Opiates

Opiates or narcotics — are pain relievers made from opium, which comes from the poppy plant. Morphine and codeine are the two natural products of opium. Synthetic modifications or imitations of morphine produce the other opiates:

  • • Heroin (street drug)
  • • Dilaudid (hydromorphone)
  • • Percocet, Percodan, OxyContin (oxycodone)
  • • Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab (hydrocodone)
  • • Demerol (pethidine)
  • • Methadone
  • • Duragesic (fentanyl)

When people use narcotics only to control pain, they are unlikely to become addicted to the drugs. However, opiates provide an intoxicating high when injected or taken orally in high doses. Opiates are also powerful anxiety relievers. For these reasons, narcotic abuse is one of the most common forms of drug abuse in the U.S.

Opiate abuse can be defined as the use of an opiate based medicine beyond a doctor’s prescription with the intention of achieving a high or desired effect, such as relieving anxiety. Opiate dependence occurs when the body develops tolerance to the drug, meaning higher doses are needed for the same effect. In addition, stopping the drug produces drug withdrawal symptoms. Opiate addiction occurs when an individual is dependent on opiate use, while at the same time, displays psychological effects, such as compulsive behaviors to get the drug; craving for the drug; and continued use despite negative consequences, like legal problems or losing a job.

Signs and Symptoms of Opiate Abuse

  • • Analgesia (feeling no pain)
  • • Sedation
  • • Euphoria (feeling high)
  • • Respiratory depression (shallow or slow breathing)
  • • Small pupils
  • • Nausea, vomiting
  • • Itching or flushed skin
  • • Constipation
  • • Slurred speech
  • • Confusion or poor judgment

Symptoms of Opiate Withdrawal

If a person uses opiates for a long time, they develop physical dependence and tolerance. Usually, opioid abusers will then take more of the drug, to continue to get high. If a person stops using opiates after they become physically dependent on the drug, they will experience drug withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of drug withdrawal from opiates include:

  • • Anxiety
  • • Irritability
  • • Craving for the drug
  • • Rapid breathing
  • • Yawning
  • • Runny nose
  • • Salivation
  • • Gooseflesh
  • • Nasal stuffiness
  • • Muscle aches
  • • Vomiting
  • • Abdominal cramping
  • • Diarrhea
  • • Sweating
  • • Confusion
  • • Enlarged pupils
  • • Tremors
  • • Loss of appetite

The symptoms of opiate withdrawal aren’t medically dangerous. But they can be agonizing and intolerable, contributing to continued drug abuse. In general, how severe opiate withdrawal symptoms are, and how long they last, depends on how long the person has been abusing opiates and how much they have been taking.

Medicines like methadone or buprenorphine can be used to prevent withdrawal symptoms after a person stops using, a process called detoxification (“detox”). After drug withdrawal is complete, the person is no longer physically dependent on the drug. But psychological dependence can continue. Some people with drug addiction may relapse in response to stress or other powerful triggers.

The following is a list of some of the most commonly prescribed and abused opiate based medications:

  • • Codeine
  • • Darvicet
  • • Demerol
  • • Loricet
  • • Loritab
  • • Morphine
  • • Oxycontin
  • • Oxycodone
  • • Percocet
  • • Percodan
  • • Roxicet
  • • Roxicodone