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Opiate (Opioid) Misuse

In the United States, opiates (opioids) are used therapeutically to treat pain, suppress cough, alleviate diarrhea, and induce anesthesia. Opiates are administered a variety of ways: orally, transdermally (skin patches), intranasally, or injected.

As drugs of misuse and abuse, opiates are often smoked, sniffed, or injected. Drug effects depend heavily on the dose, route of administration, and previous exposure to the drug. Aside from their medical use, opiates produce a general sense of well-being by reducing tension, anxiety, and aggression. These effects are helpful in therapeutic settings, but contribute to their misuse and abuse.

With repeated use of opiates, tolerance and dependence develop, characterized by: a shortened duration and a decreased intensity of analgesia, euphoria, and sedation, which creates a need to consume progressively larger doses to attain the desired effect. Tolerant opiate users can consume doses far in excess of the dose they initially started with.

Chronic opiate use is associated with physical dependence, and a withdrawal or abstinence syndrome when the drug use is discontinued.

The psychological dependence associated with opiate addiction is complex, and protracted. Long after the physical need for the drug has passed, an addict may continued to think and talk about using drugs, and feel strange or overwhelmed coping with daily acitivities without being under the influence of opiates. There is a high probability that relapse will occur after opiate withdrawal, when neither the physical environment, nor the behavioral motivators that contributed to the misuse or abuse have been altered.

There are two major patterns of opiate dependence or abuse seen in the United States. One involves individuals whose drug use was initiated within the context of medical treatment who escalate their dose by obtaining their opiates through fraudulent prescriptions, and "doctor shopping" or branching out to illicit drugs.

The other pattern of drug abuse is initiated outside the therapeutic setting with experimental, or recreational use of heroin and opiates.

The majority of individuals in this category may abuse drugs sporadically for months or even years, and although they may not become addicts, the social, medical, and legal consequences of their behavior are very serious. However, many experimental users escalate their heroin or opiate use, and eventually become dependent, both physically and psychologically.

For more information about Help for Safely Using Opiate (opioid) Pain Relievers please visit Opioids911-Safety website at:

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