The ongoing opioid epidemic has turned the focus from other drugs to the impact of opioids on the United States.
Both illicit and prescription opioids are tools in this drug crisis, which began in the late 1990s after prescriptions skyrocketed. Our drug rehab in Texas is well aware of the effect of opioids on the nation and the importance of spreading awareness regarding their dangers. Opioid analgesics are common types of opioids that have contributed to this problem. To inform the public as best as possible, we’re sharing what they are, how they work, and how they impact the body.
Opioid analgesics, also known as narcotics or analgesic opioids, are a class of drugs that include both illegal drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers like hydrocodone. Some common opioid analgesics examples include:
Opioids are broken down into three categories: natural, semi-synthetic, and synthetic. Natural opioids are those that are chemical compounds that naturally occur in plants like the opium poppy, including morphine, codeine, and thebaine. Semi-synthetic opioids are opioids created in labs from natural opiates, such as hydromorphone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Synthetic opioids are substances that are synthesized in a lab that act similarly to natural opioids and produce similar side effects like pain relief. All of these substances are strong opioid analgesics with a high potential for abuse and addiction. Many people who take opioid analgesic medication for long periods unknowingly run the risk of becoming dependent. Others purposely abuse these drugs for the euphoric and numbing high they produce. Either way, opioid analgesics are highly addictive, and most people who abuse them require opiate detox and treatment to recover.
Opioid analgesics work by binding to opioid receptors on neurons in the central nervous system (CNS), which is the part of the opioid system that controls pain. The endogenous opioid system is one of the most innate pain-relieving systems that consists of various scattered neurons that produce three neurotransmitters: beta-endorphin, the met- and leu-enkephalins, and dynorphins. These neurotransmitters work together with receptors called mu, delta, and kappa to produce analgesia, which is the inability to feel pain.1 Opioid receptors are the parts of this system that control pain as well as pleasure associated with addictive behaviors. Opioids or opiates act the same way as these neurotransmitters by attaching themselves to opioid receptors located in the brain, spinal cord, stomach, and lungs to produce pain relief and other undesirable side effects.
Aside from pain relief, opioids are also commonly abused because of the high they produce. Opioids also activate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, both of which play roles in functions like pleasure, feelings of well-being, mood, breathing, and sleep.
Opioid analgesic effects include:
When taken in high doses, users run the risk of experiencing an opioid overdose. Overdosing on opioids produces symptoms like respiratory depression, pinpoint pupils, unconsciousness, and choking. The most deadly of these symptoms is usually respiratory depression, which is slow and ineffective breathing that doesn’t get enough oxygen to your body. Opioid overdose brain damage can result from a lack of oxygen, as well as loss of consciousness and death.
Long-term opioid abuse can also result in addiction. The longer someone takes opiates, the more tolerant their body becomes. Most addicts continue abusing these drugs to avoid withdrawal symptoms and eventually find themselves unable to stop using. If you or someone you know is in this situation, our residential treatment in Texas can help.