6 Most Addictive Opioids

  • Written by:

    Bedrock Recovery Center

  • Dr. Johnelle Smith
    Medically reviewed by:

    Johnelle Smith, M.D

6 Most Addictive Opioids

Opioid agonists are a class of drugs that can be addictive. Several common opioids, such as Dilaudid (hydromorphone) and OxyContin (oxycodone), are prescribed to relieve severe or chronic pain.

Opioid addiction, also known as opioid use disorder, affects millions of Americans, sometimes with dire consequences. 

Without treatment, this can have harmful effects on health, and may become life-threatening in the event of a drug overdose.

For more information, here’s what to know about the most addictive opioid drugs, signs of addiction, and available treatment options for yourself or a loved one.

What Are The Most Addictive Opioids?

Opioids are some of the most commonly used addictive drugs, according to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The risk of becoming addicted to a specific opioid, however, can depend on a number of factors, including how it’s used, your duration of use, and other personal risk factors.

Here is a list of some of the most commonly abused opioid drugs:

1. Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a potent opioid that’s about 100 times more powerful than morphine, which is a natural opiate. Fentanyl, like the drug meperidine, is fully synthetic.

Fentanyl is also prescribed under the following names:

  • Abstral
  • Actiq
  • Fentora

The potency of fentanyl can make it very addictive for some people, due to its ability to produce powerful side effects in small doses, including euphoria.

Unfortunately, this can also make it very dangerous, if taken in doses higher than prescribed by a doctor, or when taken by people without a tolerance to opioids.

2. Heroin

Heroin is an opioid that’s partially synthetic and derived from morphine. 

Unlike prescription opioids, heroin is not prescribed in the United States. It’s illegal to possess, use, manufacture, and sell for all intents and purposes.

Like prescription opioids, heroin can produce a powerful high, or wave of euphoria, as well as relieve pain and slow central nervous system (CNS) activity.

3. Oxycodone

Oxycodone is a prescription drug that’s sold under the brand name OxyContin. It’s also an ingredient in the drug Percocet, which contains paracetamol.

Oxycodone is one of the most commonly prescribed opioid drugs. It can become addictive when taken in ways other than directed by a healthcare provider.

4. Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone, also known as Vicodin, is a prescription pain medication that can also cause tolerance, physical dependence, and become addictive with chronic misuse.

Brand names for hydrocodone include:

  • Hysingla
  • Zohydro ER
  • Lorcet (with acetaminophen)
  • Lortab (with acetaminophen)
  • Hycet (with acetaminophen)

5. Codeine

Codeine is a natural opioid, similar to morphine, that can be prescribed for chronic or severe pain. 

It is also an ingredient in some over-the-counter cold and cough syrups. Common slang terms for drugs containing codeine include sizzurp, purple drank, and lean. 

6. Hydromorphone 

Hydromorphone, also known as Dilaudid, is prescribed in the form of an extended-release tablet, intended to provide pain relief over a period of time.

When taken in ways other than directed, hydromorphone can become addictive and have other short-term side effects, such as drowsiness, slowed breathing, and nausea.

What Makes Opioids Addictive?

Opioids change the way that the nervous system and brain respond to pain. 

That’s why they are prescribed for pain relief following major surgery, dental procedures, or for pain caused by certain medical conditions.

But they can also change the levels of certain brain chemicals in the brain over time. For instance, dopamine. 

Misusing opioids can alter your experience of pain, pleasure, and cause neurochemical imbalances associated with drug addiction.

Opioids can also be used to self-medicate. For instance, to cope with depression, anxiety, or trauma—and can consequently become a drug that people rely upon.

Common Signs Of An Opioid Addiction

Prescription opioids can be safe when taken as directed. Even so, if you or a family member are using opioids, it can be beneficial to know common signs of prescription drug addiction.

Addiction doesn’t develop after a singular event of drug use. This generally develops over the course of weeks or months, with a pattern of opioid misuse.

Signs of an opioid addiction might include:

  • taking higher doses than prescribed
  • running out of prescriptions early
  • taking opioids more often than directed
  • snorting, injecting, smoking, or plugging opioids
  • combining opioids with other drugs for stronger effects (e.g. benzodiazepines, alcohol, or stimulants)
  • going to multiple doctors for prescriptions (i.e. “doctor-shopping”)
  • unusual changes in appearance or behavior
  • worsened mental health (e.g. depression, high anxiety)
  • acting secretive or paranoid
  • experiencing opioid cravings
  • withdrawing socially from others, including friends and family

Dangers Of Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction isn’t harmless. One of the reasons it’s so widely discussed is because it can have very serious consequences, including death.

Without help, opioid addiction carries a risk for fatal opioid overdose, troubles with the law, organ damage, and other quality-of-life concerns.

The good news is that there are effective treatment options available.

Treatment For Opioid Abuse And Addiction

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we offer treatment programs that can help people who are addicted to opioids overcome addiction and begin the road to recovery.

Based in Massachusetts, we offer detox and residential treatment programs that integrate treatment services shown to be effective for treating opioid addiction.

Our addiction treatment programs offer:

In addition, Bedrock is proud to offer continuity of care at our treatment facility. 

That means, after completing a rehab program at Bedrock, we will help coordinate aftercare. This can help ensure you or your loved one get the support you need to maintain their recovery after rehab.

Get Help For An Opioid Addiction Today

At Bedrock, our qualified team of treatment professionals understand how hard it is to ask for help and overcome an addiction to drugs like opioids.

But we also know from the experiences of our clients that recovery is possible. 

Call our helpline today to learn more about opioid addiction treatment at our substance abuse treatment center in Massachusetts.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Opioid Basics https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/basics/index.html 

Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publishing — Caution: These are the most addictive pain meds https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/caution-these-are-the-most-addictive-pain-meds 

U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Most Commonly Used Addictive Drugs https://archives.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/most-commonly-used-addictive-drugs 

U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Fentanyl https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a605043.html 

U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Hydrocodone https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a614045.html