Key Difference Between Opioids and Dangers of Opioid Addiction

We all know drugs are dangerous, but how exactly does one drug different from another? What classifies a certain chemical as a certain drug? In this article, we dissect different types of opioids and how opioid addiction is dangerous.

Natural Opiates

Occurring in plants, natural opiates are base chemical compounds that contain nitrogen. They are alkaloids. An example of a naturally occurring opiate is the one found within the resin of opium poppy. Natural opiates are codeine, morphine, and thebaine, amongst others.

Semi-Synthetic Opioids

An opioid that is semisynthetic is obtained from natural opiates but is created within a lab. For example, heroin is made using morphine, which is an opiate. Therefore, heroin is a semisynthetic opioid. Other examples include hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxycodone (which is sold as OxyContin).

Fully Synthetic Opioids

The third category of opioids doesn’t have a hint of nature, as it is completely created in a lab. Fully synthetic opioids are entirely man-made, and significantly more potent than natural opiates and semisynthetic opioids. Examples of fully synthetic opioids are fentanyl, tramadol, methadone, levorphanol, pethidine, and dextropropoxyphene.

Prescription Opioids

Certain opioids are prescribed by doctors so that patients can be relieved of the pain they’re feeling. For example, post-surgery, codeine, morphine, and OxyContin are used to reduce discomfort. However, when these same prescription opioids are misused, their adverse health effects and addictive properties render them very dangerous.

The Opioid Crisis in the US

During the 1990s, it was said by pharma companies that opioids wouldn’t make people addicted to them. This led to medical practitioners being more lenient with opioids, which in turn led to great misuse of nonprescription opioids and prescription opioids alike. By 2017, the US Department of Health and Human Services had to declare an official Opioid Crisis, a public health emergency. In 2018, 745,000 people made use of heroin. Today, widespread misuse of opioids is common. This leads to many people losing their lives.

The Dangers of Opioid Addiction

Misusing opioids and opiates leads to opiate addiction. In 2018, 2 million people used methamphetamine! There are many dangers to this, and they are potentially life-threatening.

Loss of Relationships

Addiction is something that often consumes a person entirely. This leads to less time left to communicate with the people in someone’s life, typically leading to weaker relationships and deteriorating friendships. If you or someone you know shows signs of opioid addiction, it’s very important to not leave their side. They need all the support they can get because one of the biggest dangers of opioid addiction is the loss of relationships.

Loss of Employment

When most employers find out that their employees are using drugs, the employees are let go. Thus, most people with an opioid addiction lose their jobs, further leading them into social isolation and fewer responsibilities and commitments. This loss of employment typically makes people lose their sense of purpose, which makes their opioid addiction much worse.

Medical Illnesses

Both physical and mental illnesses can be brought on due to opioid addiction. It may cause muscle damage, brain problems, pulmonary edema, decreased breathing, coma, and stupor. When injected opioids are administered in an unhygienic manner, they can lead to transmitted diseases too.

Opioid Dependence

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2019, 10.1 million people misused prescription opioids, and 1.6 million people had some form of an opioid use disorder. Prolonged use of opioids can lead the human body to form a dependency on the drug, wherein the intake of opioids is required for the brain to work. Without it, withdrawal symptoms occur. This is extremely dangerous.

Death via Overdose

In 2019, 70,630 people passed away due to drug overdose. Furthermore, 48,006 deaths were linked to synthetic opioid overdose (besides methadone) in the 12-month period that ended in June 2020. 14,480 deaths were linked to overdosing on heroin alone in a study by the NCHS.


Multiple types of opioids exist, and they are all harmful if they aren’t administered according to the prescription of a doctor. Even so, it’s a slippery slope, and one should always be cautious when they are prescribed opioids.

#1 Natural opiates are found inside plants.

#2 Semi-synthetic opioids are derived from plants and formed inside a laboratory.

#3 Synthetic opioids are entirely man-made inside a lab.

#4 There is an ongoing opioid crisis in the United States right now, which the US is trying to combat.

#5 Opioid addiction has many dangers including loss of social reputation and severe medical illnesses, and at worst, it can lead to death.

It is not for us to judge, but for us to understand. If you know someone who is struggling with opioid addiction or opioid misuse, identify it as soon as possible and give them the support they deserve.

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