The Top Abused Opiate and Narcotic Drugs

When most people think about opiate abuse, they automatically think of the illicit street drug heroin. Yet, many people right across the country have become addicted to opiate prescription painkiller medications.

If they’re used precisely as prescribed by a doctor, opiate medications can help treat acute pain caused by trauma or surgery. Most people successfully stop using them once the need for pain relief is over.

Yet even when used under medical advice, some people may still develop an addiction to opiate painkiller medications.

Opiates are substances that are derived naturally from the opium poppy. By comparison, opioid drugs are synthetically or semi-synthetically created drugs that can be many times stronger than natural opiate drugs.

Most people automatically assume that illicit street drugs like heroin are the most commonly abused opiate drugs. Yet, multiple other narcotic drugs are equally as heavily abused.

In fact, prescription painkiller medications are the second most abused drugs in the U.S, behind only marijuana. The top drugs for opiate abuse in the U.S. include:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab today at 877.969.1993 to learn how we can help.

About Opiate Drugs

Opiate drugs are those derived from the opiate poppy. By comparison, opioid drugs are prescription medications synthesized from other opiates.

Opiates drugs are commonly prescribed as pain relief or pain management medications. However, due to their highly addictive properties and a high potential for opiate abuse, they are controlled substances.

Despite careful control measured in place in the U.S., there is still a significant risk for abuse, addiction, and accidental overdose. The risks increase if opiate drugs are taken in any other way than prescribed by a doctor, including taking higher doses than prescribed and taking medications prescribed to another person.

The Most Commonly Abused Opiates

While there are many different types of opiate drugs available, some are more commonly abused than others.


Heroin is a semi-synthetic opiate initially created as a treatment for morphine addiction, but it was quickly recognized that the drug had a high potential for abuse and addiction. The illegal street drug carries an increased risk of overdose, particularly if it is ‘cut’ with other unknown substances.


Morphine is considered a natural opiate that is derived from the opium poppy. Morphine is commonly used in hospital settings before sedation or to treat acute or chronic pain.


Oxycodone is an ingredient in the prescription painkillers OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, and Roxicodone, commonly prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Medications that contain oxycodone are widely abused and carry a high risk of dependency and addiction. Oxycodone is one of the most common drugs involved in prescription opiate overdose fatalities.


Hydrocodone is the most commonly prescribed opioid drug in the U.S, and Americans consume approximately 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone supplies. Hydrocodone is frequently sold in combination with other medications and may be known as Vicodin or Lortab. Hydrocodone is one of the more common drugs involved in prescription opiate overdose fatalities.


Hydromorphone is a semi-synthetic opioid pain medication derived from morphine. The medication is very potent and is commonly used for pain relief in hospitals. However, hydromorphone can also be highly addictive and carries a high risk of accidental overdose if it’s abused.


Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid medication commonly used to treat chronic or severe pain, particularly for those who have already developed a tolerance to other prescription opiate painkiller medications. As fentanyl is significantly more potent than morphine, there is a risk of accidental overdose even with small doses.


Just as with morphine, codeine is derived from the opium poppy. Pharmaceutical companies often use codeine to create other painkiller medication formulations and combination products, such as Tylenol 3. While codeine is not as potent as different types of opiate narcotics, there is still a risk for abuse and addiction when used in any way other than prescribed by a doctor.


Methadone is a synthetic opioid medication that was once used in hospital settings to treat pain. In more recent times, methadone is more commonly used as a replacement medication to treat people with opioid addiction and dependence. Methadone is one of the most common drugs found in the system of people who have died due to drug overdose.


Tramadol is a prescription opioid medication used to treat mild to moderate pain. Tramadol is considered to have only a low potential for abuse and dependence and is less addictive than other types of opioid drugs. However, it is still possible to develop a physical dependence on the drug if used in any way other than prescribed by a doctor.

Opiate Addiction Treatment at WhiteSands

The specialist team at WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab are here to provide all the support and treatment you need to make a successful recovery from opiate drug addiction. We can administer prescription medications that make it easier to manage cravings and get through the detox process while focusing on your healthy recovery.

 If you’re ready to break free from the grip of opioid addiction, take the time to contact us or visit any of our facilities. We’re here to work with you every step of the way to your successful recovery.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

Jackie has been involved in the substance abuse and addiction treatment sector for over five years and this is something that she is truly eager about. She has a passion for writing and continuously works to create informative pieces that not only educate and inform the public about the disease of addiction but also provide solutions for those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.