Humans feel pain. They endure physical pain, and they experience mental and emotional pain as well. One way people treat pain is through the use of opiates, a group of drugs that are used for the treatment of pain. Opiates are derived from the opium found in poppy plants, and initially, they were used exclusively to heal physical pain. Today, the opium found in poppy plants is abused and transformed into some of the most addictive, dangerous drugs available today. The following is an overview of opiates, including their Federal classifications, their side effects, and their uses in general as well as the abuse of opiates.
Opiates: the Mother of All Schedule II Drugs
Schedule II drugs are defined as:
- A substance that has a high potential for abuse
- A substance that has the potential to lead to psychological or physical dependence
- A substance that is currently accepted for medical treatment in the United States but has severe restrictions
Out of the sixty-six different types of drugs listed as Schedule II as defined by the United States Controlled Substances Act, forty-eight are classified as opiates and opiate derivatives. Out of the forty-eight, codeine and morphine are the most commonly prescribed by medical professionals for patients suffering from extreme pain. When used as a medical treatment and taken as prescribed by your doctor, opiates treat pain quickly and efficiently; nevertheless, the abuse of opiates has consequences that can be severe.
Abuse of Opiates: Two of the Most Commonly Abused
If opiates are the mother of all Schedule II drugs, then Morphine is the mother of the opiates. It is the only opiate that is one-hundred percent derived from the poppy plant, and it is the substance by which all other painkillers are measured. Morphine is the key ingredient in most painkillers and is only legal when obtained from a prescription. Morphine inspired the group of drugs commonly confused with opiates – opioids, the most widely known of which would be heroin.
Morphine has a high association with addiction. Not only does it have healing properties but it also creates a “body high,” inducing a sense of euphoria in its users. Abusing morphine is a common act. Those who abuse it tend to either take more than the prescribed dosage, crush it down in its pill form to snort it or inject it into their bodies at a rapid rate. By doing so, the user experiences an alleviation of pain, an increased sense of euphoria, and a potentially life-threatening dependence upon the substance.
On the streets, morphine is referred to as M or Vitamin M, and it is revered for its potency. Although it has intensive healing properties, when abused, morphine has adverse effects on the mind’s ability to recall information. Withdrawal symptoms from morphine are infamous, including but not limited to vomiting, nausea, body shakes, aggression, and extreme fatigue. Furthermore, for those with little tolerance to the drug (regular morphine abusers can overdose on as much as 2,000mg, showing how progressively tolerant a user can become over a short course of time).
Codeine is an opium-derivative commonly found in cough medicines. Codeine is a habit-forming drug that can stop breathing in certain users, so its dosage must be monitored. You can find codeine in prescription medicines as common as Tylenol. It can lead to stomach discomfort and is a physically addicting drug. It can become habit-forming even from daily use.
Because codeine is the most widely used, naturally occurring narcotic in medical treatment in the world, it is easily found and easily abused. It is not frequently abused, however, as it is a much less potent sister of morphine. Its effects are not as strong as morphine, and they do not last as long. Nevertheless, the damage codeine can do to your internal organs and ability to breathe can be devastating, so do only take it as prescribed.
Common Misconceptions: Opiates vs. Opioids
Drugs such as heroin are not opiates but opioids. As unbelievable as it may sound, opioids were created by man to mirror opiates. Opioids are developed in a lab and designed to appear structurally similar to that of morphine. In other words, morphine truly is the drug that all other painkillers bow down to.
Nevertheless, the chemical mixtures created today to form opioids are just as, if not more dangerous than the original morphine. This fact is mostly because drug combinations are often unpredictable, and when obtaining drugs without a prescription, it ‘s hard to determine whether or not what you are receiving is the legitimate product you have been promised.
Using the prescribed medicine as prescribed is the safest way to handle pain. Always avoid street drugs as they can lead to an immediate, untimely death. More than 100 people die from drug overdoses every day in the United States; always use common sense and avoid the abuse of opiates.