Medication

5 Facts About Opioids

Erica Sanderson Sep 23rd, 2014 (updated Jul 29th, 2015)
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What are they?
What are they?

Opiates are natural painkillers derived from the poppy plant. Opioids are the synthetic, or partially synthetic, manufactured version of opiates. They often are used to treat chronic or severe pain, particularly after surgery. However, opioids can be highly addictive if not taken properly. 

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Where do you get them?
Where do you get them?

Opioids are acquired either illegally on the street or through a valid prescription at a doctor’s office or hospital. There are dangers to obtaining opioids on the street because they can be laced with other drugs. 

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How do they work?
How do they work?

Opioids attach to proteins called opioid receptors to target pain signals in the brain and throughout different organs in the body. Opioids also influence parts of the brain involved with emotion and reward. As a result, the pain stimulus is diminished and some people experience feelings of euphoria. 

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Are they safe?
Are they safe?

When used appropriately as prescribed by a doctor for short-term use, opiate addiction is not usually common and opioids can successfully manage pain. Long-term use for chronic pain can result in physical dependency, which is a normal bodily response to prolonged drug exposure and is not synonymous with addiction. Abusing opioids is highly dangerous and can lead to death. 

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What are signs of an addiction?
What are signs of an addiction?

Physical symptoms of withdrawal from opioids include anxiety, cravings, runny nose, and rapid breathing. If a person is constantly thinking about opioids, lying about their use or doing illegal activities to obtain them, there may be an addiction developing.