How Opiates Work and Why are They Addictive?




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Opiates are drugs used to treat illnesses with one thing in common, pain. Pain is simply the way our bodies tell us that something is wrong. We created over-the-counter painkillers to deal with minor pain. It could be a headache or a sore muscle, but sometimes, we need something bigger. There are conditions that cause intense, constant pain. So much that people are debilitated by it. This is where opiates have a role in our lives, their ability to slow and suppress the nervous system relieves people of their pains.

How does that happen exactly?

All-in-One Brain Pass

The chemicals in opiates have the ability to pass through the “blood-brain-barrier.” This barrier is what protects our brains from other toxins in the blood. Think of it as a special gate where only authorized brain-friendly stuff can pass. Opiates have a multi-pass, allowing them to reach your brain within minutes of intake. This speed of effect is actually what makes opiates favored for pain relief. Unfortunately, this speed is also what makes opiates dangerous.

Substitute Workers

The body has its own opiate-like substances. They are triggered by certain situations and when picked up by the brain, causes certain effects. Commonly, the effect is pleasure, ecstasy or a sedative effect. Opiates are unique chemicals dressed up like those. Opiates attach to the same receptors that those natural feel-good chemicals attach to, tricking the brain. Opiates also produce stronger and longer-lasting effects, which is also what makes them addictive.

Commonly Used Opiates

Their potent effects are extremely beneficial to people who need to manage their pain. Some are also used as anesthetics for surgery. The following are the commonly used opiates.

  • Morphine
  • Meperidine
  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin

People can get addicted to opiates through legal means. Someone could have surgery or an injury which could require opiates, and before they know it, they’ve used it long enough to get addicted, or at least dependent. How does it happen? How do you get addicted?

How Dependency Happens

It could happen as simply as using the drug long enough. There are, however some factors that push people into dependency. The issue lies in the fact that opiates don’t cure, they simply temporarily take the pain away. The following are the factors that will influence the addiction.

  • Withdrawal Symptoms. Even if the pain is gone, a user will experience a variety of bad effects without the drug. Symptoms such as sweating, shaking, insomnia and diarrhea. They also come with psychological symptoms like anxiety, nervousness, and irritability. The only way to stop the effect is to get another dose or get through the entire withdrawal process, which can take weeks to months.
  • Tolerance. After enough doses, the body adjusts to the drug. This means the same dosage will have fewer effects. The only way to get the same effect is to raise the dosage.
  • Stress and Depression. Opiates stimulate the brain’s reward center and releases tension, making the user feel good. If the person uses the drug to relieve stress, it becomes a coping mechanism and will likely lead to addiction.

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