What Is Opioid Abuse?

Marco Sumayao

Opioid abuse involves the regular and often excessive use of substances that bind to and activate opioid receptors in the brain. The reaction tends to induce feelings of euphoria in users, leading many individuals to use these drugs for their personal recreation. Frequent use of opioids can lead to dependency and subsequent addiction, resulting in withdrawal symptoms such as tremors and depression when addicts are deprived of the drugs. Extreme cases of abuse usually result in irreparable brain damage in patients. Opioid abuse and its adverse effects have led governments around the world to identify several opioids as regulated or illegal substances.

All opioids, including prescription drugs, come with a high risk of abuse and dependence.
All opioids, including prescription drugs, come with a high risk of abuse and dependence.

Medical professionals often use opioids as anesthetics, as these drugs are among the most powerful analgesic substances identified. They are also used to mitigate intense pain symptoms caused by serious health issues, such as rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. Opioid use has several adverse side effects despite proper administration, including constipation, dry mouth, and bouts of nausea. The main effect that leads to opioid abuse, however, is the euphoric state in which the drugs tend to put patients. Opioid abusers often use drugs such as morphine, codeine, and methadone to induce a dreamlike mental state.

In extreme cases, opioid addiction can lead to stroke.
In extreme cases, opioid addiction can lead to stroke.

Individuals who practice opioid abuse can administer the drugs to themselves or to peers in several ways. The most common method is through direct injection into the bloodstream. According to research, intravenous administration appears to be the quickest route towards achieving the "high" many opioid abusers seek. The drugs can also be taken as pills, either swallowed or allowed to dissolve underneath the tongue. Some abusers choose to take the drugs as vaginal or anal suppositories. Unlike some other recreational drugs, addicts often choose not to take opioids nasally, as the substance can cause an uncomfortable burning sensation in the nasal cavity.

Frequent opioid abuse can boost the user's tolerance for the drugs, forcing him to use larger dosages in order to feel the desired effects. This pattern often leads to dependency, a condition in which the abusers cannot function properly without taking the substances to which they are dependent. Individuals addicted to opioids often experience elevated heart rates, anxiety, and physical weakness. Dependence can also alter the brain's chemistry; many opioid abusers report dysphoria, a condition in which they can feel no pleasure, without prior stimulation from the drugs. In extreme cases, opioid addiction can lead to seizures, strokes, and suicide resulting from severe psychological issues.

Opioid abuse treatment typically involves detox and counseling.
Opioid abuse treatment typically involves detox and counseling.

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