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Substance Abuse

When Opiate Abuse Becomes an Addiction

Opiates is wide-range term used to describe any drug that has been derived from opium. Opiates are one of the most commonly abused substances in the world. In America, opiate overdoses claim the lives of over 100 people each day, and the numbers keep climbing. Opiate pharmaceutical drugs are often prescribed by physicians to treat acute and chronic pain, but little was known about the addictive qualities of the drugs when they were first introduced.

Opiate drugs attach to receptors in the brain and flood the brain’s reward system with dopamine. Opiates produce that euphoric effect that many are looking for when abusing drugs and an individual can easily begin a cycle of chasing the desired high repeatedly. Opiates come in pill, powder, and liquid form, and can be ingested by swallowing, snorting, smoking, and injecting. Injecting presents a high risk for the contraction of other diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV. After weeks or months of frequent use of opiate drugs, physical dependence sets in, making it more difficult to quit. An individual may begin to do things that are out of character to ensure that they never run out of drugs like stealing.

As time goes on, the criminal behaviors can progress, leading to serious legal ramifications. If an individual is abusing opiate drugs, treatment should be sought out immediately to address the problem. The first part of treatment should always include a medically supervised detox, followed by an individualized treatment plan that addresses the unique needs of the individual. It is possible to get on the road to recovery after years of opiate abuse.

Sign, Symptoms & Common Behaviors of Opiate Abuse

No matter what type of opiate an individual is taking, the signs and symptoms will almost always be the same. When someone is high on opiates, they may be very happy or experience extreme euphoria. Following the euphoria they may feel tired or exhausted.

An individual might fall asleep in the middle of a conversation, or even standing up. Opiate use causes pin-point pupils, shallow breathing, and sometimes confusion. Many individuals who abuse opiates become extremely itchy and begin itching their nose, arms, and face.

If an individual is using intravenously, they may have tracks going down their arms, or in other places, and you may find hypodermic needles, spoons, and other IV gear in their possessions. If the individual is unable to find an opiate drug, they can begin to exhibit withdrawal symptoms depending on level of physical dependence. An individual who is addicted to opiates may also appear thin, gaunt, and unhealthy.

Commonly Abused Opiate Drugs


Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid that is derived from codeine, which is an alkaloid found in the poppy plant. Hydrocodone is used orally to treat medium and high levels of pain but is also found in some cough-syrup mixtures because it is known to be effective as a cough suppressant. Hydrocodone is one of the most frequently prescribed painkillers in the United States. Pills vary in size and color.


Hydromorphone, also known as its brand name Dilaudid, is semi-synthetic opiate drug that is used to treat moderate to severe levels of pain. Hydromorphone is more potent than morphine and has a high potential for abuse. Prolonged abuse can lead to a high tolerance and physical dependence which results in excruciating withdrawal symptoms when an individual is unable to obtain the drug.


Methadone is a long-acting opiate drug that is often prescribed in Medication Assisted Treatment for those who are already battling opiate addiction. Methadone can come in either a pill or liquid form. Methadone has a high potential for abuse and fatal overdose due to its strong potency. If prescribed and used as directed it can be helpful for treating addiction. If abused, it can cause serious dependence and tolerance.


Morphine is one of the most frequently abused opiate drugs. It can be directly derived from the poppy plant and occurs naturally. Morphine can be an extremely helpful drug in treating pain, but when abused, it can quickly cause serious physical and psychological dependence. Morphine is known to cause a dreamlike, euphoria state and can be taken by tablet, syrup, or injection. Morphine has been designated as a Schedule II drug and is frequently prescribed after surgeries.


Oxycodone is also known as its brand name Oxycontin. Oxycodone is an opiate drug that is used to treat moderate to severe pain and is one of the most frequently abused opiate drugs today. If an individual begins taking oxycodone to deal with acute or chronic pain, they have a very high chance of becoming physically and psychologically dependent on the drug. Unfortunately, many oxycodone users will later turn to heroin, which is a similarly potent yet cheaper alternative.


