The Wide Range of Drugs Involved in the Opioid Crisis 

To say that opioid use in the United States is a “crisis” is an understatement. There are nearly 100 opioid-related drug deaths in the U.S. each and every day; opioids near kill more people each year than car accidents, guns, or breast cancer.

 Close up of a doctor giving drugs to his patient during an appointment in his office


What are Opioids?

Opioids are Schedule II drugs that block pain receptors by binding to receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Once hailed as a breakthrough for chronic pain, opioids are now some of the most prevalently abused drugs in the world, sought out for their ability to release the dopamine hormone, which produces a long-lasting “high.” Opioids are both naturally derived (from opium plants) and synthetically produced.


Which Opioids are Involved in the Epidemic?

In short, all of them. Abuse trends tend to follow patterns in prescriptions; oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, and fentanyl have all at one time been at the center of the crisis.

Oxycodone: Semi-synthetic opioid, commonly sold as “OxyContin” or “Percocet.” The most widely used recreational drug in the U.S.; in 2010 the prescription was reformulated to make it more difficult to dissolve or crush.

Codeine: A natural opiate that is less potent than other narcotics, but still widely abused. Often considered a gateway drug to other opiates, codeine is found in mild over-the-counter pain relievers.

Hydrocodone: Semi-synthetic opioid, often branded as “Vicodin,” that is derived from codeine. Commonly found in cough suppressants, hydrocodone is a drug almost exclusively used by Americans.

Morphine: An opiate naturally derived from poppies used frequently for short-term pain management in hospital settings. Abuse of morphine is on the rise in the U.S.

Methadone: A synthetic opioid that blocks pain receptors without providing the “high” of illicit opiates; often used to stem withdrawal symptoms in people attempting to reduce their opioid dependence.

Heroin: A natural opioid derived from morphine; can be sniffed, smoked, snorted, or injected. Heroin use has more than doubled over the past decade for certain demographics, and deaths have more than quadrupled.

Fentanyl: A synthetic opioid originally developed as an anesthetic. Fentanyl is incredibly potent at more than 100 times more powerful than morphine and is responsible for a fast-growing share of opioid deaths each year.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are dozens of opiates, all of which hold the potential for abuse if not controlled properly.


Drug Testing and the Opioid Crisis

Regular drug screening is becoming an increasingly important tool for combatting opioid misuse, particularly within the field of pain management. Millions of people in the United States each year become addicted to opiates after being legally prescribed some form of the drugs. As opioids are becoming more available and more widely prescribed, drug testing methodologies race to keep up.

IMCS is an innovator in drug testing technology. Our revolutionary IMCSzyme is a genetically-modified pure beta-glucuronidase, designed to hydrolyze multiple drug classes, including several common opiates, with both speed and efficiency. IMCSzyme is utilized by some of the busiest labs in the country to improve the process of drug testing for opiates.


For more information on how IMCSzyme is advancing the science of drug testing, reach out to our friendly team today.