History of Opiates
Read the history of opiates, and you’ll read the history of America. The use of opiates dates back to the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620, when physician Samuel Fuller brought an early form of laundanum, a tincture derived of opium and alcohol, and used it as a painkiller for those suffering from smallpox, dysentery, and cholera. From that point onward, opiates were used to treat pain.
By the mid-1800s, you could find opiates in everything. It was in teething powders which were given to children, and it was an analgesic used for menstrual cramps. Of course, at this point, no one knew that opiates were dangerous. In fact, it wasn’t until 1906 when the United States government first marked opiates as a dangerous product. Three years later, they were banned from importation.
The tide was turning on opiates. No longer seen as a miracle drug, they now became one of the drugs at the forefront of law enforcement’s focus. Opiates became a legal issue rather than a medical issue. It wasn’t until after the Second World War that their popularity rose once more, this time courtesy of pharmaceutical drugs such as Oxycodone and Vicodin.
Today, opiates, and the products deriving from them are stronger than ever. While still prescribed as painkillers, many without prescriptions may turn to the streets to secure heroin and fentanyl. And the problem is only getting worse.
Why Opiates and Opioids Are Still Produced
While the medical community does recognize the dangers of opioid abuse, the drugs still have several legitimate uses. Generally speaking, physicians will prescribe an opioid for patients experiencing legitimate pain for which there is no other treatment. Essentially, instead of taking a Tylenol or an Advil, you’d be prescribed an opioid.
Earlier in history, addictions to any substance — whether it be alcohol, opioids, or nicotine — was seen as a moral failure. The person taking the drug was blamed, rather than the drug itself.
This was particularly true of opiates and opioids. However, today’s knowledge of how the drugs work is starting to alleviate that stigma. It’s known that opioids work by altering a person’s brain chemistry, which is one of the reasons why they’re considered addictive and can lead to overdose. According to the Center for Disease Control, between 1999 and 2015 more than 183,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids.
Opioids are still prescribed today, as they are considered necessary in certain circumstances, particularly when no other form of painkillers will work. However, an addiction to opioids does carry a social stigma. If you’re like most people, when you picture a heroin addict, you probably picture someone who looks strung out and has track marks in their arms. However, opioids can be abused by anyone. Privileged teenagers raiding their parent’s medicine cabinet, construction workers who’ve become addicted after finishing a legitimate prescription, and successful business owners can all fall victim to opioids. Prescription overdose rates are highest among people aged 25 to 54.
The Different Kinds of Opiates and Opioids
While the terms “opiates” and “opioids” are frequently used interchangeably, they actually refer to two different — but similar — things.
Opiates are natural and include morphine, codeine, heroin, and opium. Opioids are synthetic and include various medications which contain methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, pethidine, hydromorphone, and fentanyl. It’s important to note that just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s better or healthier. Heroin is considered natural, but it’s not something you would want to be addicted to.
One common misconception is that opioids and opiates remove pain. The truth is that they don’t remove the pain, but rather they change the perception of pain. The drugs work by causing nerves to send messages to the brain saying the person isn’t experiencing pain. If you were to stop taking the opioid, the pain, and the underlying cause, are still present.
Problems occur when someone who isn’t experiencing pain decides to take an opioid or opiate. They will experience a euphoric feeling, a high that can become incredibly addictive.
Prescription Opioids and Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms
If doctors know that opioids have the potential for misuse, why are they prescribed? The answer lies in the fact that despite the drawbacks, opioids are still an effective pain management tool. After a severe physical injury, or during the recovery from a difficult surgery, physicians may turn to opioids to provide their patient with pain management. Note that pain management and pain-free are not the same things. Problems, and addiction arises when a patient takes more of the opioid or opiate than is prescribed.
At that point, a dependency can begin to develop, in which the patient needs to keep taking the opioid just to feel normal again. Unfortunately, the more opiates you take, the higher your tolerance becomes to the drug, and the more you need to take to experience the same high. This is how overdoses happen. If you try to stop on your own, most people face severe opiate withdrawal symptoms.
It is incredibly difficult for an opioid addict to rehabilitate. Opiate withdrawal symptoms are severe, and if the rehabilitation process isn’t done properly, the odds of relapse remain high.
If you or a loved one have questions about opiate withdrawal symptoms, call one of our opiate addiction rehabs in Ohio specialists today at 855-598-3048.