May 22, 2017

Opiates Overview: Understanding the Effect of Opiates

[frame align=”left”]Opiates[/frame]Opiates are a classification of drugs containing or derived from Opium. Opium is a natural substance harvested from the latex of immature poppy seeds. The use of opium for medicinal and recreational use dates back thousands of years. However, in recent years, the medical community has produced synthetic version of opium. Opium and opiates have a depressive effect on the Central Nervous System. Doctors prescribe these drugs for health issues such as pain, anxiety, coughs and a wide variety of ailments. Opiates are one of the most widely abused substances worldwide.

How do Opiates Work?

The brain consists of many complex parts, several of which are the pleasure and reward area, as well as the pain receptor portion of the brain. Each of these parts of the brain, as well as others, has receptors that receive certain messages from the body. When an individual is in pain, and needs pain relief the body releases endorphins. Receptors pick up the endorphins in the response to pleasure, reward, as well as pain receptor portions of the brain. When ingested into the body, opiates mimic the endorphins. Once the opiates reach the brain, they turn into morphine. At this point, the user experiences pain relief as well as a certain amount of pleasure or reward.

Examples of Opiates

There are several natural and synthetic opiates currently available through both legal and illegal channels. The most common derivatives of the original opium are morphine and heroin. While morphine is still used in certain medical instances, most common prescriptions are synthetic opiates, such as hydrocodone (Vicadin, Lortab, Percocet), and Oxycodone (Oxycontin).

Effects of Opiates

Over time, an individual may become dependent upon either an illicit drug, like heroin, or a prescription medication such as Vicadin or Lortab (hydrocodone). Once the ingested natural or synthetic opiates, they take care over hence handicapping the brain’s natural endorphins. Over time, the individual will require more and more of the drug to maintain normality.

Another effect may be an increase in pain levels known as opiate induced pain. The intention of opiates is to reduce pain levels, but the opposite effect can occur and cause more pain. Rebound pain, another form of opiate induced pain, can become excruciating, but ingesting more opiates can make the rebound pain even worse.

The physical effects of opiates range from acne to collapsed veins for intravenous users of heroine. The body will become dependent upon opiates with overuse and misuse, and even when taken under the supervision of a doctor, an individual can expect some forms of withdrawal when they stop taking opiates.

One more effect of prolonged use of prescription opiates is the risk to liver function. Many prescription opiates collaborated with acetaminophen, which is problematic for the liver when used excessively.

Withdrawal from Opiates

Withdrawal refers to the period after the body has metabolized the opiates currently within the body of an individual who has stopped ingesting the opiate. This can happen by choice, as in the case of someone who is seeking treatment, or by chance because an individual may not be able to procure their required dosages.

The first stage of withdrawal is the detox period. During this time, an individual may become agitated or frustrated. They may experience excruciating to moderate pain in their limbs and joints, runny nose and sweating as though they are feverish as well as insomnia. After the initial onset of the detox process passes, the individual may experience nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, excessive sweating, diarrhea and dilated pupils, which can make them very sensitive to light sources.

Opiates addicts refer to themselves as “sick” and seek out the resources to “get well”. In reality though, the addict is seeking out more drugs to maintain the constant high. An individual who has a moderate addiction due to morphine treatment while recovering from an accident in a hospital, however, may attribute the symptoms to a bout with the flu and will not necessarily crave the drug, itself. The detox period can last from a few days to a week or more in some instances.

The later stage of withdrawal, which can last for up to 10 weeks, will include above all else, an intense desire to ingest the opiate.

Risks of the Withdrawal Process

Withdrawal from opiates is painful, but not fatal. Depression is an underlying condition, which is masked by opiate use. If opiate use is stopped suddenly, the depression can worsen and lead to suicidal thoughts. Suicide thoughts are a serious threat and should not be ignored. However, physical risks may also include dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea, as well as aspiration of vomits into the lungs.

In order to prevent further harm or a premature death, a medical professional should monitor the addict closely. A medical facility has the resources as well as the knowledge to help the addict detox safely.