Opiates are controlled prescription substances that come from opium, which is a natural chemical found in plants and poppy seeds. Doctors prescribe these drugs to treat mild to severe pain in patients, and they’re also known as opioid painkillers. Due to their relaxing effects, some patients abuse opiates, which can result in addiction.
A person typically develops an addiction to painkillers after a doctor prescribes them following an accident or injury. Patients receive a prescription with a specified dose from their doctor, with no intention of abusing the medication. However, they may develop an increased tolerance of painkillers, meaning the drug is no longer as effective in small doses.
A higher tolerance can cause a patient to take larger doses than their recommended amount to achieve the calming effect they crave. Increasing the dosage can lead to drug dependence, whereby an individual must continue taking the substance to feel normal.
If a person’s drug-seeking behavior spirals out of control and begins to impact their mental and physical health, they may have an addiction. Addiction is more severe than a strong desire to use drugs because it’s a neurological disease that can feel inescapable.
Many people use the terms “opiate” and “opioid” interchangeably because both substances produce similar effects.
Opiates: These substances contain active ingredients that are naturally derived from opium. Common opiates include codeine and morphine, which are both from the opium found in poppy plants.
Opioids: These substances are synthetically produced, and they mimic the natural effects of opium. Some opioids are entirely synthetic, whereas others are semi-synthetic, meaning they contain natural opium.
It doesn’t matter if a drug came from a natural source or if someone chemically produced it. Frequent use of both opiates and opioids carries an equal potential for abuse and dependency. Both drugs work by activating a person’s Mu receptors in their brain, which depresses their central nervous system.
When these receptors activate due to drug use, they release endorphins, which is a feel-good chemical.
These symptoms can lead to short and long-term psychological and neurological effects, such as permanent brain damage, coma, or death.
Opiate withdrawal can be both uncomfortable and dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms include: