Opiate addiction can be complicated to understand for both patients and their families. Use this resource page to find general information. Additionally, learn what opiate addiction is, the withdrawal symptoms and the best available treatment options. You can also find in the site a current list of opiate drugs, and how to find addiction help.
National Institute on Drug Abuse presented insights into the growing crisis of prescription pain killers, heroin abuse and synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Some of the essential points were that abuse and addiction to opioids, such as heroin, continue to grow. Other main topics were how this global crisis is affecting the health, social, and economic welfare of all societies.
What are Opiates (Opioids)?
Opiates are potent analgesic (pain-relieving) drugs often prescribed to alleviate acute or chronic pain and pain from serious illnesses. Furthermore, they can be used to suppress persistent cough and diarrhea. Opiates or opioids can be broken down into several categories:
- Endogenous opioid peptides
Opiates are alkaloids that come from the poppy plant and include morphine, codeine, and opium. People use this type of drug for both recreational and medicinal purposes. There are a variety of opiate drugs available, from legal painkillers to illegal ones, such as heroin. Some of the most common opiates available are:
- Opium – Sold in a liquid or solid form, but it is most familiar as a brownish powder. It can be smoked, taken in pill form, or injected.
- Morphine- Brand Names: MS Contin, Oramorph SR, Avinza, and Arymo ER – A narcotic analgesic for acute and chronic pain management, and also very useful in providing sedation effects, before a surgical procedure. It comes in liquid, tablet, and suppository preparations.
- Codeine – A drug with antitussive properties, and it is commonly used to treat coughs and moderate pain. Is usually available in syrup and pill form (Tylenol 1 through 4).
- Heroin – Heroin comes from morphine and is an incredibly addictive opiate. Its abuse has become a growing crisis in the U.S. The drug can be used by injecting, snorting or by smoking. Heroin addiction can be the cause of health conditions, including the weak immune system, infectious diseases which include HIV/AIDS and hepatitis and even death by overdose.
What is the Difference between Opioids vs. Opiates?
Finding differences between opioids and opiates can be quite daunting. Although the two terms do have distinctions, they are often interchangeable. Opium, found in poppy plants, is used to make natural opiates. Morphine, codeine, and opium are a few examples of natural opiates.
Opiates can also be found naturally in the human body in the form of endogenous opioid peptides. These include endorphins and dynorphins.
Opioids are synthetic or partly synthetic. They are manufactured through chemical synthesis rather than derived from the poppy plant. Semi-synthetic opioids include buprenorphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone. Finally, fully synthetic opiates include Fentanyl, Tramadol, and Methadone.
Both natural opiates and their synthetic counterparts act similarly in the human body by binding to specific opioid receptors in the central nervous system and other tissues.
How Do Opiates Work?
Opiates work by altering the perception of pain rather than eliminating the pain. First, they attach to 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 experiencing. Consequently, the drug user feels less pain, physically and emotionally. Throughout history, opiate drugs are often indicated as an anesthetic remedy for nervous disorders, migraines, and other painful conditions.
Natural opiates come directly from the poppy plant, unlike synthetic ones, which are produced in laboratories and mostly for pain management purposes. Some of the synthetic opiates include Dilaudid, Demerol, Oxycodone, Vicodin, Fentanyl, and Methadone.
Opiate Effects in the Body
Opiate painkillers are potent drugs, and they could be very dangerous. When improperly used, these prescription medications can have the same risks as heroin sold on the streets. Reports show that in 2012, four times more people struggled with abuse of painkillers then they did with heroin.
Regardless of what opiate we refer to, it is essential to know that opiate addiction, whether painkillers or heroin, can have a severe impact on your health. In addition to the risks of abusing narcotics, sharing needles or injecting crushed pills poses its own dangers. This form of drug use can lead to permanent health issues as well as organ damage. For example, some of these adverse effects include:
- Collapsed veins
- Infected heart lining
- Respiratory depression
- Digestive system disorders
- Lower immune system response
Repeated opiate use can change how someone’s brain chemistry works, which leads to physical and emotional dependence. The body may not feel well anymore without the drug’s interaction. Additionally, withdrawal symptoms often start when a user stops taking the opiate.
Opiates Side Effects
As with any medication, taking an opiate medication can cause any number of side effects to develop. To avoid serious side effects, they should be taken as prescribed. Altering the dose in any way can be dangerous or even fatal.
Common side-effects include:
- Severe constipation
- Loss of appetite
- Tingling or redness of the skin
- Blurred vision
Signs of an allergic reaction include:
- Difficulty breathing
- The closing of the throat
- Hives or swelling of the lips, face, tongue or throat