What Are Opioids?
Opioids, also known as narcotics, are a kind of prescription painkiller drug. They are used primarily to treat pain from injuries, surgery, and general muscle weakness that over-the-counter medication is not strong enough to treat. Some forms of opioids doctors may also prescribe for diarrhea and constipation. The drugs work by attaching itself to and stimulating the opioid receptors throughout the body, which inhibits pain. The body normally cannot produce enough of these neurotransmitters to manage severe pain. It also overloads the body with dopamine, the brain’s pleasure and reward signaling chemical, the same effect as having sex, gambling, or eating desserts. This “high” pleasure sensation of the drug is known to create devastating addictions and makes it highly controversial in the medical community
History of Opioids
The base chemical compound is found naturally in poppy flowers and has been cultivated since ancient times. Sumerians and Egyptians used it for it’s calming high effect in cult rituals and later Greeks adapted it for common ailments. In the early 1500s, Swiss toxicologist Paracelsus created the first marketed opioid pill and syrup for widespread use known as Laudanum, which is still administered today (though rarely). Then in 1804, German chemist Friedrich Wilhelm Adam Serturner discovered and extracted the chemical ingredient morphine from the poppy plant. The drug became officially used during the Civil War and abused by the public shortly after. Using the morphine base compound, chemist developed the highly addictive and dangerous herein substance. The ensuing epidemic of addicts caused the government to banned it in 1924. Opioid and all narcotics become strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in 1938. Today herein is classified as a Schedule 1 substance (meaning it the most addictive kind of drug and has no known medical use), while oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine are Schedule 2 substances (having a high potential for abuse and accept for some medical use with severe restrictions).
The opioid drugs are available currently in different brand names, such as:
Opioid Abuse and Statistics
Opioid and related drugs create dependence when the brain builds up a tolerance to the euphoric effects. This feeling drives the user to seek high doses to achieve the same pleasure high. The individual becomes hooked on receiving the reward sensation from the dopamine release. Over time the body will stop producing its own natural dopamine as it becomes tricked into using just the implanted synthetic equivalent of the drugs. Then they are unable to feel happy, giddy feelings from everyday activities without the substance. Feelings of depression and self-harm overtake dependent users when they withdraw. The typical side effects dramatically increase with abuse and withdraw and may include:
- Complete Pain numbness
- Extreme drowsiness
- Slow and shallow breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Itchy and burning skin
- Slurred and confused speech
- Impaired judgement
Heroin can be snorted, sniffed, or smoked, but is usually boiled and injected with needles. This method is often very unsanitary and reusing needles leads to the spread of HIV and AIDs.
The opioid abuse is one of the most prevalent drug crisis worldwide with overdose related deaths have quadrupled since 1999 and affecting nearly 40 million people. Dangerous drug cartels and gangs control opioid and heroin black market trade across South America, East Asia, and the Middle East. The drug’s abuse and associated violent crimes result in horrendous loss of life. In the United States alone, according to the Center for Disease Control, 44 people a day die and as many as 1000 are hospitalized from prescription painkiller overdose. A study from the University of Arkansas found 20% of prescription opioid users become dependent after just 10 days of using.
Opioid Abuse Treatment
Treatment plans vary depending on the person and their stage of abuse. You should always consult your doctor on ending your prescription if you feel you any of the withdraw symptoms. Stopping usage immediately in some people can result in death from respiratory failure or suicidal action, but, usually, withdrawal is not considered deadly in itself. Instead, extreme cravings of users can result in them acting reckless and criminal to get the drug. Your doctor can prescribe some medicine to help ease the discomforting effects of withdrawal, including buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Strangely enough, these drugs are themselves lesser opioid-based compound designed to slowly ease the addict off the powerful effects of larger doses. Be honest with your doctor about any previous dependency conditions or episodes of depression as these can increase the likelihood and seriousness of dependency. A complete detox of the drug can take up to a month. Behavior and psychological issues may persist, which you can treat with therapy, counseling, and various coping strategies. Relapse (becoming addicted again after detox) is common, so close monitoring by physicians is necessary. You may consider checking you or your loved one into a rehabilitation center with the right tools and experts to manage your recovery. To best recover timely, stay hydrated, avoid alcohol, and maintain a healthy diet. Personally, don’t focus dwell on the past, blame yourself, and don’t expect immediate results. Make time to amend for your wrongs when appropriate and don’t avoid family and loved ones. A close net of genuine love and support will provide a steady path of recovery. Your emotional and spiritual recovery can be just as important as your physical needs.