Opioids have always been known to humanity because of their unique impact on their conscience and brain. For this reason, they have been used for different purposes to achieve some effects. However, with the development of science and medicine, and the emergence of powerful pain killers, specialists started to use opioids in the healthcare sector. Today, multiple medications include this substance and help people in complex states. Being one of the most powerful painkillers, opioids, however, remain dangerous because of the addiction they can trigger and the negative impact on the functioning of the body when cases of misuse are reported. For this reason, it is vital to correctly realize the chemistry of this sort of drug and how they affect the body.
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Opioids are a broad class of drugs that can be used by patients today. The group includes heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain killers such as oxycodone or codeine, prescribed to patients in complex conditions (NIH, 2020a). This drug is usually found in a specific plant that is cultivated in multiple states. The needed pill can be made from this very plant directly or by scientists in labs by preserving the same chemical structure (NIH, 2020a). Numerous researchers in this field show that there is a special mechanism peculiar to this drug. Opioids activate special opioid receptors on nerve cells, which belong to a family of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) (NIH, 2018). In such a way, they affect these receptors and precondition the change in their functioning, which later influences the whole body and results in the emergence of different reactions.
One of the essential aspects of opioids’ chemistry is their ability to alleviate pain, which makes them one of the most important drugs for the modern healthcare sector. As stated before, opioids attach to opioid receptors on nerve cells that can be found in the most important parts of the nervous system, such as the brain, spinal cord, gut (NIH, 2018). Due to this process, messages sent from different parts of the body and signals about pain are blocked, which means that the brain cannot signalize pain (NIH, 2018). The given effect is one of the desired results of using opioids in different situations, and it preconditions the constantly increasing demand for this sort of drug globally (Kosten & George, 2002). At the same time, due to the unique mechanism described above, opioids are also absorbed by cells, and they restore their normal functioning (Kosten & George, 2002). It guarantees that a person who uses this drug can recover from its effects; however, it also creates the basis for the development of dependence.
As mentioned above, opioids alter the functioning of the nervous system to generate a feeling of happiness and pain relief. That is why a person acquires a powerful desire to use drugs even when they are not needed at the moment, which means that the addiction might evolve. The drug changes the chemistry of the brain and promotes drug tolerance (Kosten & George, 2002). The given stage is characterized by the reduced effect of the drug and the need for higher dosages to attain the same result (Bechara et al., 2019). Under these conditions, the ability of opioids to alleviate pain and trigger the development and emergence of happy feelings becomes dangerous and should be viewed by specialists as one of the causes of new problems.
The abusive use of opioids might contribute to the emergence and development of multiple risks, including the gradual deterioration of the health of people who are addicted. The scope of the problem is evidenced by the fact that there are many research papers devoted to the problem. The existing body of evidence states that withdrawal symptoms and deterioration of the brain’s functioning are the most dangerous issues associated with drugs use (Kosten & George, 2002). Because of the changed chemistry of the brain and alteration in its functioning, a person feels emotional and physical pain if not using drugs. Additionally, there is a change in the work of the lungs, liver, and kidney that might be fatal (Bechara et al., 2019). Finally, the developing tolerance results in the need for continually increasing doses, which increases the high risk of overdose. Statistics show that 128 people die every day from opioids (NIH, 2020b). In such a way, they have a strong impact on people because of their unique chemistry.
Altogether, it is possible to conclude that opioids have always been used by people to change the functioning of their brain and nervous system, feel pleasant feelings, or manage pain. The ability to attach to opioid receptors on cells and block the transition of signals is the most important mechanism explaining the work of this drug and its spread. However, it also serves as the cause for the emergence of dependence and multiple adverse effects associated with the misuse of addictive substances. That is why the control of opioids remains a central task of the modern healthcare sector.
Bechara, A., Berridge, K. C., Bickel, W. K., Morón, J. A., Williams, S. B., & Stein, J. S. (2019). A neurobehavioral approach to addiction: Implications for the opioid epidemic and the psychology of addiction. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 20(2), 96–127.
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Kosten, T., & George, T. (2002). The neurobiology of opioid dependence: Implications for treatment. Addiction Science Clinical Practice, 1(1), 13-20.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) (2018). How opioid drugs activate receptors. Web.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) (2020a). What are prescription opioids? WEb.
National Institutes of Health. (2020b). Opioid overdose crisis. Web.