The History of Opium/drug addiction
More than 3000 years ago, a flower began to appear within the healing process found in Ancient Egyptian medical texts. Across the Mediterranean, the Minoans civilization seems to find similar Ways to use the identical plant for its features. Both ancient civilizations discovered something important – Opium, the extract of the poppy plant, It can do both, increase pleasure chemicals in the body, and reduce the feeling of pain. Although opium has been in use since then, Until the nineteenth century it had been one among its chemical compounds.
Morphine was discovered and separated for medical use. Morphine, codeine, and other substances that are made directly from the poppy plant are called Opiates. In the twentieth century, pharmaceutical companies developed an over sized number of manufactured materials almost like Opiates. These include Heroin, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Fentanyl. Whether manufactured or derived from opium, these compounds are known collectively as opioids. Manufactured or natural, legal or prohibited, these are very effective pain relievers, but they are also extremely addictive.
The chemistry behind drug addiction
In the 1980’s and 90’s, Pharmaceutical companies started aggressively marketing opioid painkillers, underestimating their addictive potential to both the health professionals and also the general public. The quantity of prescriptions for opioids increased significantly and so do opioid addictions, starting a crisis that continues today. To understand why opioids are so addictive, it helps us track how these drugs affect the human body from the primary dose, through frequent use, to what happens when long-term use is discontinued.
The chemistry of each of these drugs is slightly different, but all of them act on the body’s opioid system by binding to opioid receptors within the brain. The body’s endorphins temper pain signals by binding to these receptors, and Opioid drugs bind much more stronger and for longer time frame. So opioids can provide way more pain relief than endorphins can. Opioid receptors also affect everything from mood to normal body functions. In these functions, too, is that the strength and duration of opioid binding mean their effects are stronger and more widespread than those of the body’s natural signaling molecules.
When a drug binds to opioid receptors, it stimulates the discharge of Dopamine. Which is linked to feelings of pleasure and mainly responsible to the sense of euphoria that characterizes an opioid high. At the same time, opioids inhibit the release of noradrenaline, which affects alertness, breathing, digestion, and blood pressure. The therapeutic dose reduces noradrenaline enough to cause side effects like constipation. In higher doses, opioids can reduce heart and breathing rates to dangerous levels causing loss of consciousness or perhaps death.
The urge to keep drug addiction
Over time, the body starts to develop a tolerance for opioids. It should reduce the amount of its opioid receptors, or the receptors may become less responsive. To experience the similar release of dopamine and feel the identical mood effects as before, people have to take higher and better doses. The downward spiral that results in physical dependence and addiction. As people take more opioids to compensate the tolerance, levels of noradrenaline become lower and lower, to the extent that it starts affecting the basic body functions. The body compensates for this by increasing the amount of its noradrenaline receptors. In order to detect much smaller amounts of noradrenaline.
This hypersensitivity to noradrenaline allows the body to continue to function normally after all, it becomes addicted to opioids to maintain the new balance. When someone physically addicted to opioids suddenly stops taking them, that normal balance is disturbed. The Levels of noradrenaline can increase within a day of stopping opioid use. But the body takes much longer to get rid of all the additional noradrenaline receptors it created. That means there is a period of time when the body is too sensitive for noradrenaline.
This increased sensitivity causes withdrawal symptoms, including muscle soreness, stomach pain, fever, and vomiting. Though temporary, opioid withdrawal is very debilitating. In some severe cases, an individual experiencing withdrawal symptoms can become very ill for days or perhaps weeks. People who are drug addicts are not necessarily using the drugs to get high anymore, but rather to avoid being sick. Many risk losing salaries or maybe jobs in the withdrawal period, or may not have anyone to take care of them during withdrawal. If someone returns to using opioids later, they will be particularly be on severe risk of overdose. Because what was considered a regular dose which makes them feel high, can now be fatal.
The combat against Drug addiction
Since 1980, there are accidental deaths from opioid overdose increased exponentially in the USA. and opioid addictions have exploded around the globe. While prescriptions for the opioid painkillers have become more directly regulated, over dosage and drug addictions cases are still increasing, especially among younger people. Many of the early cases of addiction were in middle-aged people who became addicted to the painkillers that were prescribed to them, Or from friends and family who have prescriptions.
Today, young people are often introduced to Opium/drug addiction by prescription But they are turning towards heroin or illegal synthetic opioids, because they are cheaper and easier to get. After tighter regulation of opioid painkillers, what can we do to reverse the increasing rates of addiction and overdose? A drug called Naloxone is currently our greatest defense against over dosage. Naloxone binds to opioid receptors but doesn’t activate them. It prevents the remainder of the opioids from binding to the receptors. And it removes even from the receptors to counteract an overdose.
Drug addiction is rarely an independent disease. Most of the time, people that are hooked to opioids are those who suffer from a mental health condition. There are both in-hospital treatment programs and outpatient treatment that combine between medication, health services, and psychotherapy. But many of those programs are very expensive. And cheaper options can have long waiting lists. It also usually requires complete detoxification from opioids before starting treatment.
Both the withdrawal period and the common months-long stay in an establishment are almost impossible for people that risk losing their jobs and housing during this time frame. Opioid treatment programs aim to deal with a number of these barriers, and eliminate opioid abuse by employing a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. These programs avoid withdrawal symptoms with medication that bind to opioid receptors but don’t cause psychological effects of painkillers, heroin, and other opioids are commonly misused drugs.
Methadone and Buprenorphine are the primary medicines for drug addiction therapy running today. But doctors need a special exception to prescribe them. Although there is no special training or certification is necessary to prescribe opioid painkillers. Buprenorphine is very scarce and there is already a rising black marketplace for it. Certainly there is still a long way to go to combat drug addiction, but there are great resources for making sense of the treatment options.
Learn more here: Drug Addiction
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