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Opioids Overview and Guide

Opioid medications are one of the most commonly prescribed prescription medications. They are used to provide treatment for pain and have a very effective analgesic quality. Various types of medications fall within the opioid class including narcotics such as morphine, codeine and oxycodone. Most opioids are used to treat pain but they may also be prescribed for severe cough or other medical purposes.

Opioids act by attaching to receptor proteins which are found in the brain, spinal cord and the gastrointestinal tract. By attaching to opioid receptors in the body the opioid drug will work to eliminate the transmission of pain by blocking the ability for the brain to receive the message of pain. Opioids are highly addictive both physically and psychologically.

Effects of Opioids and Opioid Abuse

Opioids can cause drowsiness and depressed respiration when a high dose of the drugs are taken. Additionally, opioid medications may also cause constipation. People who abuse opioids most often take the medication for the euphoric effects that become more pronounced upon taking the drug.

Opioids decrease perception of pain as well as the reaction to pain thus the tolerance to pain is increased. Side effects of opioid use include respiratory depression, constipation and sedation. Opioids are sometimes prescribed to suppress cough and this is sometimes an indication of opioid use. People who use opioids may become physically or psychologically dependent on the medications.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms may occur if the medications are abruptly removed from the system. Withdrawal from opioids may include nausea, vomitting and other negative side effects. Hallucinations and delirium may occur in individuals who take opioids for pain relief. Dose related respiratory depression is another common side effect of opioid use.

Dangers of Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction has many adverse side effects that can be dangerous to the addict. People who use opioids for pain relief may suffer from confusion or delirium as well as dizziness, headache and flushing. Histamine release may cause additional side effects that are uncomfortable and unsafe for the individual.

Chronic use of opioids can cause immune system problems. Opioids decrease the proliferation of the macrophage progenitor cells and affect the differentiation of the cells. For some people, opioid use may result in opioid induced hyperaglesia which is a condition in which those who take the opioid to relieve pain actually feel increase paid as a result of taking the medication. Although this condition is an uncommon side effect of opioid use it can be treated by rotating different opioid analgesics to mitigate the problem.

For men who take high doses of opioid medications on a long term basis the possibility of subnormal testosterone levels is high. Having subnormal testosterone levels may lead to osteoporosis and a reduce in muscle strength when left untreated.

During the initial 5-7 days of opioid use many people will feel drowsy but this symptom will usually dissipate with time. For those who do not feel relief from the drowsiness within a week or two other opioids may be prescribed. Certain opioids cause more drowsiness than others such as morphine versus oxycodone. Stimulants can be used to reverse the drowsiness that is felt from opioids. Some common stimulants include caffeine and amphetamine.

Opioid Addiction Rehab Centers

Drug rehab centers provide a range of treatment services for opioid addiction and withdrawal from opioids. Inpatient and outpatient rehab centers can provide counseling, therapy and medical care for people who are addicted to opioids. Withdrawal from opioids is best treated with the assistance and care of specialists at drug rehab centers.

Because opioid withdrawal is characterized by extremely unpleasant symptoms these drugs are usually difficult for an addict to stop taking. When opioids are abruptly eliminated or discontinued after tolerance has been developed the addict will most likely need help to stop taking the medication. The most common withdrawal symptoms include sweating, nausea, depression, fatigue, pain and vomiting. The severity of withdrawal symptoms can be lessened if the opioids are slowly eliminated from the system through a method of reducing the intake over time.

Withdrawal from some opioids takes longer than others. Methadone withdrawal takes far longer than the withdrawal from other opioids such as heroin or morphine. The withdrawal phase may take twice or three times as long for some opioids versus withdrawal from other opioids depending on the half-life period of the drug.

Opioid addiction drives the user to continue taking the drugs despite the negative consequences that may arise from drug use. Many people who are addicted to opioids may lie, cheat or steal in order to feed their addiction and have a sustainable supply of the drug. For this reason, many users will need extensive therapy in order to stop using opioids. Counseling may be needed to help the drug addict through hard times that the opioid use has caused.

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