What are Opiates and How are they Used?
What are Opiates?
Opiates are drugs derived from the poppy plant. This is the same family that heroin and opium are part of, but when we talk about opiates, we generally refer to the prescription medications that are manufactured for human and animal medicine. Opiates are painkillers which are used for both chronic and acute pain.
Commonly prescribed opiates include:
Helpful Uses of Opiates
Opiates are beneficial medications when used properly and under the care of a skilled physician. They provide much-needed relief for millions of Americans who suffer from painful conditions.
Sports Injuries, Surgeries, Chronic Pain
These medications work on opioid receptors in the brain, blocking pain messages to the brain and thereby reducing the person’s perception of pain. These medications are generally safe for patients of all ages to manage acute injuries as well as long-term conditions. Sports injuries are often treated with opiates, and these medications are also commonly used to provide pain relief after surgery and other procedures. Chronic pain stemming from old injuries, cancer, and other conditions are also often managed with opiates.
Destructive Opiate Use
However, when used longer than directed or in greater dosages than recommended, opiates turn destructive. This family of drugs is highly addictive and can lead to abuse and dependence and the side effects that come with it. The danger with prescription painkillers comes when people start self-medicating instead of following their doctor’s directions. If the prescribed amount is not providing the relief the person is looking for, they might be tempted to take more pills. Or they might share prescriptions with friends and family in order to try to provide them with some relief. When it comes to prescription painkillers, self-medicating in this way is dangerous and can easily lead to addiction.
Some people use prescription opiates for the purpose of getting high. These are generally individuals who have abused prescription pills before or are addicted to other drugs, such as heroin, and are looking for a better or more convenient high. Opiates, when taken in large amounts, provide a feeling of euphoria, much like heroin and other drugs. Individuals using opiates to get high will buy and sell prescription opiates just like other illegal drugs, or they sometimes steal them from unsuspecting loved ones.
In recent years, the act of overprescribing has received much attention. Law enforcement has cracked down on pill mills, doctors, and pharmacists who knowingly overprescribe opiates to addicts. Even doctors who have good intentions can get caught up with overprescribing when they mistakenly prescribe pills to patients who fake or lie about symptoms, or they want to compassionately stop a person’s pain. As the opiate abuse epidemic has worsened in America, doctors are becoming more aware of the dangers of overprescribing, and are working to monitor patients more closely.
Some people who are dependent on prescription painkillers will doctor shop, or visit multiple doctors with fake ailments, in order to gain access to more pills. This is illegal, and prescription databases and extra precautions on the part of physicians and pharmacists are working to curb the dangerous practice of doctor shopping.
How are Different Types of Opiates Used?
Opiates come in various forms and strengths. The most common types of opiates prescribed today are oral tablets. These pills are easy for patients to take on their own at home or after surgery and can be stopped easily for the vast majority of those to whom which they are prescribed. Common oral opiates include codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, and tramadol.
Opiates also come in patches that are applied directly to the skin. This form of opiates delivers medication slowly over the period of a few days. Fentanyl is the most common type of opiate patch.
Finally, opiates come in an injectable form that can be given intravenously (IV) or subcutaneously (under the skin), such as hydromorphone and morphine. These forms of the medication are generally given by a nurse or medical professional in a hospital, hospice, or clinical setting.
How Addicts Use Opiates
Those who are addicted to prescription opiates and are using the drugs to get high will abuse these medications in various ways. They might crush the pills and snort them, dissolve them in liquid and inject them, or use multiple patches at one time. Using prescription opiates in a manner other than prescribed is dangerous and can result in overdose and death.