Opioids contain chemicals that react to people's opioid receptors. Opioid receptors are located throughout the body and the brain. Unfortunately, opioid misuse can occur and people can become dependent on opioids quite easily. These in turn lead to accidental overdose deaths.
There are three types of opioid receptors. These are called mu, delta and kappa. These receptors are in the human limbic system, the brain stem and the spinal cord. Opioids interact with all of these systems and stop pain signals before they reach the brain. They can also affect people's breathing and induce psychological symptoms such as euphoria.
Illegal opioids are very dangerous because their chemical makeup can be questionable. One of the most well-known opioids is heroin. Heroin is extracted from morphine, which is extracted from poppy seeds. Heroin found on the streets can be cut with other substances, which can increase its danger. It is highly addictive, causing severe withdrawal symptoms for users who cannot fulfill the body's need for it.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is even more powerful and dangerous than heroin. In fact, it's 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin, and it's so lethal that even a small trace of it on the skin can kill a person instantly. It was originally prescribed by doctors to patients with serious illnesses, but has since infiltrated the street drug culture.
The main prescription opioids are oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and morphine. These opioids are prescribed to help patients curb pain of many types. However, due to its highly addictive nature, a doctor's prescription can lead to a patient craving opioids after the medicine runs out. From there, addicts can search for cheaper and more accessible alternatives, such as heroin.
Oxycodone is used for moderate to severe pain. Many doctors prescribe it after surgery. It releases itself over a 24-hour period, which means that people can experience its alleviating effects not just at the beginning once it's ingested, but hours afterwards.
Hydrocodone is less powerful than oxycodone, and is prescribed for minor to moderate pain. It is also used as a short-term cough suppressant. It lasts from four to six hours. Hydrocodone binds to opioid receptors and prevents pain messages from being sent from the body to the brain.
Codeine is an opioid that is used in many pain relief medicines, including Tylenol #3 and Tylenol #4. It's related to opium and causes drowsiness. When codeine is first ingested, the body converts it to morphine.
Morphine is extracted from poppy seeds. It's used to treat long-term pain. While it helps alleviate pain, it also induces a feeling of euphoria. Users can build up a tolerance to morphine, which means that more is needed to achieve a similar effect. This applies to all types of opioids.
The Problem With Opioids
Opioids affect people of all ethnic groups and socio-economic backgrounds. Addiction is severe and destroys the lives of those who misuse it and their families. Addiction must be treated by professionals in order for the person to have a good chance at recovery. Recovery from opioid addiction is a lifelong journey. It is possible but it's important to take proactive steps and find healing with the help of professionals.