What are opiates?

Opiates are drugs derived from Opium which originates from poppy plants, however Opiates can also be constructed in a laboratory. They are a group of drugs primarily used to treat pain.

What are opiates common street names?

Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, King Ivory, Murder 8, TNT, Tango, Cash, Big O, Black Stuff, Block, Gum, Hop, Dover’s Powder, Dope, Smack, H, Train, Thunder, Black Tar, Junk, Antifreeze, Brown Sugar, Henry, Horse, Skag, Hero, Hell Dust, M, Miss Emma, Monkey, White Stuff, Dreamer, Schoolboy, Cough Syrup, T-three’s (Tylenol #3 with codeine), Vikes, Viko, Norco, Hydro, Ox, Oxicotten, Oxycet

What are the effects of opiates on the mind?

Opiates bind to receptors in the brain to mimic endorphins that the brain naturally produces. The drug, when abused, overloads these receptors to give a euphoric feeling. When use is ceased, however, the brain often has to relearn how to create its own endorphins since it has not had to produce its own in a long time. This can lead to depression.

What are the overdose signs of opiates?

Opiate Overdose is very common. Common signs of Opiate overdose are pin-point pupils, decreased level of consciousness, slowed heart rate, blue lips and fingernails, seizures and muscle spasms.

What are the withdrawal effects of opiate detox?

Cessation of Opiate abuse can result in agitation, anxiety, muscle aches, insomnia, sweating, vomiting, nausea, runny nose, increased tearing, diarrhea, and more.

Myths about addiction.

  • Addiction can be overcome simply by strength of will.
  • Addiction is not considered a disease, and, if they really want to, people can quit.
  • Before an addict can get better, they have to hit rock bottom.
  • An addict has to want to get help before treatment will work.
  • If the addict has already relapsed after treatment, then treatment won’t ever work.
  • Opiates are more dangerous when smoked or snorted.
  • Abstinence is the best treatment for Opiate dependency.

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Reliable Sources Matter to ABTRS

Reputable Resources to Fight the Opioid Epidemic

A Better Today Recovery Services firmly believes that substance abuse treatment needs to be both individualized and proven to be effective. The influence of addiction varies from person to person making the need for various methodology and effectiveness important for a long-lasting recovery. We have adopted various treatment methods that are proven to be effective by the scientific and psychological community. If you are going to trust us with you or your loved one’s treatment plan, we want to be entirely transparent about the sources we utilize. We take pride in offering up to date and relevant information that are factual and backed by years of research. Learn more about our treatment methods listed below. It might be a dry read but we believe knowledge empowers people to make good choices.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Decisions in Recovery: Medications for Opioid Use Disorder. [Electroni Decision Support Tool] (HHS Pub No. SMA-16-4993), 2016. Available from http://www.samhsa.gov/brss-tacs/shared-decision-making 

Walwyn, W. M., Miotto, K. A., & Evans, C. J. (2010). Opioid pharmaceuticals and addiction: the issues, and research directions seeking solutions. Drug and alcohol dependence, 108(3), 156-65.

NIDA. (). Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids on 2019, February 26

Addressing Chemically Dependent Colleagues Volume 2/Issue 2 July 2011. Retrieved from https://www.ncsbn.org/Addressing_Chemically_Dependent.pdf

Mealer, M., Burnham, E. L., Goode, C. J., Rothbaum, B., & Moss, M. (2009). The prevalence and impact of post-traumatic stress disorder and burnout syndrome in nurses. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2919801/

The Opioid Crisis and the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist: How Can We Help. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.aana.com/docs/default-source/aana-journal-web-documents-1/guest-editorial—the-opioid-crisis-and-the-certified-registered-nurse-anesthetist—how-can-we-help.pdf?sfvrsn=76ad4ab1_4

Toney-Butler TJ, Siela D. Recognizing Alcohol and Drug Impairment in the Workplace in Florida. (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507774/

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