Opioid dependency has been an ongoing problem in the United States for many years. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between April 2020 and April 2021, there were 100,306 overdose deaths in the United States. That number is an increase from the year prior, breaking down to approximately 275 overdose deaths daily, due to dangerous opioids.
Knowing what opioids are, how opioid strengths are determined, and why they are dangerous, can help one to identify abuse, and in turn, have the capability to help combat the opioid crisis.
What are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of drugs used to treat pain. The drugs vary from prescribed medications, to the more dangerous opioids, the illicit “street drugs”, such as heroin. According to Johns Hopkins, opioids are derived from opium poppy plants, but they can also be lab made. They produce different effects in the brain, including pain relief. These drugs are usually used to treat moderate to severe pain, as they block pain receptors in the brain.
Opioids also produce a feeling of euphoria for some. The euphoric feeling can be addictive, and lead to abusing the drug. These drugs can lead to physical dependency, and if stopped abruptly, can lead to physical withdrawal symptoms.
How Is Opioid Strength Determined?
Opioid strength is typically measured in comparison to morphine. Moderate to severe pain is treatable with morphine, a medium-strength opioid. This means that generally most of these dangerous opioids, heroin and fentanyl for example, are said to be anywhere between 3 and 50 times more powerful than morphine. Although, due to these drugs being street drugs, there really is no way of telling. These opioids are generally cut with different substances, and there is no guarantee of the drug’s strength and purity. While in comparison to these dangerous opioids, legally obtained prescription drugs have a guaranteed strength.
Why Are Opioids Dangerous?
Opioids are dangerous for a variety of reasons, one being they can be physically addictive. Due to the physical addiction, some people move to more dangerous opioids, such as heroin or fentanyl, if unable to take the drug they usually do. This is mainly due to feeling the physical symptoms of withdrawal. Others enjoy the euphoria that opioids produce and abuse them to achieve that feeling. Opioid effects are different based on tolerance and the way they are used. For example, injecting an opioid will produce a different feeling than taking an one orally, or nasally.
The side effects of opioid use vary. According to Mayo Clinic, at low doses, opioids can cause drowsiness. However, when taken at higher doses, the effects can be fatal. These effects can include lowered heart rate, and slowed breathing. These can, potentially, lead to death. The more dangerous opioids, specifically illicit street drugs, have varying potency and are cut with unknown substances. This causes their side effects to be unpredictable. Synthetic opiates, such as heroin and fentanyl, were the second-leading cause of overdose deaths in 2021, according to CNN.
The Most Dangerous Opioids
There are many different drugs classified as opioids. One of the most dangerous opioids is fentanyl. According to the CDC, carfentanil, “the most potent fentanyl analog in the U.S.”, is the most potent opioid, as it is about 10,000 times stronger than morphine. Heroin often contains fentanyl, this mixture is seen in a lot of overdoses and overdose deaths throughout the country. Fentanyl is considered to be one of the most toxic opioids, as it is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to Medscape.
Heroin is also considered to be one of the most dangerous opioids. Heroin is considered to be one of the strongest opiate derivatives of morphine. It has no medical purpose, while fentanyl’s purpose is to treat severe pain, such as after surgery, and it is created with an unknown mixture of substances. It is fast acting, and the feeling of euphoria can be felt by its user. For this reason, it is considered to be dangerous and addictive. Use of heroin, and the unknown additives, can lead to overdose, fatal and nonfatal.
Another of these dangerous opioids is hydromorphone, or Dilaudid. It is used to treat severe pain, and this is another widely abused and misused prescription drug. This drug can be broken down into powder and injected. The effects are similar to that of sedation. Hydromorphone is also a drug bought and sold on the street, leading to its contributing to overdose in the U.S.
Getting Help for Opioid Abuse In Cherry Hill, NJ
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 4% of Americans suffer from addiction, and 10% of Americans have, at some point in their lives, struggled with addiction. 75% of those people never received treatment.
Knowing that there is help out for you is a vital part of change. Regardless of how the addiction began, or why it continues, there is help available. Here at The Healing Center in Cherry Hill, NJ it is our mission to help those struggling with opioids break free from the chains of their addiction, treat the underlying causes, and learn to live life free of the addiction that brought them through our doors. It all starts when you reach out. Contact the admissions team, and begin your journey today!