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Opiate Addiction: Who’s to blame?

Some people raise their eyebrows about legal opiates. They tend to blame the “substance” but not the “user.” Yes, these drugs are addictive, but the responsibility of taking the right dose is in the person himself. Physicians even prescribe opiates to relieve pain.

Legal opiates are also widely used for cough, diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses. Drugs like morphine and codeine are used legally when they are prescribed based on the U.S Department of Justice Guidelines. These narcotic substances have the ability to inhibit pain, suppress appetite, and produce a sedative effect. Some studies even claim that a certain amount of opiates can substitute alcohol consumption because of its “tranquilizer effect.” People who have difficulty in sleeping sometimes resort to using legal opiates because they can induce sleep. This type of drugs surely has positive effects (of course with the proper dosage).

On the other hand, there are also quite a number of side effects linked with excessive use of opiates. Some of these are: constipation (most common), anxiety, fatigue, constricted pupils, itching, spasms, tremors, sweating, delirium, and hallucination. Some people also reported symptoms of allergic reactions like difficulty breathing, rashes, itching, and swelling. Intravenous users are at high-risk for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and Hepatitis infection because of the direct contact through the bloodstream.

Moreover, with habitual opiate use, a person can develop addiction and tolerance which will make it hard for them to withdraw from the drug.Because of these, the person will be taking larger doses of opiates that can lead to overdose and even death. Adverse effects from chronic opiate use include: respiratory depression, cardiac arrest and coma. The lifestyle of an addicted person can also be affected because most of the users spend most of their time trying to obtain the drug. Because of this, they tend to ignore the things that were important in their lives before they even began using the substance.Interpersonal relationship, as well as friendship and families, become less important for the addicted person.

Because of the pleasurable sensations provided by opiates, consumers find it really hard to resist the temptation of getting higher doses than what they need. However, the drugs are just non-living things. They are not responsible for the addictions; the users are. If they don’t want to be addicted, they shouldn’t try it. Or maybe at least they should keep the dose to a minimum or just follow what the doctor’s prescription says.

Natural Alternatives for Legal Opiates

Opiates are no doubt to be one of the most effective drugs in the market today. However, its easy availability to any person of any age can be the cause of the detrimental effects that it could produce to the body, physically and psychologically. In line with this, several natural alternatives for legal opiate use were researched.

People who are already dependent on Opiates should consider alternating non-opiate medications with periodic use of no medication (this is also called “cold turkey”). Here are some of the concepts and products that can be used.

The first one is Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). These help the body in producing prostaglandin to decrease the inflammation in the body.  They can get these from fish oils like that of tuna and salmon. However, the use of these must only be limited to 1-2 capsules with meals a day as it can cause stress and damage when taken massively.

The next ones are the MSM (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane) and DMSO ( Dimethylsulfoxide) that decrease aches and pains associated with arthritis. They should take these for a couple of weeks for a noticeable relief. Metabolic enzymes can also be used like nattokinase, lumbrokinase, and serrapeptase.

Another one is Magnesium Malate which decreases chronic pain. Curcumin and Boswellia, when taken regularly (1-2 times between meals), will also decrease pain.  Some people say that Ultram is the best non-opiate pain reliever although the package insert of the drug says that it should not be taken by people who had a history of opiate dependence.

NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) are also very effective for some people. as they do not cause dependence. Examples of these are ibuprofen and aspirin which are readily sold in local drug stores.

Therapeutic measures are also effective in relieving mild to moderate pain depending on the person’s pain tolerance. Light touch and deep breathing exercises are among the most-used measures of all. Acupuncture can also be used as it helps in the release of endorphins (natural pain killers). D-L-Phenylalanine ( DLPA) is an amino acid needed for the production of the natural pain-killers. Deprivation of these amino acids will result in low pain threshold making the person more susceptible to pain. Above all of the said alternatives in this article, the best concept to alleviate severe pain is physical therapy and rehabilitation because the specialists have the capacity to return the injured body to its pre-injured state.

