Opiate addiction is one of the most considerable problems this country is currently facing. Due to their highly addictive nature, harmful effects, and the ease with which people can get them, a real opiate epidemic is happening in the United States’ streets.
Opiates are a class of drugs derived from the poppy plant that can cause the user to experience euphoria. Opiates are also considered highly addictive and dangerous, with many being considered Schedule I drugs in the United States. A Schedule I drug is considered to have no proven medical benefit and a high risk of abuse.
While opiates are natural or organic in composition, opioids are synthetic drugs designed to have the same effect as opiates. The terms opiates and opioids are often used interchangeably, even though they are two different things. However, both opiates and opioids run a high risk of being abused and can be incredibly dangerous.
Opiates and opioids can be used in a variety of ways, both for legitimate and illegitimate reasons. Opiates can be used as powerful pain relievers, prescribed for relief, or often used as an anesthetic. Unfortunately, opiates are one of the most abused drugs of drugs in existence. Even ones prescribed for medical reasons can often be abused by receiving the prescription or others.
When someone takes an opiate, what happens is that the drug itself binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. This reaction has two effects: it nulls the brain’s signals that respond to pain and releases a chemical that causes happiness and euphoria. Due to these effects’ intensity, it is possible to become addicted to certain opiates and opioids after a single-use.
Opiates can be seen in a wide range of different forms. Pills and tablets are common when they are being used to treat pain. However, a liquid form that is injected straight into the bloodstream is seen both in medical use and in illegal drugs such as heroin.
Some opiates approved for wide medical use include morphine and codeine. Morphine can be seen in the form of tablets, capsules, or injectable liquid. It is used to dull the sense of pain by interacting with a person’s brain cells and central nervous system. It is still widely used in the medical community.
Codeine is even more common than morphine within the medical community. Codeine works similarly to morphine, although its effects are not nearly as strong. The respiratory system also responds to codeine, making it a common ingredient in cough medication.
Opioids replicate the effects of opiates but by using synthetic compounds instead of naturally occurring chemicals. Still, that doesn’t make opioids any less common in the medical field. Many people dealing with severe and persistent pain may even be prescribed opioids as a result.
Some of the most common opioids prescribed to treat pain are hydrocodone (commonly known under the brand Vicodin) and Oxycodone (widely known as OxyContin or Percocet). These can are most commonly prescribed in the form of tablets or capsules to treat severe recurring pain.
Fentanyl is another medically prescribed opioid used to treat high levels of pain. Fentanyl works similarly to morphine, although it is considered to be 100 times stronger. Like most opioids, fentanyl is also incredibly dangerous.
Even medically approved opioids can be incredibly dangerous, especially when taken outside the parameters set by medical professionals. The United States government considers all medically-approved opiates and opioids to be Schedule II drugs. Although there are medical benefits, the drugs are considered addictive and at a high risk of being abused.
Some opioids have absolutely no medical uses and are used purely to get high by those suffering from addiction. These are Schedule I drugs, and the most commonly abused is heroin. It is common to abuse Schedule II opioids such as OxyContin to eventually lead to abuse and addiction to heroin. An estimated 808,000 people used heroin in 2018, causing 15,000 overdose deaths.
A person suffering from opiate addiction will experience side effects from drug use. Weight loss and drowsiness are common to see in a person suffering from this addiction. It is also common to see a variety of mental effects when the person is not high. These include depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, and restlessness.
One of the most dangerous aspects of opiate addiction is the tolerance the body slowly builds up after extended use of drugs. As time progresses, someone suffering from addiction will need consistently more and more of the drug to feel its effects. This can be incredibly dangerous as the user does not know how much they will need, and as they increase their doses, they can often overdose on the drug.
While an opiate addiction does not have a cure, it can be treated through a recovery program. Medically-assisted treatment is standard for those suffering from an opiate addiction disorder. This involves the use of synthetic drugs such as methadone, which can both block the cravings associated with opiate addiction and lessen any withdrawal symptoms. It is important to note that even with medically-assisted treatment, the habit will not go away and require treatment.
Different methods of therapy are available depending on what works best for you. Addiction treatment should be individualized to make sure that you are getting the best help available. Group settings and one-on-one talk therapy sessions can both be helpful ways to work through addiction. You should also work towards the mental health issues that will commonly be the root cause of addiction disorders.