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Opioids and Dependence

What is an opioid?

Opioids are drugs that are either derived from opiates (drugs created directly from opium, such as morphine or codeine) or chemically related to opiates or opium. Examples of opioids include prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and heroin.

What is opioid dependence?

A person is generally considered opioid-dependent when two things occur:


  • Repeated opioid use is needed in order to feel good or avoid feeling bad, and
  • The opioid use continues in spite of its negative effects. For example, people who are opioid-dependent will feel a need to keep using opioids even if it hurts their health, job, finances or family.

Understanding Opioid Dependence

More and more, opioid dependence is being accepted as a chronic disease, much like high blood pressure or diabetes.


Yet unlike these other diseases, opioid dependence carries a very powerful stigma. (To illustrate: Imagine that you are interviewing for a new job. Would you think twice before asking whether the company's health plan covers costs related to your insulin dependence? Would you also not hesitate to ask about coverage of costs related to your opioid dependence?)


This stigma is rooted in the centuries-old belief that opioid dependence is a moral failure. It was only within the last 20 years that researchers began to realize opioid dependence was a medical condition caused by changes in the brain—changes that didn't go away, sometimes for months, after patients stopped using opioids.


Today, opioid dependence in the United States is growing at unprecedented rates. Sadly, fear of the stigma associated with treatment keeps many people from seeking help.


Removing the stigma of opioid dependence is critical to helping patients receive proper care. A key part of achieving this goal is wider recognition that opioid dependence is a medical—not a moral—issue.


The information here is offered to help promote better understanding of opioid dependence as a medical condition.



OnCall Medical Clinic

Of Ocean Springs

3091 Bienville Blvd.

Ocean Springs, MS 39564


Phone: 228-818-5155

Fax: 228-818-5159



Business Hours:

Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Sunday, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.


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