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Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. These drugs are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain.
History of Opioids
Opioids have been praised by cultures and important historical figures throughout history for their amazing healing properties. Alexander the Great approved of the drug and introduced it to the Persians, while Hippocrates (the Father of Medicine) acknowledged opium’s usefulness as a narcotic and styptic in treating internal diseases, and epidemics. He prescribed drinking the juice of the white poppy mixed with the seed of nettle.
Opiate Addiction in America
Opiate Effects on the Mind
When consumed or injected, opiates affect the mind in a number of ways. Users often describe a euphoric feel shortly after taking the drug. In certain doses, sedation or daytime sleepiness may occur. When prescribed by a doctor and taken accordingly, opiates can put the mind at ease, eliminating social anxiety and increasing alertness. Opioids can also act as a stimulant, as they raise dopamine and serotonin levels within the body.
Opiate Effects on the Body
Similarly to the effects on the mind, opiate drugs put the body at ease. Reports have even shown a physical euphoric high occurring, much like the effects on the mind. Painkillers like opiates are most sought after for their ability to alleviate chronic pain for a certain amount of time which is also what makes the drug so addicting.
Respiratory Depression from Opiate Abuse
Physically, the biggest threats opiates have towards the body are on the respiratory system. Simply, the respiratory system is in charge of regulating oxygen levels within the body. When interrupted or working improperly, breathing within the body slows down, and the body must overwork itself to bring itself back to homeostasis. As overdoses and deaths occur following opiate abuse, toxicology reports have a consistent theme of a lack of oxygen in victims, respectively. Mixing the drug with another such as alcohol may also contribute heavily to respiratory failure in victims.
Addiction occurs after the body goes through rapid levels (up and down) of chemical changes over a certain amount of time, much like a roller coaster. As drug use continues, tolerance is built and the body requires more and more to require the same amount of pain relief. When dopamine levels rise and fall quickly within the body, the body has no choice but to stay in a mode where it does not know when the next dose will come, creating an addiction-like craving for the drug at all times. This complex process of addiction must be understood to better handle the current opiate addiction. Here are the three steps to addiction:
Step One: Introduction and Consumption
During this time, users experiment with different types of opiates, mostly due to chronic pain both mentally and physically. The federal government reports that over 2 million people experiment with heroin annually.
Step Two: Increased Usage of the Drug
Users, unable to stop what they have started, continue using the drug for its ability to create euphoria and eliminate pain.
Step Three: Physical and Mental Addiction
At this stage, users (aware or unaware) have become addicted to the opiate. Step three is the hardest stage to recover from, as the body creates a physical need for the drug not only to get high, but to even feel normal.
Causes of Addiction
Dangers of Opiate Addiction
In 2016, the five states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose were West Virginia (52.0 per 100,000), Ohio (39.1 per 100,000), New Hampshire (39.0 per 100,000), Pennsylvania (37.9 per 100,000) and Kentucky (33.5 per 100,000). Significant increases in drug overdose death rates from 2015 to 2016 were seen in the Northeast, Midwest and South Census Regions. States with statistically significant increases in drug overdose death rates included Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
When going by the numbers, opiate addiction may just be the worse in terms of deadliness due to its potency as a drug, and increase in its use. Heroin use can be directly related to a high number of overdoses and deaths amongst its users who die while also using other drugs. In Hollywood, late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, musician Jim Morrison, and perhaps most notably, deceased Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain have all fallen prey to death by this vicious drug. As the drug becomes more and more commonly abused, cannabis is finding its way as a much healthier alternative to save the lives of opiate users. While studies are currently being conducted on its many health benefits, experts say the future of cannabis as a reliable plant-medicine looks promising.
Signs of Opiate Addiction
Opiate drugs, including prescription painkillers and heroin, can produce withdrawal symptoms just hours after the last dose, and the symptoms can last for a week or more.
