Addictive Drugs essay

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One of the most common prescription drug problems in America for the last two decades

has been with OxyContin. OxyContin is helpful in the treatment of cancer symptoms and chronic

severe pain when used correctly and provides extended relief of pain. However when it is

abused, the negative effects are many and varies from individual to individual and potentially

life threatening especially when the tablets are crushed and snorted, chewed, or mixed with water

and injected or smoked eliminating the time release factor and allowing for a quick and intense

rush to the brain.

In recent years OxyContin has become the illegal drug of choice for many young people

who start out abusing just to get high without ever having a doctor prescribe it for any legitimate

pain application.

OxyContin has effects not just on the brain but can also have long-term physical effects

on the body. It alters the chemical composition and changes the pathways of the neural

transmitters. When OxyContin along with other opioid enter through the bloodstream up to the

brain, the chemicals attach to specialized proteins, called mu opioid receptors, which are on the

surface of opiate-sensitive neurons (Kosten,George 2002).

When they link up the domino effect starts to role and the brain triggers the mesolimbic

(midbrain) reward center. This then generates a signal in a part of the brain called the ventral

tegmental area that results in the release of dopamine into the nucleus accumbens (Inaba and

Cohen). With the release it causes feelings of pleasure. Feedback from the prefrontal cortex

to the VTA helps us overcome drives to obtain pleasure through actions that may be unsafe or

unwise, but this feedback appears to be compromised in individuals who become addicted to

drugs (Kosten,George 2002). Other areas of the brain imprints the memory that is associated

with these good feelings with the circumstances and environment they occurred in and can lead

to the craving for the drugs when the abuser reencounters those persons, places or things.

The most serious risk associated with OxyContin is respiratory depression. Some

common side effects include constipation, nausea, sedation, dizziness, vomiting, headache, dry

mouth, sweating, and weakness. The high effects can last up to 5 hours of a sedate, that of a

euphoric feeling (Kosten,George 2002).

Long term effects of OxyContin can result in increased tolerance to the drug in which

higher doses of the medication must be taken to receive the initial effects. Tolerance occurs

because the brain cells that have opioid receptors on them gradually become less responsive to

the opioid stimulation therefore, more opioid is needed to produce pleasure comparable to that

is provided in previous drug-taking episodes. Slowly over a period of time these individual can

become physically addictive causing a person to experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug

is not present. Symptoms of withdrawal stem from changes in the locus ceruleus. The neurons

in this area produces a chemical, noradrenaline and distribute it to other parts of the brain where

it stimulates wakefulness, breathing, blood pressure, and general alertness(US DHHS). When

the opioid connects to the receptor sites, they suppress the neurons releases the noradrenaline

causing a drowsiness, slowed respiration and low blood pressure. When the drug is not present

production of withdrawal symptoms are triggered which can include restlessness, muscle and

bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and involuntary leg

movements (Inaba and Cohen).

We have become a nation of pill poppers. Statics taken in 2010 according to Wall Street

analysts Cowen & Co there were 254 million prescriptions for opioids that were filled in the

U.S. The social effects that OxyContin addiction displays are plenty. It can vary by person...
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