There are many types of addictive substances, some of which have devastating health risks. Help can be just a call away. If you or someone you know is in immediate need consider reaching out
The Origin of Opioids
Opioids originate through poppy seeds (opiates) and are infused with synthetic chemicals through laboratory work. Opioids can be made through extraction of poppy seeds to get the morphine alkaloid, processing the morphine through hydrogenation and oxidation through a complicated chemical process.
A trademark of opioids is the ability to affect the brain by imitating endorphins, tricking the nervous system. This rewires the way people think and that intoxicating feeling can lead to addiction if care is not exercised. Opioids are also very easily available compared to other medicinal products and can even be purchased online without a prescription, in bulk no less.
Types of opioids
Opioids are painkillers which often affect the nerves and nerve endings throughout the body. Opioids are usually used to numb pain, particularly during and after medical procedures. While effective, unfortunately, the body can quickly build a tolerance making them a potentially dangerous and addictive substance.
Opioids versus opiates
There is a slight difference between opioids and opiates, an opioid is usually made at least in part from artificial materials, whereas opiates are 100% extracted from the poppy plant. There are several types of drugs that fit under both categories.
Hydrocodone, for example, is one of the more dangerous opioids. It is used to treat severe pain and is potentially very addictive. Hydrocodone often comes in release form, meaning it lasts a long period of time because it releases the medicine in stages.
Oxycodone is similar to morphine, and is used to treat moderate-to-severe pain.
Hydromorphone is considered to be an opioid with a higher risk of addiction. Hydromorphone can come in smaller doses but for those who have high tolerance to opioids and opiates, extended release tablets are often used.
Fentanyl is an opioid and is among the most potent available. It is, like the other drugs in its family, used for pain treatment.
Opioid use: Signs and symptoms
Like any other medical condition, it is very important to recognize the symptoms of opioid use and addiction. These symptoms can sometimes be difficult to spot but the more severe the addiction, the more obvious the symptoms will be. Early detection is key to effective treatment.
Symptoms of opioid abuse include:
- A euphoric state: This is a classic high, essentially putting the user in a very happy or dazed state.
- Drowsiness: The opioid user will seem unusually tired and fatigued.
- Fatigue: In addition to sleepiness, a person may seem physically and mentally tired.
- Confusion: Opioid abuse can lead to mental problems, including memory loss and a lack of awareness to one’s surroundings.
- Dilated pupils
- Shallow, slow, or inconsistent breathing.
- A lack of appetite.
- Constipation: When opioids are abused, there are a number of reasons and abuser could have constipation. Generally speaking, all body functions have a tendency to slow down, can also contribute to this symptom.
- Mood swings: As the euphoria from the initial high wears off, the abuser can have unpredictable mood changes.
It doesn’t matter how long the drug has been abused, opioid use in this manner is always dangerous. Extended use tends to create new side effects which get worse as the addiction goes on. In addition to affecting the body, opioids can affect the mind, which results in social isolation and abandonment of work and family.
Other psychological effects of opioid abuse include: Delusions, euphoria, increased urge to take the drug, a lack of priorities leading to financial issues, loss of inhibitions, mood swings, paranoia, depression and anxiety.
Opioids have several effects on the body itself, not just the mind. Physical symptoms of opioid use include: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, body core temperature changes, headaches, inconsistent breathing, and lethargy.
The symptoms themselves can be broken down into two categories: Short-term side effects and long-term side effects.
Short-term side effects
The short-term can sometimes be difficult to see because they are milder than the long-term effects, but they are still indications opioid abuse.
Short-term side effects include: Drowsiness, paranoia, inconsistent breathing, hallucinations and nausea.
Long-term side effects
As opioid addiction progresses, the symptoms get worse. Long-term side effects include: Vomiting, a bloated feeling, liver damage, brain damage, excessive dependency on the drug, depression, constipation, drug tolerance, and psychosis.
Long-term opioid abuse can lead to autoimmune disorders and an overall weakened immune system. This makes treatment that much more challenging, because a compromised immune system could lead to any number of diseases.
Additionally, those going through withdrawal and detox can develop a condition called hyperalgesia, leads to an over sensitivity and a greater desire for the drug to stop the pain.
Long-term use can also affect the reproductive system, creating the potential for infertility and irregular menstrual cycles. Long-term use and the symptoms that come with it only get worse as the user continues to abuse the drug. Continuing this abuse can lead to even worse medical conditions and ultimately to death. Treating those who have been addicted to opioids for a long time is a very significant challenge.
While Opioids are often abused, there are causes and signs which can help identify imminent danger.
Recovery from addiction is not a one-time process. It’s a lifelong journey for the addict and their loved ones. By knowing and understanding some of the obstacles that are most commonly faced throughout the journey, the support system the recovering addict has built can assist them in living a sober, cleaner life.
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