Opiate Use and Abuse

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Opiate History
The first written mention of opiates is believed to have come from third-century B.C. Greek culture and the writings of philosopher Theopphrastus. By this time, people had discovered that drying the poppy plant's extracted fluid created a highly powerful drug which would become known as opium. The first opiates are believed to have been cultivated during the Neolithic period in what is now known as Switzerland. The settlements in this area cultivated Papaver which was a source of poppy seeds. Many historians agree that these early individuals discovered the narcotic effect of the poppy plant and therefore were the first users of opiates (Rosen, 2009). Opiate analgesics have been used by humans for thousands of years and are the longest continuously used class of medications (Lanier, 2009). What is an Opiate?

Opiates, or narcotics, are a group of drugs most often used for moderate to severe pain relief. Opiates are the drugs derived from opium and its ingredients, such as morphine and codeine, and opioids are synthetic imitations of these types of drugs. The term opioid also refers to naturally occurring substances in the body, such as endorphins and enkephalins, which act on the brain to decrease pain sensations (Ling, 1990). Frequently abused prescription pain medications include hydrocodone (Lorcet, Lortab, Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan), codeine (Tylenol 2s, 3s, and 4s), fentanyl (Duragesic), and morphine (MS Contin). These drugs are commonly prescribed for acute pain (for example, tooth, post-injury, or surgery pain) or chronic pain (for example, back pain or pain associated with malignancy)(Byrne, 2009).

What is Opiate Addiction?
Opiate addiction is recognized as a central nervous system disorder, caused by regular intake of any of these opioid-based drugs. When these drugs are taken, your body's pleasure pathway is triggered, creating a euphoric "high" that many become psychologically addicted to almost immediately. After prolonged use, the nerve cells in the brain, which would otherwise produce endogenous opiates (natural painkillers, or endorphins), cease to function normally. The body stops producing endorphins because it is receiving opiates instead. Some opiates create over 100 times more endorphins than the body would naturally. Imagine the impact this has on the brain and relevant nerve cells. When the brain shuts down endorphin production because of opiate use, the addictive nature becomes clear and there is no other way to compensate for the lost endorphins except to take more and more of the opiate in question. This is the vicious cycle of opiate addiction. The degeneration of these nerve cells causes a physical dependency to an external supply of opiates. Over time, a physical dependence upon the drug develops with regular use. This is opiate addiction. Side Effects of Opiate Use

Some side effects with opiate use, such as constipation, are well known. Others are more difficult to gauge because it’s often hard to study those who are on heroin or take opiates chronically for pain management. When used as prescribed, opiates can still cause side effects, but the more serious ones are usually reported with misuse and overdose. Side effects can include sedation, euphoria, dizziness, fatigue, depression, tremors, sleeplessness, anxiousness, flu-like symptoms, upset stomach, dry mouth, pupil constriction, itching, hallucination, delirium, sweating, muscle and bone pain, confusion, extreme irritability and muscle spasms. Severe side effects can include severe respiratory depression, confusion or stupor, coma, clammy skin, circulatory collapse and cardiac arrest. Opiates can also cause allergic reactions, some severe. Signs of this include itching, swelling, dizziness, rash and labored breathing. Methods of Misuse Recreational users may take...
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