Opioids are narcotics that produce pain relief and sedation, These dwgs are usually produced from poppy plants or chemically manufactured in laboratory settings. They are a class of drugs that is subjected to heavy legal scrutiny. This is because there are legal as well as illegal opioids. Drugs such as oxycodone or morphine are legal while heroine is ¡Ilegal. Opioids are used to relieve individuals of intense pain because the drugs have the capacity to react with certain natural receptors in the brain and stimulate the brain into feeling pain relief, pleasure etc.
The problem stems from the fact that although opioids are indispensable when it comes to relieving the pain of seriously sick or suffering individuals, its properties of psychological stimulation and pain relief is often highly abused. Illegal opioids have high addiction potential and this is because these have a higher potency and are not consumed directly but mixed with water and injected into the blood stream or ground into fine powder and snorted. These methods lead to an increased rate in the absorption into the blood stream leading to the body feeling pleasure that is often called a ‘rush.’
Regularly resorting to this form of drug abuse can lead to physical dependence in a few weeks’ time but more significantly psychological dependence can happen in a few days’ time. Opioid addiction comprises of dependence-withdrawal syndromes of opioid compounds and is characterized by both psychological dependence and marked physical dependence, as well as its withdrawal symptoms. The addict is preoccupied with a desire to obtain and take the drug and has persistent drug-seeking behaviour.
Causes Of Opioid Addiction
Genetic Factors – Opioid use runs in families, especially in first degree relatives.
Coping Factors – Failure to learn adequate coping mechanisms during childhood can lead to individuals developing less mental stability to perceived negative emotions as they grow up. This would positively lead to opioid addiction in the future because these individuals would use opioids to deal with the emotional state they are not psychologically equipped to alleviate.
Modelling – The most common way we learn how to act is through observing those around us.
Euphoria – Experience of pleasure, happiness, joy and excitement after the intake of opioids.
Signs And Symptoms Of Opioid Abuse
- Frequent Anxiety
- Low motivation
- Poor Judgment
- Inability to make decisions
- Inability to plan
- Memory problems
- Continued use despite knowing it is leading to or worsening a psychological problem
- Opioid consumption becomes a frequent habit and the body slowly requires bigger quantities of opioids than initially intended.
- Failure to cut down on the amount of opioids consumed.
- Opioid restricts the individual’s ability to carry out responsibilities in different areas of life.
- The individual will not be able to productive, because most of his/her time is spent obtaining or consuming opioids.
- Increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli
- Raised heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Blocked blood vessels
- Increased physical activity
- Loss of appetite
- Sexually active
- Physical agitation
- Difficulty sleeping
- Over arousal and hyper-vigilance
Complications Due To Opioid Dependence
- Death (may be due to overdose, suicide, accidents or health-related complications).
- Skin infection at injection sites (can be severe; necrotising fasciitis can occur).
- Infective endocarditis
- HIV infection
- Hepatitis A, B and C infections
- Tuberculosis infection
- Venous and arterial thrombosis (due to poor injecting techniques).
- Poor nutrition and dental disease
- Relationship problems
- Child protection issues
- Homelessness and deprivation
- Working in the sex industry
- Loss of cognitive skills and memory
Why does a person having opioids require a higher dose over repeated and sustained use of opioids?
A need for more of the drug is required by the substance abuser to achieve the desired effect(s), When taking the same amount, the effects of the drug diminish over time and hence more and more dosages are required to achieve the desired effect.