WHAT IS AN OPIOID?
Opiates are narcotics, both natural and synthetic, that bind to the opioid receptors in the brain. Common opiates are morphine, codeine, and hydrocodone. These drugs reduce the feeling of pain by affecting the body’s central nervous system. Opioids are important and commonly prescribed medications, and many addicts become introduced to the drug in this way. Later, they feel they cannot live without the euphoric feeling the narcotic provides. Opiates are relatively cheap and easy to obtain.
Heroin is another opiate, and it is leading the opioid epidemic. Unlike the other opiates, it is an illegal drug and is not prescribed by doctors. Heroin use has increased dramatically in recent years among both men and women, diverse age groups, and among all levels of society. Some of the greatest increases have occurred in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use: women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes. The Midwest has been hit especially hard by the recent heroin epidemic.
The dangers of opiate addiction involve the use of the drugs as well as accompanying withdrawal symptoms. The prolonged use of opiates has been shown to cause difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, and even loss of consciousness. Opiate overdoses are often fatal. The Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.
The side effects of withdrawing from opiates without clinical assistance can be physically debilitating and include:
- Stomach cramps