Legal Opiates as O-T-C drugs

OTC (Over-the-Counter) Drugs are the drugs that are bought in local drug stores. These are easy to buy (in fact, anyone can buy them). Opiates are highly addicting pain relievers. These medicines are useful but would it justify the reason why legal opiates are just over-the counter?

Opiates are either active or synthetic. The active ones include: morphine, thebaine, and codeine while heroin and hydrocodone were just synthesized substances mainly from morphine and codeine.

Morphine is named after the Roman god of dreams, Morpheus. It can relieve almost any type of pain and it can also alleviate anxiety and suffering. This drug is used only for short-term treatments. It is used in both pre-operative and post-operative procedures. In case of overdose or intoxication, (Naloxone) Narcan is given as an antidote.

Codeine took its name from kodeia which means poppyhead. It is slightly milder than morphine and it is also usually used as an ingredient for cough syrups.

Heroin was believed to have non-addicting substances. It was even used before as treatment for morphine and codeine addiction but some researches prove that physical and psychological dependence develop with chronic use.  Tramadol, Oxycontin, and Lortab are also effective pain-killers. The active ingredient found in Loperamide and Imodium is also an opioid. Some prescription pain-killers include Demerol, Dilaudid, and Pantopon.

Other synthetic opiates are methadone, meperidine, propoxyphene, and LAAM. Methadone was first synthesized during World War II as an opiate agonist which mimic the effects of the drug by binding to their natural receptors. Methadone is excreted in the urine, so instances that lead to decreased urination frequency may also lead to drug tolerance and intoxication.

Whether naturally occurring (active) or synthesized, opiates are potentially addictive substances. Tolerance to this drug is abruptly developed. It takes place when the brain is getting used to receiving amounts of opiates, and eventually increasing the amount until the brain craves for more than what is expected to achieve euphoric effects. When the user runs out of it, withdrawal from the drug will occur. This usually happens few hours after the last dose taken. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, anxiety, pain, and diarrhea. The reason why legal opiates are over-the-counter can never be justified because of its addicting properties. Whether it has many positive effects, the harm that it could do to a person is greater. Above all these, one thing is true;, some people are just doing it for money.

About Legal Opiates

Timeline: History tells that the use of opium or opiates came from the Sumerians, and then passed on to the Assyrians, to the Egyptians, and so on. Hippocrates, the father of medicine recognized the narcotic effects of opium and its usefulness in the treatment of internal diseases. In 330 B.C, Alexander the Great introduced the said substance to Persia and India. Opium disappeared for some time because the Western people believed that anything from the East is evil. 1600s, Persians and Indians began eating and drinking opiate mixtures for recreation. During the 1700s, the smoking of opium in pipes was introduced to China and other Southeast Asian countries. In 1800s, a British company started exporting opium products to United States and Europe. Meanwhile, opium production from Southeast Asia was successfully controlled during the early 1900s. After about two decades, the flow of opium from India and Persia were blocked. Several years have passed but the attempts to eradicate opium were still unsuccessful. Because of this, curious scientists and neurologists conducted researches about the positive effects of opium and its derivatives.

Legalities: Opiates are illegal in the United States unless they undergo proper licensing and comply with the guidelines of the U.S Department of Justice. Before 1890, there are already laws concerning opiates. Then, after about two decades, different states created their laws that include the illegal possession of opiates without the doctor’s prescription and indication. Some of the laws governing opium are: the Harrison Act (this tackles about the importing, exporting, distributing opium to register with Federal Government) Bureau of Prohibition 1927 (responsible for tracking crime leaders), Narcotics Control Act, Narcotic Addict Treatment Act of 1974, Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, and H.R. 6344. The Harrison Act allows the doctors to prescribe opiates in line with their medical practice only. However, they must not prescribe the drug and its derivatives to an addict to maintain the addiction.

Origin and Mechanism of Action: Opium is a derivative extracted from the seeds of opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). It was not viewed as a substance to be abused. However many people think otherwise. This is how the drug mechanism works:  Opiate drugs affect the body by activating the receptors in the brain and the body as well. Also, the endorphins produced by the brain helps in the activation process. Stimulation of the receptors leads to high release of dopamine, which results to extrem euphoria, followed by a relaxed state. These effects trigger opiate addiction.