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Synthetic Opioids: Addiction, Withdrawal, Overdose & Treatment
Are you afraid of getting addicted to opioids? Millions of people are scared of becoming addicted to prescription painkillers or heroin. But what most people don’t know is that synthetic opioids can be even more addictive and dangerous than traditional narcotics.
This post will tell you everything you need to know about synthetic opioids, including their risks and treatment options.
What Are Synthetic Opioids?
Synthetic opioids are the man-made counterparts of the naturally produced opioids in the market. These substances offer the same pain-relieving effect but usually with greater potency and mimic the operations of codeine and morphine.
The main difference between these substances and natural opioids lies in the active ingredients. Most of these substances are illegally produced in hidden areas for their illegal distribution in the market.
In terms of strength, typically these drugs have higher potency compared to their natural counterparts.
Approximately, these substances have 25 to 50 times higher potency than heroin while 50 to 100 times more effective than morphine. The downside of this higher potency rating is its higher addictive potential when abused.
What Do Synthetic Opioids Look Like?
In general, these medications exist in various forms such as in the forms of tablets, capsules, liquid, and injectables. Among the various forms of these drugs, the injectables or the ones injected intravenously have the quickest time for the effect to kick in.
Moreover, each drug under this type also has different strengths available in the market. They can be in 5 mg, 10 mg, 50 mg, up to 200 milligrams in strength.
In terms of generic types, there are a lot of them in stores and pharmacies. Some of the common generic types of these drugs are Dextropropoxyphene, Methadone, Pethidine, Fentanyl, U-47700, Carfentanil, Acetyl fentanyl, Butyrylfentanyl, and 3-Methylfentanyl.
What Are Synthetic Opioids Used For?
Synthetic opioids are mainly used as treatments for moderate to severe pain. They can also be a part of preoperative medications and post-operative care. The drugs under this category are typically given to patients who have developed tolerance to other opioids. However, their use is not recommended for people with a history of substance abuse or mental health disorders.
Similar to natural opioids, these man-made substances also induce sleepiness and relaxation in the user. These medications also induce similar euphoric sensations as the other famous opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.
Consequently, these man-made drugs are often sold as counterfeit natural opioids. They are cheaper and much stronger compared to their natural counterparts.
How Do Synthetic Opioids Work?
These man-made opioids work the same way as natural ones. Once ingested and mixes with the blood, it targets the brain, particularly the opioid receptors.
They attach themselves to the receptor site and prevent the brain from feeling any painful sensations. These substances also act on the spinal cord to further enhance its pain-relieving function.
How Long Before You Can Feel the Effects of Synthetic Opioids?
Depending on the method of administration and the type of synthetic opioid, the time for the effects to manifest may vary. Typically, if these drugs are taken orally, it will take around 30 to 45 minutes before you can feel any effects.
If they are injected intravenously, then the effect is almost instantaneous or within 10 minutes after administration.
How Long Do Synthetic Opioids Stay In Your System?
Synthetic opioids can generally stay in your system for a couple of days. However, the length of time may still vary depending on some factors such as:
- The half-life of the synthetic opioid taken
- The frequency and dosage of intake
- The metabolic rate of the person
- The method of administration
- The overall health condition of the person
Depending on the drug testing method to be used, these substances can still be detected in your system for a few days or even several weeks after last use.
What are the Short and Long-term Effects of Synthetic Opioids?
When abused, the side effects of these substances are similar to that of natural opioids. Some of the common health consequences of these substances are vomiting, paralysis, skin rashes, slower breathing and pulse rate, loss of enthusiasm, stomach pain, and disorientation.
Meanwhile, the extremely negative effects of abusing these drugs include suicidal behavior, difficulty sleeping, respiratory failure, very low blood pressure, coma, and death.
Aside from the innate health consequences, these substances also pose a great risk when mixed with other illicit substances such as alcohol and other sedatives. When mixed with the two other substances, the depressing effect of these medications is tremendously amplified in a way that it causes paralysis and death.
Are Synthetic Opioids Addictive?
Yes, synthetic opioids can be highly addictive. When synthetic opioids are used in a non-medical manner, they can lead to serious consequences.
These substances are considered dangerous. Some of the important reasons why they are considered dangerous include high addictive potential, health consequences when mixed with other substances, and the side effects associated with using these substances.
What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms?
If you stop using these substances abruptly, you may experience severe withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may vary depending on the intensity of your abuse. These symptoms may start within 6 to 12 hours after your last dose. The peak of these withdrawal symptoms will be felt on the second or third day.
Withdrawal symptoms associated with synthetic opioids include:
- Muscle aches and pains
- Abdominal cramping and pain
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Dilated pupils
What Causes Synthetic Opioids Overdose? Signs of an Overdose
There have been several overdose-related death cases linked to the abuse of these substances. Currently, there are several man-made opioids produced and distributed in the market. Among these drugs, the greatest contributor to all death counts from overdosing on these drugs is fentanyl.
Taking too much of the drug or mixing it with other substances can cause an overdose. However, many users experience overdose without being aware that the drug they are taking contains synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
Usually, these substances are mixed with other illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine to increase their potency.
Some of the most common signs of synthetic opioids overdose are:
- Loss of consciousness
- Shallow and slow breathing
- Muscle weakness
- Severe drowsiness and sedation
What Should You Do If Someone Is Overdosing?
If you have naloxone with you, use it right away. This medication can save the life of someone who is overdosing on opioids. It can reverse the effects of an overdose by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain.
If you don’t have any of these medications, call emergency services immediately and let the operator know that the person is suffering from an opioid overdose.
How Do You Treat Synthetic Opioid Addiction? Detox & Treatment
If you’re addicted to synthetic opioids, professional addiction treatment is the best way to detox and recover. Though withdrawal and detox can be difficult and uncomfortable, some medications and therapies can help ease the process and make it more tolerable.
Once you’re through drug detox, you’ll enter treatment where you’ll work with counselors and therapists to identify the root causes of your addiction and develop skills to cope with triggers and cravings. You’ll also learn how to live a sober, productive life.
Final Thoughts: Addressing Synthetic Opioid Abuse and Addiction
Synthetic opioids are powerful substances with a high potential for abuse and addiction. Though they have legitimate medical uses, they’re also often misused for their potent effects.
If you or someone you love is struggling with synthetic opioid abuse or addiction, get help as soon as possible.