What are Opiates?
Opiates are alkaloids originally derived from the poppy plant. People use this type of drug for both recreational and medicinal purposes. There are opiates that come from the natural opium plant, while some manufacture opiates to have the same chemical structure as the natural ones. Opiates include a wide range from prescription painkillers such as fentanyl and morphine, to illegal drugs like heroin. However, all opiates have the ability to depress and slow down the central nervous system, regardless of their manufacturing process.
How do Opiates Work?
Opiates alter the perception of pain rather than eliminating the pain. They attach onto the molecules that protrude from specific nerve cells in the brain, called opioid receptors. Once connected, these cells send messages to the brain with much lower pain levels and severity than the body is actually experiencing. Consequently, the drug user feels less pain, physically and emotionally. Throughout history, opiate drugs were used as an anesthetic remedy for nervous disorders, migraines, and other painful conditions.
There are Three Categories of Opiate and Opioid drugs:
Natural opioids come from natural sources such as the opium plant. While some labs completely manufacture opioid drugs, natural ones come directly from the poppy seed. Although some think natural opiates are less risky than synthetic ones, they are still very addictive and can cause respiratory depression that leads to an overdose.
Synthetic opiates act on the same areas of the brain as natural ones and produce many of the same effects. They are entirely human-made with chemicals not found in the poppy plant, morphine or opium. The chemicals used in these synthetic drugs vary.
Semi-synthetic opiates are a blend of natural and man-made sources developed in the early 20th century. Ironically, they intended for these drugs to be safer and more efficient than the use of pure opiates for medical purposes.
Some of the most common opiates include:
- Opium -Opium has the appearance of black or brown tar and is commonly smoked.
- Heroin– Can be considered one of the most dangerous drugs in the world. It claims thousands of lives each year. Individuals snort, smoke, or inject heroin. Street names are black tar, H, Horse, Junk, Skag and Smack.
- Oxycodone – A prescription pain medication used to treat moderate to severe pain. Some of the available brand names are Oxycontin, Roxicodone, Xtampza ER, and Oxaydo.
Hydrocodone – A highly addictive narcotic analgesic sold as Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab and other brand names.
- Codeine – The most widely and commonly used opiate in the world, according to the World Health Organization. The most common medical use is to suppress coughing symptoms. It has a reputation for being the safest of all the opioid analgesics.
- Morphine – A powerful painkiller, named after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams. Physicians prescribe this drug for severe pain.
- Methadone – Methadone was developed in Germany in the late 30s. Sold under the brand name Dolophine, among others. A very addictive opioid used to treat pain and also used as a maintenance therapy.
Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe. Symptoms can vary based on the length of time taking a particular drug, dosage, which specific drug, method of use, medical conditions, the presence of emotional issues, and biological and environmental factors. Opiate withdrawal usually starts within 6 to 12 hours for short-acting opiates, and within 30 hours for longer-acting ones.
Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Muscle aches
- Trouble falling and staying asleep
- Runny nose
- Rapid heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
Opiate Treatment Options
There are several opiate detox options available. Some may provide a much more comfortable and effective protocol than others. For instance, inpatient medical detox offers a more private and humane approach while under medical supervision. A hospital-based medical detox provides the safest and smoothest way to overcome an opioid withdrawal. Vital signs can be closely monitored while specific medications are provided to regulate brain and body functions.
The Center for Disease and Drug Prevention (CDC), has reported that opioids (including painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl) killed more than 33,000 people in 2015. They also stated that 91 Americans are dying daily from an opioid overdose. In addition, deaths from drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone and Methadone have more than quadrupled since 1999. If you or someone you love is suffering from opiate addiction, seek help now. Don’t wait another day; don’t risk being a statistic.
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Source – National Institute on Drug Abuse