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Opioids are a class of drugs that include both natural and synthetic substances. The natural opioids (referred to as opiates) include opium and morphine. Heroin, the most abused opioid, is synthesized from opium. Other synthetics (only made in laboratories) and commonly prescribed for pain, such as cough suppressants, or as anti-diarrhea agents, include codeine, oxycodone (OxyContin), meperidine (Demerol), fentanyl (Sublimaze), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), methadone, and propoxyphene (Darvon). Heroin is usually injected, either intravenously (into a vein) or subcutaneously (under the skin), but can be smoked or used intranasally (i.e., "snorted"). Other opioids are either injected or taken orally.
The manual that is used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental disorders is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The latest edition of this manual was published in 2000, and is also known as the DSM-IV-TR. DSM-IV-TRlists opioid dependence and opioid abuse as substance use disorders. In addition, the opioid-induced disorders of opioid intoxication and opioid withdrawal are listed in the substancerelated disorders section as well.
Recovering from opioid dependence is a long, difficult process. Typically, multiple treatment attempts are required. Relapsing, or returning to opioids, is not uncommon even after many years of abstinence. Brief periods of abstinence are common.
Inpatient detoxification from opioids alone, without additional treatment, does not appear to have any effect on opioid use. However, other treatments have been shown to reduce opioid use, decrease illegal activity, decrease rates of HIV-infection, reduce rates of death, and increase rates of employment. Benefits are greatest for those who remain in treatment longer and participate in many different types of treatment (individual and group counseling in addition to methadone maintenance, for example).
Very little is known about the course of opioid abuse.
Author Info: Jennifer Hahn Ph.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, 2003
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