Opiates refer to groups of drugs that are derived from poppy seeds usually found in Asia. In medicine field, the term opiate refers only to the narcotic opioid alkaloids extracted as natural products from the opium poppy plant known as Papaver somniferum (Earhart). These drugs have a high potential of being abused by users and are known to bock pain temporarily. It is very difficult for someone who uses opiates regularly to avoid getting hooked up by the use of drugs.
The prescription of opiates is mostly in pill form although some like heroin can be a powder that is brown in color and is dissolved in water to be administered through injection. Opiate-based drugs are painkillers provided by nature and are the universally used and most effective drugs compared to the other drugs that are known to reduce pain. The use of opiates also results to a euphoric high, which becomes physically and psychically habituating. The main psychoactive opiates that have been extracted include codeine, morphine, and thebaine (Dees).
The first incidents of opiate cultivation are believed have taken place during the Neolithic period in an area which is currently known as Switzerland. Those people who settled in this are used to cultivate Papaver as the source of poppy seeds. It is thus agreed among the historians that these early individuals are the ones who discovered the narcotic effect contained in the poppy plant. They are thus considered to be the first users of opiates. It was in the 15th through the 16th centuries that the Arabic traders took the opium to the Far East, and from here the opium was taken to Europe. In Europe, the opium was used not only to cure diseases and psychological problems (Michaels House).
The use of opiates such as morphine was first used on a large scale in the United States during the Civil War most specifically in hospitals and surgeries to offer relieve to the patients. As a consequence, most of the patients developed an addiction to the drugs although the addiction to morphine had a better acceptance socially than alcoholism. Afterwards, heroin also known as diamorphine was introduced in the medical setting in 1895 as a substitute for morphine that was non-addictive (Dees).
Morphine was the first alkaloid to have been extracted from medicinal plant. The extraction was done in 1817 by Frederick Serturner. The drug was used as a painkiller during the Civil War that took place in the 1860s, in United States. The prolonged use of the drug in the battle field resulted to addiction among the solders resulting to the addiction being termed as the soldier’s disease. Morphine is a drug that can be administered through injection and is one of the drugs that are under control in the United States. It is used clinically in the treatment of pain resulting from a heart attack and is also added to the epidural and spinal anesthesia in order to prolong comfort after surgery (Earhart). It is also used in the management of pulmonary edema (Pino, Puerta and D'Apollo).
Heroin, which is also known as diacetylmorphine, is a product derived from morphine and is known to go past the blood-brain barrier in an easier way than morphine. Once heroin has entered in the brain, its effects are similar to those of morphine. However, since heroin is able to get to the brain more quickly, the heroin activity is said to be more active than that of morphine. Production, as well as possession of heroin, was declared illegal in the U.S in 1924, but the drug is still common in the streets. Intravenous administration of heroin may expose users to toxins as well as blood-borne pathogens since the drug is usually diluted with cleansers or food substances. Addicts of heroin also have a habit of sharing needles, exposing them to transmitted diseases and are also involved in criminal acts with an aim of supporting their habit (Earhart).
Codeine, on the other hand, was extracted in 1832 from opium, and it is an effective suppressant of cough. It is usually combined with medicines that are not narcotic in nature such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen in the management of toothaches as well as other acute pains. It is also an antitussive, antihypertensive, sedative, antianxiety and had hypnotic properties. It also suppresses premature labor contractions. It is the second alkaloid that is most predominant in opium taking up to 3 percent. Codeine that is used in pharmaceuticals is mainly produced through a semi-synthetic process (Earhart).
Thebain is classified as a weak opiate and a minor opium constituent. Chemical modifications that are done to both codeine and thebaine resulted in the production of opioids hydrododone and oxycodone. These products have stronger effects on their activity than codeine and also popularly abused drugs. Thebain has a similar chemical structure like those morphine and codeine. The effects of thebain are stimulatory as opposed to those of the other drugs that have depressant effects. Thebain causes convulsions at high doses. Thebaine has not use therapeutically, but can be converted to give a number of compounds such as nalbuphine, naltrexone, oxycodone, buprenorphine and etorphine. The use of thebaine is under control by the international law and is named as a Class A drug in the act on the misuse of drugs in the U.K and is also under control in Unites States.
The mode of ingesting opiate varies with the kind of drug that is being used. Heroin is taken either through injection, smoking, snorting and sniffing. Those opiates that are prescribed are taken in the form of pills, and others are prescribed together with alcohol in order to intensify their effect. This combination also increases the risks that are associated with opiate addiction. Some of the modes of administering the opiates are associated with health complications such as HIV and hepatitis infections. In spite of the way the drug is administered or used, there are increased overdose threats.
