In this blog post, I’ll use “opioid” to describe all opiates, organic and synthetic. There’s confusion with all the discussion surrounding opioids, opium, heroin, morphine, opiates, etc. Below is a good description to help clarify:
To understand the classification of heroin as a drug, we must first understand its origin. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin is “an opioid drug that is synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant.” Milky, sap-like opium is first removed from the pod of the poppy flower. This opium is refined to make morphine, then further refined into different forms of heroin (DrugFreeWorld.com).
There is a lot of back-and-forth discussion on the difference between opiates and opioids, but the general consensus is that opiates or opiate drugs “originate from naturally-occurring alkaloids found in the opium poppy plant” (Opium.com). Opiate drugs are best-known for their pain-relieving properties.
Opioids, on the other hand, while similar to opiates in that they are also partly derived from opium, are primarily different because their makeup is manufactured. Opioids are actually synthetic drugs that produce opiate-like effects.
Other definitions choose to lump opiates and opioids together under the broader category of “opioids.” This is the proper medical terminology. According to NAABT.org, an opioid is “any agent that binds to opioid receptors (protein molecules located on the membranes of some nerve cells) found principally in the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract, and elicits a response.”
So, people start using opioids in all its forms for different reasons, pain relief, experimentation, the euphoric effect, to relieve boredom, but the reason a person eventually uses opioids addictively is because there are brain changes that cause what can be called “insane” compulsion. The opioid addict uses the drug in spite of negatively consequences, and craves the drug after it’s been removed from the body. This obsession with opioids is difficult for most people to understand. Most people aren’t susceptible to addiction, only about 10% of the people who use opioids. The average person is baffled when a friend or family member uses opioids in a way that appears self-destructive, extremely self-centered and irrational.
Because we all want to find reasons for things that appear to have no reasonable explanation, loved ones develop reasons — the person is irresponsible, or the person is using to deal with some traumatic incident from the past, or the person is influenced by others. Any of these reasons might be true in the beginning, but when the person’s brain changes the drug use is driven by other forces. Here’s a partial explanation from NCBI:
Brain abnormalities resulting from chronic use of heroin, oxycodone, and other morphine-derived drugs are underlying causes of opioid dependence (the need to keep taking drugs to avoid a withdrawal syndrome) and addiction (intense drug craving and compulsive use). The abnormalities that produce dependence, well understood by science, appear to resolve after detoxification, within days or weeks after opioid use stops. The abnormalities that produce addiction, however, are more wide-ranging, complex, and long-lasting. They may involve an interaction of environmental effects—for example, stress, the social context of initial opiate use, and psychological conditioning—and a genetic predisposition in the form of brain pathways that were abnormal even before the first dose of opioid was taken. Such abnormalities can produce craving that leads to relapse months or years after the individual is no longer opioid dependent.
Read the entire article for a better understanding. At NewDay Counseling, we offer free consultations to help find solutions to opioid addiction.