How Opioids Work

Opioid drugs can be found as both prescription medications such as vicodin or illicit street drugs such as heroin. Opioids look like chemicals in the brain and body, attaching to nerve cells called opioid receptors. There are three types of opioid receptors: mu, delta, and kappa, each playing a different role.

Opioids Act on 3 Main Areas of the Nervous System and Brain

Opioids act on 3 main areas of the nervous system and brain. When opioids act on the limbic system (controls emotions) it can create feelings of pleasure, relaxation and contentment. When acting on the brainstem (controls the body automatically, ie. breathing) opioids can slow breathing and reduce feelings of pain. When opioids act on the spinal cord (receives sensations from the body and sends to them to the brain), they can decrease feelings of pain.

The Use of Opioids Determine the Effects

Regardless to if you are using an prescription opioid medication or an illicit street drug such as heroin, its effects will be determined by how much you take and how often you take it. When opioids are injected they take effect much faster than any other means of ingestion and with more intense effects. When taken by mouth it can take much longer to see effects, however this is a much safer way to use an opioid drug.

Opioid Abuse

Regardless to if you are using a prescribed opioid drug, abusing an opioid medication not prescribed to you or using an illicit drug such as heroin there are many dangers associated with it.

Regular use of any opioid drug can result in a tolerance, requiring larger doses of the drug to achieve the desired effects. Prolonged use at any dose can result in the body developing a dependency to opioids, discontinuing its use often results in uncomfortable even painful withdrawal symptoms.

Stopping Opioid Use when Dependent

Depending on the severity of the opioid dependency you may be weaned off the drugs over several weeks to months. This process will gradually lower doses until you eventually do not need the medication and are no longer experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

If you have a severe dependence to opioids you may require professional treatment within an Addiction Rehabilitation Facility to help you.  There you will undergo medical and therapeutic treatment to help you stop use of opioid drugs, lessen symptoms of withdrawal and help you develop the skills needed to maintain your sobriety, preventing you from returning to opioid use.