The issue of heroin abuse, as well as, prescription opiate abuse has become a serious problem especially in America. From a report by the federal of substance abuse, there are more than 400,000 Americans who used heroin. The number of people who abuse the prescription opiate is even higher than those who use heroin. There are more than 11.2 million Americans who use these drugs just for purposes that are not medical related. The average age for the first time users of non medical painkillers is about 21.26 years. A number of those who use injectable opiates take a long before they can admit themselves into a treatment program. Out of all the admissions that are done for addictions on intravenous drugs, 83% of these admissions are as a result of opiate addictions.
In a survey that was done by the NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse), an average of 16 million Americans who are aged 12 years and above use illicit drugs. This value does not account for the untruthful respondents, meaning the number can be even greater than this. In the US over 2 million people have an addiction to prescription opiates (Rehab International).
The opiates work by binding to the opiate receptors which bind to the receptors in the brain that are responsible for contentment feeling and well-being feelings. The prolonged use of the opiates may compromise how the brain produces the endorphins in an organic manner. The integral parts of opiate addiction affect the body both physically and neurologically. There is also prove that the brain of an individual with opiate addiction reflects in a different way after scanning compared with the brain of a non-opiate user.
Some of the short term effects resulting from the use of opiate include having a euphoric feeling almost immediately after taking the drug. This feeling lasts from a number of hours. Other effects that are less-enjoyable include nausea, restlessness, and vomiting. The users may drift forth and back between drowsy and alert with large doses leasing to pupils becoming small, slowed breathing and death may occur.
Long term effects may include heart lining and valves infections, pulmonary complications such as pneumonia, the clogging of the vessels that take blood to the lungs, kidney, liver or brain. This causes infection or even death. Addiction, as well as physical dependence, liver disease and higher drug tolerance are other long term effects linked to the use of opiates. Those who try to quit the habit face severe withdrawal symptoms. The higher drug tolerance forces the drug addict to take in high dosage of the drug in order to achieve the effect and this increases the risk of taking a fatal overdose.
The process of opiate withdrawal is a very uncomfortable endeavor and the process can be life threatening especially when withdrawing from a drug combination. The process of withdrawal is associated with symptoms such as irritation, anxiety, insomnia, low energy, and agitation. The patients also experience goose bumps, yawning, muscle aches, abdominal cramping vomiting and diarrhea.
Withdrawal is divided into two stages, acute stage and post-acute stages. The acute stage is involved with the physical withdrawal symptoms, although the extent is different between persons and in the type of drug. The second withdrawal stage or the post acute stage has fewer physical symptoms and more emotional as well as psychological symptoms of withdrawal. This stage takes place since the brain chemistry is slowly going back to normal.
Treatment of the victims of opiate addiction involves both medications and supportive care. The medication that is used in most of the cases is the clonidine. This primarily agitation, runny nose, reduces anxiety, sweating, muscle aches and cramping. Other medications that can treat vomiting as well as diarrhea are also used. Buprenorphine also known as Subutex, has been shown to have better results than other drugs in the treatment of withdrawal from opiates. Use of this drug has also shortened the duration of having detoxification and has been employed in the long-term maintenance.
Long-term maintenance approach has been employed in dealing with the addiction where people take the drug at a dosage which is slowly reduced. This approach has helped in the reduction of the symptoms associated with the drug withdrawal. There are other programs that have advocated for a treatment program known as detox under anesthesia or the rapid opiate detox. This program involves putting the patient under anesthesia and administering through injection a large dose of opiate-blocking drugs. This is done hoping that the process will help the body return to the usual opioid system function quickly. However, there is no evidence that has indicated that these programs indeed reduce the time of recovery from withdrawal. However, there have been cases where the program has reduced the intensity of the symptoms. There are high risks associated with the procedure since several deaths have been reported especially when the procedure is conducted outside the hospital (Zieve and Eltz).
Because vomiting is associated with opiate withdrawal, the incidents of vomiting during anesthesia have increased death risks significantly. This has resulted into many specialists considering the risk behind the procedure of using anesthesia to outweigh its potential as well as the unproven benefits (Zieve and Eltz).
The recovery plan for opiate addiction aims at breaking the cycle shame and guilt. It is important for the victims to join with other victims going through the same addiction. For the victims to be helped, they need to seek for help and have a strong system that offers support. Honesty on the feeling that the victims are having as well as sharing the feelings plays a crucial part in the recovery process. The victims are also encouraged to avoid situations that are risky especially those situations that may lead them back to the former habits. It is also important that the victim go through the recovery plan one day at a time.
Dees, Tim. New approach to fight opiate addiction. 2013. 11 April 2013.
Earhart, Mary. Types of Opiate Drugs. 2011. 11 April 2013.
Michaels House. The History of Opiates. 2013. 11 April 2013.
Pino, F., H. Puerta and R. D'Apollo. "Effectiveness of morphine in non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema due to chlorine gas inhalation." Vet Hum Toxicol 35.1 (1993): 36.
Rehab International. Statistics. 2013. 11 April 2013.
Zieve, David and David R. Eltz. Opiate Withdrawal. 2012. 11 April 2013.