What are Opiates?
Opioids are a class of drugs found to provide a range of benefits, especially in terms of pain management.
Despite being possible to extract opioids from plant matter, such as the poppy plant, most opioids are made in the lab, a process which turns opioids into medications at varied strengths.
Opioids work by interacting with receptors in the brain to produce effects similar to that of morphine. It is essential to understand the differences between weak and strong opioids, as well as the potential complications and side effects associated with using these drugs.
Additionally, it is crucial to be aware of the contraindications and risk factors for prescription abuse to ensure safe and responsible use.
Opium plants have been grown for medicinal and recreational purposes since prehistoric times. Scientists have traced its earliest use back to 1500 BC.
Opiate pain-relieving and euphoric effects were quickly realised, but there was little information about the possible dangers of abusing such a powerful narcotic in those days.
Opiates block pain by binding to the brain’s pain receptors and changing how the brain interprets pain. Although a very effective analgesic, opiates do not cure any ailments. The euphoria this class of drug produces can send a person into an altered state of consciousness.
Painkilling opiates are legally available today on prescription in stronger strengths and over-the-counter in weaker doses; both hold the potential to be abused, and both can cause dependence and addiction.
Opiates come in numerous forms and are regularly combined with other analgesics to provide more effective pain relief. Opiates can be pure, synthesised or semi-synthesised. All are equally addictive, and all produce opiate withdrawal symptoms if you have a physical dependence.
Opiates in all their forms, whether prescription, illicit or over-the-counter painkillers, are being abused worldwide. Death rates around the world have risen alarmingly over the past ten years, declaring a worldwide opioid crisis.
How Opioids Work On The Brain And Body
Opioids work by binding to specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord, reducing the perception of pain and producing a sense of euphoria, which can be particularly beneficial for those who suffer from chronic pain or severe pain due to injury or surgery. However, prolonged use of opioids can lead to physical dependence, tolerance, and addiction, which can be challenging to overcome.
However, it is essential to understand the potential risks and side effects associated with opioids, particularly when misused or abused; an average of 40 opioid drug deaths occur every week in England and Wales. A statistic that reminds us of the effects that opioids can have on the human body.
In addition to the risk of addiction and overdose, opioid use can also result in a range of side effects, including drowsiness, confusion, constipation, nausea, and respiratory depression. It is important to use opioids only as prescribed by a doctor.
Weak Vs. Strong Opioids
Opioids are a highly effective class of medications for managing severe or long-term pain.
Chronic pain is a long-term condition that can be debilitating, and opioids can provide significant relief. Let’s take a look at the different opioids and the varied strengths between them.
Weak opioids include codeine and dihydrocodeine, which provide mild to moderate pain relief prescribed for conditions such as dental pain, menstrual cramps, or mild back pain.
However, even weak opioids can cause side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, and constipation, which is why it’s essential to use them only as prescribed by a doctor and to follow all safety precautions.
If you or a loved one is considering using opioids, it is crucial to discuss the benefits and potential risks with a medical professional. Detox Plus’s support staff can answer any questions and help you develop a safe and effective pain management plan.
Strong opioids include tramadol, buprenorphine, methadone, diamorphine, fentanyl, hydromorphone, morphine, oxycodone, and pethidine. All of these are medications often prescribed for severe pain, such as that associated with cancer, surgery, or injury.
While strong opioids can be highly effective at managing pain, they also carry a higher risk of side effects, addiction, and overdose. Therefore, it is essential to use these medications only as prescribed by a doctor and to be aware of the potential complications associated with their use.
If you, or someone close, are on the cusp of beginning an opioid prescription and would like to find out more about what you may be getting into, then call Detox Plus today, and we can answer any questions you may have.
Complications When Using Strong Opioids
Complications and side effects of opioid use can include constipation, drowsiness, confusion, respiratory depression, and addiction. It is crucial to be aware of these potential risks and to take steps to minimise them, such as following dosing instructions carefully and avoiding alcohol and other drugs that can interact with opioids.
Risk Factors When Considering Opioid Medication
Risk factors for prescription abuse can include a history of substance abuse, a family history of addiction, mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, and social or environmental factors such as a lack of support or access to healthcare.
It is also essential to be aware of these risk factors and to take steps to minimise them, such as seeking treatment for mental health conditions and advice on how to move away from opioid medications when signs of addiction start to creep in.
It’s crucial to note that opioids have relative contraindications, and it’s vital to get yourself assessed by your doctor so they can then decide whether or not to administer your opioid medication.
For example, one of the significant side effects of opioids is respiratory depression, which can be especially dangerous for patients with underlying respiratory conditions. Therefore, it’s essential to monitor patients carefully, adjust dosages as needed, and ensure they do not display any signs of respiratory distress.
By taking these precautions, we can help ensure that patients receive the benefits of opioid medications while minimising the potential risks and side effects.
Also, opioids may not be the first choice for patients with liver or kidney dysfunction because poor excretion and metabolism can lead to the accumulation of byproducts in the system, which can be harmful to the body.
As mentioned, no matter what your health history may be, It is crucial to consult your doctor before considering opioids, as there are alternative pain management options that could have much less of an impact on your health and well-being.
Contraindications In Pregnancy
It’s essential to be aware that opioid use during pregnancy can lead to neonatal abstinence syndrome in approximately 50% of exposed babies. That is why it’s important to remember that there are alternative options available for pain management during pregnancy, and consulting with your midwife can help you find a safer and more effective solution.
Taking these steps to minimise the risks associated with opioid use can help ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Signs of Opioid Addiction
Although those addicted to opioids may appear to function normally, the addiction can eventually result in serious issues.
It is essential to recognise that addiction is a medical condition and that those who struggle with opioid addiction can receive help.
By seeking treatment, we can take steps towards recovery and improve our quality of life. And the sooner you receive treatment, the sooner your body can recover.
Common signs of opioid addiction can include:
- Opioid medication is there to reduce or get rid of pain, but if we continue to take opioids, whether we are in pain or not, it is a sign of addiction.
- Regularly taking an opioid in a way not intended by the doctor who prescribed it can be a sign of addiction, which includes taking more than the prescribed dose or taking the drug for the way it makes you feel rather than for pain relief.
- Mood changes, including excessive swings from elation to hostility, can be a sign of opioid addiction.
- Other signs may include cravings for the drug, compulsive use, neglecting responsibilities, social withdrawal, and changes in physical appearance and sleep patterns.
- Taking medication from others or pretending to lose medications to get more prescriptions are signs of opioid addiction, behaviours that can result in health risks and legal consequences.
- Poor decision-making is one of the common signs of opioid addiction, which can lead individuals to put themselves and others in danger, which may include driving under the influence of opioids, engaging in risky behaviours, or neglecting essential responsibilities.
Risk Factors For Prescription Abuse
Prescription drug addiction can be caused by a combination of genetic, physical, and environmental factors. A family history of addiction, chronic health conditions, and environmental stressors can also increase the risk of addiction.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to prescription drugs, then it is vital to seek help as soon as possible to increase the chances of recovery short term and long term.