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Long And Short Term Effects Of Opiates

May 24, 2008
Known for centuries as some of the most powerful painkillers, opiates are narcotic drugs made from the poppy plant P. somniferum. Manmade synthetic opiates, called opioids, are made to be used in prescription painkillers such as fentanyl. Opiates are body numbing analgesics that are extremely effective in the relief of pain. In addition to their painkilling abilities, opiates are some of the most addictive substances on the planet and risk for abuse is present with every form of opiate. When withdrawal from opiates occurs, it is known to be one of the most agonizing drug withdrawals, and in the case of powerful opiates such as heroin, it is possible to die from withdrawal symptoms.

Opiate Effects in the Short-Term

After taking an opiate, a sense of euphoria often enters the mind of the user. When opiates are injected directly into the bloodstream, the high can be felt within seconds. It is not uncommon for a heroin user to vomit after using the drug due to the sudden rush felt. While under the influence, opiate users are usually not very receptive to the world around them and completely pain free.

Due to the potent addictive nature of opiates and the harshness of withdrawing, opiate users will spend a good deal of their time chasing the next fix in order to avoid withdrawal. The fact that withdrawal is so uncomfortable coupled with a very quick buildup of a tolerance to opiates makes them some of the most dangerous drugs in the world to abuse recreationally.

Withdrawal Effects Associated With Opiate Abuse

In a mere four to six hours after last using a narcotic, withdrawal symptoms begin to make themselves felt in the form of uneasiness and general discomfort. After a short while longer without drugs, more severe withdrawal symptoms can begin to manifest. Muscles and joints will cramp and ache; nausea will take hold of the addict and end in vomiting. As the withdrawal continues, a user may develop a case of painful constipation or in other cases, diarrhea. Body temperature fluctuates, taking shape in cycles of hot and cold flashes. After a mere twelve hours without opiates, withdrawal can reach a breaking point and potentially lead to death.

Withdrawal from opiates may continue for up to three, even four days. After the first 72 hours withdrawal symptoms will reach a devastating peak. Users often gag and vomit uncontrollably and may lose up to twenty pounds over the course of the withdrawal. Body temperature will often rise, and involuntary twitching of the muscles, especially in the legs will occur. The term "kicking the habit" has its roots in opiate withdrawal symptoms.

The introduction of the painkiller oxycontin has been cause for alarm within the past decade. Similar to opiates in many ways, prescription painkillers are often just as addictive as illegal opiates like heroin and opium. Heroin cut with synthetic opiate such as ones commonly found in painkillers has lead to many overdose deaths. Though pharmaceutical companies have tried to separate the medicinal aspect of opiates from the addictive side, almost no breakthroughs have been made and painkillers are being abused more and more often. When an opiate overdose does occur, shallow breathing and cold skin can often lead to a coma which ends the life of the user. Although opiates do provide a temporary high, the risk of addiction is so high that it is better to avoid them altogether. When prescribed powerful painkillers, do not abuse them and make sure you follow your physician's instructions.
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