considered to be among the most dangerous drugs of abuse in modern society because of their massive addictive liability (likelihood of becoming physically and psychologically dependent). Opioids are prescribed commonly for a variety of pain problems ranging from minor procedures like root canals to serious chronic pain problems like Cancer, and work very well as effective painkillers in those who have legitimate pain. Opioids vary in strength and ingredients. They mimic the effects of naturally occurring opiates in the brain, but are much more powerful.
Percocet (oxycodone/APAP) is an opioid painkiller that is prescribed to patients for moderate to severe pain and is classified as a schedule II narcotic. Prescription drugs are scheduled in order of how addicting they are to the patient. The lower the schedule, the higher the addictive liability of the drug. The schedule II assignment means that physical and psychological dependence can occur very quickly, even within the first week of taking the medication on a daily basis. Percocet contains a combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and oxycodone, a powerful and addictive opiate. The addition of acetaminophen in Percocet and other opiate painkillers is intended for two purposes - to discourage diversion of the drug for street use, and to provide a synergistic effect for pain management. While Percocet is a commonly prescribed pain killer, the risk for addiction to the drug is extremely high.
As one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States, Oxycontin addiction is a growing problem worldwide. This is especially concerning when the relative infancy of the drug is considered - Oxycontin was only introduced in 1995, and oxycontin addiction has since become a serious public health problem in countries around the world. The problem is unfortunately exacerbated by the fact that the drug is extremely useful as a powerful and effective pain reliever. In fact, today Oxycontin is one of the most widely prescribed analgesics in North America. But in addition to its superior pain relieving effects, the drug also produces intense feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and general well-being, which has made Oxycontin addiction an issue of serious concern for health care professionals and family members of those suffering from addiction to the drug.
Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from codeine, one of the three main chemically active derivatives of the opium poppy (e.g. morphine, codeine, and thebaine). Hydrocodone is an orally active narcotic analgesic (pain reliever) and antitussive (cough suppressant). It is commonly available in tablet, capsule, and syrup form, and is usually compounded with other non-opioid compounds such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin®), added both to discourage recreational use (as acetaminophen can cause potentially fatal liver toxicity at high doses), and to provide a possible synergism of analgesic effects.
Hydrocodone is a member of a class of prescription drugs (opioids) for which the addiction liability (likelihood of becoming addicted) is very high, and addiction to which is often more destructive than the original ailment for which the drug was prescribed in the first place.
World history has shown that humans have had a long and complicated relationship with opium use and subsequent opiate addiction. Even today, opium production is a monstrous industry, resulting in the distribution of thousands of tons of medical and therapeutic opiate products, as well as many tons of opiates distributed for illicit use. This duality of use often compounds and confuses the general perception of opium products, as it is difficult for many people to imagine that the same substance can both improve and destroy human lives. However, as with all things, moderation is the key. When moderation is ignored or lost, opiate addiction can rapidly consume a person’s life. For this reason, education is the key to mitigating opiate addiction.
America’s history has been plagued by morphine addiction for nearly two centuries. In fact, because morphine is found directly in the processed sap of the poppy seed, it could be argued that morphine addiction has been a problem - through opium addiction - for two millennia. Opium, a highly addictive drug used to treat severe or chronic pain, has been in use since the time of the Romans. Addiction to opium has been a problem for just as long, and quickly stretched to corners of the globe where the opium poppy doesn’t naturally grow. To demonstrate just how potent opiates can be, morphine was actually used as a treatment for alcohol and opium addiction in the 19th and 20th centuries- not because morphine was less addicting, but because withdrawing from morphine isn’t usually fatal.
Because codeine is the most commonly used opiate in the world - and possibly the most widely used drug overall, codeine addiction is a serious issue that affects millions of people globally. A derivative of opium, codeine has immense therapeutic value in the treatment of pain and inflammation caused by a variety of issues. However, codeine addiction is also a significant threat, as the drug is in the same class and uses similar manufacturing techniques as morphine, oxycodone, and heroin. Therefore, it is important that patients and their families become educated on how codeine addiction occurs, and how to treat it once a dependency has been established.
Vicodin is commonly prescribed for pain related to injuries, surgery, severe illnesses, general/chronic pain, debilitating migraines, and other medical complaints. But because the drug is very similar in structure and effects to morphine and heroin, Vicodin dependency and addiction can become a very serious issue for those who abuse the drug or take it for extended periods of time.
Considered one of the most powerful pain medications available on the market, Fentanyl abuse is a cause for serious concern in the United States. Illicit use of the drug has increased dramatically over the last five years, with black market groups producing at least 12 new non-pharmaceutical versions of the drug in clandestine laboratory operations. Additionally, legitimate prescriptions are being diverted, transferred, or otherwise made available for misuse. Fentanyl abuse is a grave and alarming issue considering that the drug is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and heroin. Deaths from overdose of Fentanyl are increasing in numbers, as few people understand how potent the drug really is. If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of Fentanyl abuse, it’s vital to understand the consequences of the problem and to know how to seek proper medical treatment.
For the millions of Americans suffering with chronic pain, opiate addiction is a serious concern since opiates are the mainstream treatment options for pain relief. In fact, some people will even refuse treatment for debilitating and dangerous pain out of fear that they will become addicted or dependent to the opiates they are treated with. However, a great deal of this fear can be resolved with proper education and communication between patients and doctors, and by constant vigilance on the part of health care providers, patients and their family members and loved ones. Ultimately, chronic pain and opiate addiction do not have to be associated with one another if a sound pain management plan is implemented, maintained, and followed precisely.
An Overview of Oxycontin
Oxycontin is a brand name for oxycodone hydrochloride, an analgesic drug prescribed to patients for moderate to severe pain. Oxycontin refers specifically to the time-release version of the drug as manufactured by Perdue Pharma. The drug is available by prescription only for those requiring long-term pain relief throughout the day.
Oxycontin is not designed to be used “as needed for pain”—instead, users are generally recommended to take one pill every 12 hours. The drug’s controlled-release formula is designed for patients who are unable to take a dose of painkiller once every four hours. Oxycontin tablets come in a variety of sizes, from 10mg up to 160, but the drug is also available in liquid and concentrate form. Tablets over 80mg are available only for patients with a demonstrated history of opioid tolerance.
Chemically, Oxycodone is very similar to codeine as well as hydrocodone (Vicodin). As such, those with allergic reactions to codeine should not take Oxycodone. Patients who are suitable candidates for the drug often find Oxycontin useful in managing pain on the recommendation of a doctor.