Which Opiates are the Most Commonly Abused?

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Opioid abuse is one of the most common substance abuse issues in the United States today. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012 and an estimated 467,000 addicted to heroin.” But which opiates are the most commonly abused in the US?

The Widespread Abuse of Opiates

The National Library of Medicine states, “In the United States, the most commonly abused opioids are heroin and methadone.” This is true for several reasons:

  • Both drugs are highly available all over the country and easy to find and purchase illegally.
  • Both drugs are less expensive to purchase illegally than most other opiates, including other prescription drugs and opium itself.
  • Individuals who are addicted to heroin often use methadone in its place and vice-versa.
  • Heroin especially has a very fast onset and can reach the brain much more quickly than most other opioids.
  • Methadone is highly regulated but, when it does get into the hands of those who would misuse it, there are no safeguards in place to protect it from being exploited (such as the addition of naloxone to buprenorphine in Suboxone).

    Most Commonly Abused

    Many of the commonly abused opiates are prescriptions.

Methadone and heroin are both highly addictive and dangerous, and both drugs cause drug-seeking behavior and compulsive use. However, there are other opioid-based drugs the NIDA states are commonly abused by the patients who are prescribed them and others who purchase them illegally.

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone or dihydrocodeinone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone

Will a Person Use One of the Other Commonly Abused Drugs When Methadone and Heroin Aren’t Available?

This is part of the reason these drugs are very widely misused in the United States as well. A person will often take anything they can to feel the effects of opioids if they are addicted to them. In addition, many people start off abusing the drugs they are given to treat their pain, such as oxycodone, fentanyl, or hydrocodone, and then switch to heroin or methadone for the reasons listed above. Sometimes, a person who has been using heroin will try to go on treatment with methadone, but they may wind up abusing that medication as well.

Can These Substance Abuse Syndromes Be Treated?

A person can be treated for opioid abuse with several different methods that have been tested over time for their effectiveness. Many of the patients receiving addiction recovery treatment are former users of methadone and/or heroin.

These syndromes can be treated with medication––methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone––and therapy sessions––cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, group therapy, etc. Some individuals may also find help in attending 12-step groups or other types of mutual-help programs. According to Harvard Medical School, “Treating addicts is not easy,” but it can be done.

How to Know You’re Taking Opiates Safely

Seek Opiate Abuse Treatment Now

Whether you are already addicted to opioids or not, you should seek treatment for your substance abuse and begin to recover. We can help you find a treatment center in your area that fits your needs and make a change. Call 800-584-3274 today.


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