Public Health

What are Opiates?

And why are they so addictive?

I wanted to take a step back from yesterday’s post on the Opioid Crisis to discuss exactly where Opiates come from and how they affect the brain and body.

Opiates are drugs that are derived from the Opium plant when the poppy is cultivated, the Sumerians referred to it as the Joy Plant, for its effects. Opium has long been used in ancient medicine because of its powerful pain relief and ability to induce sleep.

Opioids produce endorphin’s in the brain, which produces good feelings and feelings of euphoria. They work by binding to certain receptors in the central nervous system, producing the analgesic affect.  Opioid drugs are one hundred times stronger than what our brains can do.

Overtime the brain not only developes a tolerance to the drugs, it slows production of the endorphins naturally. When the body stops receiving a large amount of endorphin’s people feel sick and depressed, they experience withdrawal symptoms, stress anxiety, lack of sleep, suicidal thoughts and pain. Because the brain slows down the production of its own edorphins, the only way to feel better is to take drug, thus addiction.

This is just the tip of the iceberg so to say, long term use of opioids effect the entire body. I will summarize a study I read recently on the long term affects of the drug on the body systems. Diarrhea, ear ringing, slowed breathing, depression, agitation, vertigo, speech disorders. This leaves us with having to deal with the temporary withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug, or the long term effects on your body.

So how do we address this?

In my next post I will discuss alternate therapies and challenges associated with them.



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