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What are Opiates?

Opiates are substances that have been derived from the poppy plant which grows throughout the world. Natural opiates are created from the resin of the poppy, some of these are opium, codeine, morphine, and heroin. Synthetic forms of this are Demerol, Darvon, Methadone, and others. Formulas from this plant have been used for centuries by individuals.

These substances are narcotics which are used both recreationally by people and in medicine for the treatment and abatement of pain related conditions and therapies. The nature of these types of drugs makes it very desirable for its ability to remove the sensation of pain, and also to produce euphoria for the individual who takes it. It acts quickly within the brain to trigger the pleasure center, this same characteristic make it a substance which is commonly abused.

The narcotics of this class work by binding to natural receptors present in the limbic system, brain stem, and spinal cord. These three regions are important to the way that the narcotic affects the individual as a depressant.

The limbic region is responsible for emotions. By attaching to receptors in this area a person is given a feeling of contentment and pleasure. This leads to the state of total relaxation associated with the administration of these drugs. When bound to receptors in the brain stem it slows the natural functions of the body such as respiration and pain perception. Since the spinal cord is the message center for sensations throughout the body, by binding in these location it creates analgesia. The resulting lack of pain in the body is made by disrupting the communication between the brain and nerves.

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The general physical effects of narcotics include better tolerance or diminishing of pain and full relaxation. As a central nervous system depressant it also suppresses appetite and thirst, as well as heart rate and respirations. With a direct effect on the brain, there is a noticeable decrease in brain function in those who have taken the drug.

Not everyone responds to the administration of these narcotics, they have been found to produce the best effects for neuropathic pain. The proper use of these narcotics is considered safe by the Drug Administration however the National Institute for Health recognizes the high incidence of addiction associated with it.

These drugs are easily addictive. The drug dependency quickly engulfs the individual's life, making the need for the substance the driving force in the daily activities over all else.

Withdrawal from these narcotics can begin within four to six hours of the last dose that was taken by the individual. The symptoms vary by person but typically include agitation which can manifest as a general uneasiness or irritability, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea, chills, sweats, tremors, weakness, insomnia, and cold-like symptoms. The duration that a person may suffer with these symptoms also varies and is linked to how strong the dependence was.

Sources:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/30370-opiates-work/
http://www.lsuhsc.edu/no/organizations/campushealth/brochures/opiates.pdf
http://www.med.yale.edu/psych/satu/opiates.html
http://www.fadaa.org/services/resource_center/resources/JTF/opiates.pdf
http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk
http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/heroin/opiates.htm