Opioid Addiction Your Comprehensive Guide

Opioid Addiction by the Numbers

Almost 130 people die every day from opioid overdose in the United States. Opioid overdoses were labeled an epidemic by The Center for Disease Control in 2011.

While there have been measures taken recently by both local and federal government entities, opioid addiction remains a problem.

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Prescription opioids are generally prescribed to treat moderate to severe chronic pain as the chemicals in the drug help relax and calm the body. However, these effects are what lead to opioid abuse and eventually addiction, even when taken as prescribed by a doctor.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids refers to a class of drugs that are derived from the opium poppy plant. Some opioids are made directly from the plant while others are created in labs using the same chemical structure. The opioid class of drugs includes both illicit substances, like heroin, as well as prescription medication, such as oxycodone.

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2 Types of Opioids

The opioid drug class encompasses a long list of substances, some legally prescribed by a doctor, some illegal. 


Illegal opioids are often cut, or mixed, with other drugs making them more than just opioids. However, illegal opioids include:

  • Heroin
  • Opium


Opioids are often obtained via a doctor’s prescription and even when taken as prescribed can cause your body to become dependent on them and alter your brain chemistry. These prescribed drugs include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Morphine
  • More

What Do Opioids Look Like?

Prescription opioids come in many forms including: tablets, capsules, syrups, and injectable liquid.

Opium is typically distributed as a fine brown powder and is either eaten or smoked.

Heroin is a fine white powder in its purest form, but is often diluted (or cut) with other substances, turning it to a brown or black color.

The Science Behind Pain Killers

Opioids activate a series of receptors on nerve cells commonly called opioid receptors. By activating these receptors, the brain is unable to perceive pain and boosts a person’s sense of pleasure.

Natural Pain Relief

These receptors are typically activated with endorphins and other chemicals naturally produced in the body. This is why endorphin-producing activities, like working out, can reduce pain and induce a semi-euphoric feeling.

What Are Opioid Receptors?

Opioid receptors are tiny spots on the end of nerve cells that remain dormant until specific chemicals activate them. When someone experiences pain it triggers electric pulses that communicate with the brain about the pain. Once activated, opioid receptors block that transmission from going through, thus, providing pain relief.

Cause of Abuse

In terms of pain management, opioids are a common solution due to how they react with the body. As opioids fill the receptors, the normal feeling of pain is blocked and replaced with feelings of pleasure. These changes are what cause the strong abuse potential among opioid users.

How Long Do Opioids Stay in Your System?

The answer to the question “how long do opioids stay in your system” can vary widely depending on the specific opioid, the dosage, individual metabolism, and the type of drug test being used. Generally, opioids can be detectable in urine for around 2 to 4 days after use, but some opioids with longer half-lives can be detected for a longer period.

3 Components of Opioid Addiction

The addictiveness and problems that prescription opioids present has led to one of the biggest health crises of the 21st Century.


One of the first major signs of opioid addiction is developing a tolerance to the substance being used. Taking opioids will permanently changes the chemistry of the brain over time. This causes the body to become less affected by the drug requiring more of the substance to achieve the same high.


For those who develop a tolerance to opioids, they will be subject to withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid addiction. Some of the common symptoms and problems associated with opioid withdrawal include: agitation, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, and more.


One of the most dangerous effects associated with opioid addiction is the psychological dependence that occurs. Repeated exposure of escalated doses, like those that would occur for people who have built a tolerance, alters the brain in a way so that it functions normally when drugs are present and abnormally when drugs aren’t present.

What is Opioid Addiction?

Opioid addiction is a chronic disease that can cause major health, social, and financial problems.

Those who become addicted to opioids will often prioritize obtaining and taking the drug over other activities in their lives.

Risk Factors of Opioid Abuse

When it comes to opioids, there are a few subpopulations afflicted over another. However, there are some common risk factors. If you are going to be prescribed opioids and concerned about your risk of addiction, utilize this tool from drugabuse.gov to quickly assess your risk.


Clients with a direct family member that had a substance abuse problem are at a higher risk of abusing opioids. Not only may this be indicative of a biological difference making them more susceptible, but it may mean that they’ve experienced trauma growing up and will use opioids as an obvious self-medicating tactic.



As with many substance abuse problems, the presence of a mental health issue can greatly impact the likelihood of addiction. A diagnosis of bipolar, schizophrenia, and OCD can be more indicative of potential addiction than a diagnosis of anxiety or depression. Those with a mental health diagnosis will need a special type of treatment referred to as a Dual Diagnosis Program.


Women are more likely to experience opioid addiction as their biological makeup may allow them to become dependent on opioids quicker than men. Additionally, women are more likely to experience chronic pain, and when prescribed opioids, doctors are more likely to give women a longer prescription at a higher dosage than men.

Opioid addiction in young adults will often appear for those who have multiple risk facts. During early adulthood people usually get access to pills from close friends or family and when couple with increased risk taking, it can make those 18-25 overly vulnerable.

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The Opioid Epidemic has affected millions of Americans and was federally declared a public health crisis in 2017.

In the 20 years between 1997 and 2017, the Opioid Epidemic claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 U.S. citizens. That is more than the Iraq War, Vietnam War, Korean War, and Revolutionary War combined.

As new opioid addiction treatments are popularized, opioid overdose deaths can be reduced — one day ending the epidemic. Call our addiction specialists today and find a treatment that works for you.

Now is the time to begin your recovery journey.

To diagnose opioid addiction clients must be put through a thorough evaluation. This can include a urine analysis or may be found during a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). Opioid use disorder is defined as the presence of two or more of the following symptoms in the past 12-months. The problem is considered severe if a client exhibits six or more symptoms.

OUD Diagnostic Criteria

  1. Continued use despite worsening physical or psychological health
  2. Continued use leading to social consequences
  3. Decreased social or recreational activities
  4. Difficulty fulfilling personal duties at work
  5. Excessive time taking opioids, or recovering from taking them
  6. Taking more than intended
  7. Unable to decrease the amount used or stop taking them
  8. A buildup of tolerance
  9. Using despite being in a dangerous setting
  10. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms

Overcome opioid addiction at The Hope House

  • 128 people die every day in the U.S. from opioid overdose
  • Roughly 21% to 29% of clients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them
  • 8% to 12% develop an opioid use disorder
  • About 80% of people who use heroin first misuse opioids

Don’t be a statistic. Start your recovery journey today.