Unassisted withdrawal may not be life threatening, but it can lead to relapse. Medications and therapy, accessed in medical detox, may make relapse less likely.
Any addiction to a substance is detrimental to the overall wellbeing of our health. In the case of an addiction to opiates, there are a number of effective options for treatment. These treatment options vary from at-home remedies involving medication, to intervention, to facilities where patients are treated and cared for properly. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs, take the correct steps to tackle the issue head on.
At-Home Opiate Addiction Remedies – Medication
Methadone, sold under the brand name Dolophine, among others, is an opioid used to treat pain and as maintenance therapy or to help with tapering in people with opioid dependence. Detoxification using methadone can either be done relatively rapidly in less than a month or gradually over as long as six months. While a single dose has a rapid effect, maximum effect can take five days of use. The effects last about six hours after a single dose. After long term use, in people with normal liver function, effects last 8 to 36 hours. Methadone is usually taken by mouth and rarely by injection into a muscle or vein.
Methadone relieves withdrawal symptoms and makes the detoxification period faster.
Buprenorphine can shorten the time of the detox period and lessen withdrawal symptoms.
Clonidine can treat symptoms like anxiety, agitation, and muscle aches.
Intervention / Accountability Partner
One of the hardest steps in the recovery of opiate addiction is being vulnerable enough to speak about your addiction to someone else. Shame and guilt are often emotions closely related to suffering from any addiction. However, taking the step of speaking about the topic is what takes away its power over the user. Victims who try to do it all alone are often met with regret and relapse because they fail to understand the correct steps to take in the recovery process. Seek honorable drug rehab interventions, or find someone you can trust and talk to about your addiction before it is to late.
Opiate Addiction Treatment Programs
There is a number of out-patient and in-patient rehabilitation centers that help treat addiction to opiate drugs. These programs aim not only to stop a current addiction, but also help rewire the brain back to a healthy, non-dependent state. Ask your physician who they recommend, and set up a meeting with them.
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among other names, is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant intended for medical or recreational use. The main psychoactive part of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Modern science is now reporting cannabis as an amazing plant-medicine that treats the symptoms of opiate abuse. When coming off of an opiate, medical supervision is highly advised. The failure to seek advice from a doctor may result in further harm, or in some cases, death.
Cannabis sativa is a specific strand of marijuana that promotes alertness, creativity, and mood improvement. Cannabis sativa, in many cases, can act as a stimulant, bringing euphoria in the same manner of an opiate.
Cannabis indica is a specific strand of marijuana that promotes physical relaxation and appetite growth. Users attracted to indica note its ability to aid in medical conditions such as insomnia or depression.
Hybrid cannabis is any strand of cannabis containing both sativa and indica. Depending on which strain is most present, the strands of marijuana can be classified as sativa dominant, or indica dominant.
THC and CBD are different compounds that are found in marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD (cannabidiol) is not psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t get you high. On the contrary, CBD actually interrupts the high that THC produces. In some cases CBD even eliminates hunger. Recently, CBD has made its way into mainstream medical studies as researchers are finding its healing properties to be significant and positive. Inflammation reduction, migraine relief, and even cancer-preventing qualities are all within this amazing compound.
Other benefits of CBD include:
Cannabis for Pain
Upon its legalization, cannabis has been noted for its ability to significantly eliminate pain. From headaches to the pain of childbirth, many of the medical marijuana advocates who spoke at the public sessions held by the IOM—among them cancer and AIDS patients, migraine sufferers, and people with spastic and movement disorders—described how marijuana helped relieve their painful symptoms.
As the numbers show, opiate addiction is nothing to be taken lightly. While any addiction poses its threats, the addiction to opiates can be extremely dangerous, if not deadly. As doctors and medical professionals looks for possible ways to tackle the issue of this current epidemic, cannabis stands at the forefront of medical breakthroughs. As science continues to develop around the subject, experts find a growing number of clinical studies where cannabis is used to treat opiate addictions, and the future looks promising.