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 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 affects all societies’ health, social, and economic welfare.
What are Opiates?
Opiates are potent analgesic (pain-relieving) drugs often prescribed to alleviate acute or chronic pain. They are also an ingredient on medications to suppress persistent cough and diarrhea. There are several categories of opiates and opioids. For example:
- Endogenous opioid peptides
Opiates are alkaloids that come from the poppy plant and include morphine and codeine. People use this type of drug for both recreational and medicinal purposes. At some point, most of those using opiates will end up taking a semi-synthetic or synthetic opiate. There are various opiate drugs available, from prescription painkillers to illegal ones, such as heroin.
Some of the most common opiates available are:
- 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, commonly used to treat coughs and moderate pain. It is usually available in syrup and pill form (Tylenol 1 through 4).
- Heroin – Heroin comes from morphine and is an incredibly addictive semi-synthetic opiate. Its abuse has become a growing crisis in the U.S. People use the drug by injecting, snorting, or smoking. Heroin addiction can cause health conditions, including a weak immune system, infectious diseases that include HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, and even death by overdose.
- Fentanyl – Brand Names: Duragesic, Subsys, Ionsys – Potent synthetic opiate (opioid) analgesic for severe pain associated with childbirth and often during or after major surgery. It is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is also commonly found in illicit drugs, because it’s easy to manufacture in labs and sell on the streets.
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 it. First, it attaches to the molecules that protrude from specific nerve cells, called receptor sites. Consequently, the individual feels less pain. 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 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 painkillers’ abuse than they did with heroin.
Regardless of what opiate we refer to, it is essential to know that opiate addiction, whether painkillers or heroin, can severely impact your health. In addition to the risks of abusing narcotics, sharing needles or injecting crushed pills poses additional harm. 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 drug can cause any number of side effects. 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