Opiate derivatives are extracted from the Opium Poppy Plant for the express purpose of creating powerful medications capable of relieving pain in the human body. Morphine, codeine and thebaine are the three primary opiate derivatives that form the basis for semi-synthetic opioids, such as heroin, OxyContin and hydrocodone. Illicit drugs, and prescription medications, have been used to relieve severe physical pain as far back in history as records have been kept.
Proper use of these powerful drugs must include a physician’s prescription and careful adherence to the prescribed dosage for a limited time period. Abuse of opiates can result in a number of physical effects, including addiction.
What You Should Know About Opiate Addiction
Central nervous system disorder – Nerve centers in the brain will cease to send requests for the body to produce natural painkillers, or endorphins, when opiate drugs are consumed over a sustained period. Endogenous opiates should be produced to address moderate levels of pain in the body in response to minor injuries, bumps or bruises. The body becomes physically dependent on the external opiate source in a matter of days if the individual has a history of substance dependence or a family history of addictive tendencies.
Sudden interruptions in the external source of opiates cause the body to react through what is called withdrawal syndrome. Opiate dependence causes the addict to go to great lengths to fulfill the physical need for the opiate. Average consumption of the opiate is between 150 mg and 250 mg each day. The monetary cost of the habit can be between $80 and $200 every day.
Treatment for opiate dependence requires medical assistance to allow the brain to once again send messages for the production of natural endorphins. Addicts rarely succeed in stopping the use of opiate drugs without entering a professional treatment program. The medical profession continues to develop new ways to stop opiate dependence since the addiction develops quickly.
Long-term use causes neurological changes – Consumption of opiate medications generally follows a severe injury, or illness, that causes unmanageable pain for the patient. Physicians limit the number of doses of an opiate drug to prevent physical dependence. Unfortunately, patients can develop a psychological dependence on the opiate medication in as little as three days. Once the prescribed dose ends, the patient is expected to stop consuming the opiate drug.
Doctors know that long-term use of opiate-based painkillers can cause physical changes in the brain that become permanent. Natural endorphin production will stop permanently if the opiate dependence continues. For many years, the medical community assumed that an opiate-dependent individual was beyond all hope of beating the addiction. Recognition of the long-term changes that occur in the brain have allowed specialists to develop effective treatment programs to end the opiate dependence.
Relapse rates of 40-60 percent – Just as the dependence develops over time, the opiate dependent person must allow sufficient time for the brain to relearn natural endorphin production. Strong opiate addictions will require months of sustained treatment where the patient is taken off the opiate drug in all forms. Careful planning ensures the withdrawal symptoms are managed to prevent physical discomfort throughout the process.
Unfortunately, almost half of all opiate dependent patients will return to using some form of opiate following treatment. The number of people who fall back into the dependent habit indicates the strength of any addiction. Opiate addiction ruins the lives of many people because of the physical changes that happen in the brain. Reasoning diminishes in the life of the addict, who struggles to show up for work on time and make solid financial choices. Relationship impacts are significant if the addict returns to the same habit of abusing the opiate drug.
Opiate receptors become resistant – Widely prescribed medications, such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, will have the same physical effect on the brain’s opiate receptors as street-level illicit opiates do. Minimal use produces pain relief, anxiety reduction and at times, euphoria. The opiate dependent person will realize that the same amount of opiate will no longer produce the same result. Increasing the dose is required to achieve similar results. Opiate receptors in the brain resist the drug when use continues over time.
The danger arises when the individual becomes accustomed to increasing the dose at a certain rate. At some point, the body receives too much of the drug in one dose and reacts in various ways, including coma or death. Opiate dependence causes the addict to find other people with a similar situation. Most addicts will use the drug in the company of others. Overdosed individuals are usually found alone.
Prescription opiate abuse on the rise – In the 1970s, heroin was the most common opiate. This illicit drug was considered extremely addictive because the street vendors could not guarantee that the strength of each source was identical. Users were subjected to varying strengths of heroin that caused extreme physical reactions: and sometimes death.
Today, prescription medications, such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, have been developed to address extreme physical pain. Control over these prescription drugs is maintained through the FDA, physicians and pharmacies. Unfortunately, people who have these medications from previous prescriptions allow others to use the remaining supply. This practice is illegal, but addicts can find friends and relatives with the medications.
Powerful opiates work quickly to provide physical pain relief. Addiction can develop if the patient continues to consume the opiate past the end of the recommended time period. Physicians monitor the patient for signs of dependence throughout the treatment period. A missed dose can cause physical discomfort for the patient when the pain returns. After a certain point, the patient wants the opiate to avoid the physical withdrawal symptoms that arise.
Observers wonder why anyone would allow a physical dependence on the drug to develop in the first place. Avoidance of withdrawal symptoms is the most common answer. A patient who is developing a physical dependence on opiates will panic if the drug is not available on time. The brain is modified through sustained use. As time passes, the permanence of the neurological changes develops. Long-term addicts will require sustained treatment to reverse the opiate effects. After a certain point, the brain cannot be retrained to produce natural endorphins.