Opiate Addiction Epidemic

opiate addictionWhat is Opiate Addiction?

Opiate Addiction happens when people seek to avoid suffering caused by pain. One of the most frequent reasons why people seek medical treatment from a doctor is to help with pain relief. Opiate addiction most often has its beginning with over-the-counter pain relievers. When these over-the-counter medicines fail to provide the level of relief that a person is seeking they go to a physician to obtain a prescription medication that is much stronger.

Prolonged use of Opiates often leads to nerve damage within the brain. Opiates causes cells to stop producing their own natural painkillers known as endorphins. Prolonged use of Opiates can lead of the inability of the body to stop pain because of a lack of endorphins that naturally mask the pain. This can, and often does lead to an inability of the body to stop pain because there are no endorphins to mask the pain naturally. The degeneration of pain relieving nerve cells that reduce pain can lead to a physical dependence on opiates as an external supply source. This is what leads to Opiate addiction.

What are Opiates

Opiates are alkaloids. They are derived from the opium poppy. Opium is a strong pain relieving medication, and a number of drugs are also made from Opium.

Both Opiates and Opioids react to pain in similar fashion. They do not make the pain go away, they just alter the way pain is perceived. They attach onto molecules that protrude from certain nerve cells in the brain called opioid receptors. Once they are attached, the nerve cells send messages to the brain that are not accurate measures of the severity of the pain that the body is experiencing. Thus the person who has taken the drug experiences less pain.

Types of Opiates

  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Oripavine
  • Thebaine

Synthetic opiate drug types include

  • Lortab
  • Demerol
  • Atarax
  • Dilaudid
  • Fentanyl

Synthetic opiates include

  • Methadone
  • Suboxone
  • Subutex
  • Naltrexone
  • Naloxone
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Hydrocodone



Drugs in these classes also affect how the brain feels pleasure. Anyone who takes Opiates or Opioids and does not have pain will will experience a feeling of euphoria, followed by deep relaxation and/or sleepiness.

Opioids act on the brain by attaching to specific proteins in the brain called opioid receptors. These proteins are also found in the spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and several other organs in the body. When Opioid based drugs attach to opioid receptors they work to reduce the perception of pain.

Opioids can produce drowsiness, mental confusion, nausea, constipation, and, depending upon the amount of drug taken, can depress respiration. Some people experience a euphoric response to opioid medications, since these drugs also affect the brain regions involved in reward.

Types Of Opioids

  • Methadone
  • Percocet, Percodan, OxyContin (oxycodone)
  • Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab (hydrocodone)
  • Demerol (pethidine)
  • Dilaudid (hydromorphone)
  • Duragesic (fentanyl)

Those who abuse opioids sometimes seek to intensify their experience by taking the drug in ways other than the prescribed ways. For example, OxyContin is an oral medication used to treat moderate to severe pain through a slow, steady release of the opioid. People who abuse OxyContin may snort or inject it, thereby increasing their risk for serious medical complications, including overdose.

The Opiate Addiction Epidemic

Since 2014, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has encountered a growing synthetic drugs. It comes on the heel of the nation’s increasing threat of Opioid abuse that has now reached epidemic proportions. The new culprit, Fentanyl and Fentanyl derivatives.

Fentanyl is a narcotic pain medication that is intended to treat chronic pain in controlled medical settings. It is particularly dangerous because it is 50 times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl was introduced in 1968 by a Belgian pharmaceutical company as a synthetic narcotic to be used as an analgesic in surgical procedures because of its minimal effects on the heart.

Although Fentanyl is not considered an addictive drug like cocaine, heroin, or alcohol, because it does not produce the same compulsive drug-seeking behavior. However, Fentanyl produces greater tolerance in some users who take the drug repeatedly. These users must take higher doses to achieve the same results as they have had in the past. Fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opiate receptors, in the same way as heroin. Fentanyl overdoses should be treated immediately with an opiate antagonist.

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