An opiate is a drug that contains opium and is an analgesic, which means that it reduces pain by binding receptors in the brain (opioid receptors).
Current medicine has developed some completely synthetic versions of these drugs such as Fentanyl and Meperidine also called Demerol.
There are still drugs that are based only on opium however such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, Morphine and Dilaudid. These drugs are all prescribed for treatmenting moderate to severe pain from injuries or surgery and in some cases for chronic pain management.
Long term usage of these drugs can produce a high tolerance to them causing the individual to have to take more of the drug in order to achieve the same affect over and over again. Not taking increased dosages of the drug can cause withdrawal symptoms to occur therefore encouraging the individual to take more of the drug to prevent the discomfort. Opiates are therefore highly addictive and can lead many long term users to become dependent on and addicted to the drug. Individuals who rely on them for pain management on a daily basis are greatly at risk for such addiction.
How are Opiates Abused?
Opiates become abused when the individual prescribed the medication can no longer get through a day without taking the pills. They may have been prescribed the drug for pain relief from an injury or a surgery and then could not stop taking them. They also are likely to have found that each time they take the pills they are less likely to achieve the feeling that they are looking for forcing them to want to take more of the drug. This usually means they will ask their doctor for a higher dosage of medication or even start self-medicating by taking more of the drug than was directed. If they stop taking the drug they find themselves in pain. This pain is likely due to the drug withdrawals than the original reason for taking them in the first place. Once the body feels the pain the individual is physically addicted to the drug.
Physical addiction to opiates is also accompanied by psychological addiction. The body tells the mind that it will be in great pain if the drug is stopped and the mind then believes it needs the drug to function every day. The cycle continues this way and the dosages increase to keep up with the body's need for the drug. Individuals who are addicted to the drug will lie to their doctor, hospitals and anyone else they think can help them to get more of the drug and keep their body and mind from causing pain to them.