Friday December 9th 2016

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Can you get high on opioids?

Opioids trigger the central nervous system to produce feelings of euphoria. But the pain pill problem is growing in the U.S. at a quickening pace. How does euphoria happen in the body? We review the brain chemistry behind opioid use and its risks for addiction here. Then, we invite your question about opioids in the comments section at the end.

Opioid chemistry and use

Opioids are prescribed by physicians to treat moderate to severe pain. They works by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. While prescription drugs for pain may be helpful if they are used properly, taking opioids without a doctor’s approval and supervision can be habit forming and dangerous.

Opioids psychoactive ingredients: What’s in opioids?

Opioids belongs to a class of narcotic medications called “opiates”. However, this type of medication is man-made version of the natural compound found in opium and is technically called an “opioid”.  They are mainly use for pain, including pain with a neuropathic component.

Opioids and central nervous system effects

The main therapeutic action of opioids is analgesia, or pain relief. However, opioids also produce respiratory depression through direct activity at respiratory centers in the brain stem. They can also depress the cough reflex by direct effect on the center of the medulla. Other pharmacological effects of opioids include anxiolysis, euphoria and feelings of relaxation. All of these effects are mediated by receptors (notably μ and k) in the central nervous system for endogenous opioids – like compounds such as endorphins and enkephalins.

Getting high on opioids

Frankly, it is possible to feel and get high on opioids. But using opioids for euphoric effect can be just as dangerous and addictive as using heroin. Changes in breathing and heart rate directly related to overdose can lead to death. And the misuse of opioids can lead to any of the following:

Physical dependence – Dependence develops quickly. The body adapts to the presence of opioids and withdrawal symptoms occur when use is stopped.

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Withdrawal – Severe symptoms can occur when use is suddenly stopped after a period of dependence. Symptom including restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and involuntary leg movements are common.

Cardiovascular damage – Using opioids repeatedly can cause damage to your heart including heart infection, scarred and/or collapsed veins, blood vessels clogged by foreign particles, causing cell death.

Other organ damage and disease – Including liver disease, Kidney disease, and arthritis

Danger during pregnancy – Miscarriage, premature delivery, or stillbirth of pregnancies are possible for those taking opioids to get high, as are addicted newborns.

Risks of opioid addiction

When you take opioids to get high, you not only risk physical dependence … but you also risk psychological dependence. Opioid addiction occurs when drug use has progressed to obsession or compulsion: addiction is characterized by a pathological preoccupation with getting the drug, using it to experience intoxication, and by continued use despite negative consequences. But help is out there.

If you are a pain pill addict, there are many kind of treatments available to you. For example, a combination of psychological and pharmacological medications to treat opioid addiction can help.  To best match treatment settings, interventions, and services to an individual’s particular problems and needs, you can speak first with a doctor or psychologist.

Getting high on opioids: More questions?

Do you still have questions about the euphoric effect of opioids? Please ask them here. We will do our best to provide you with a personal and prompt response.

References Sources: NIDA: Principles of drug addiction treatment
Daily Med: Opioids
NCBI: Economic study on the impact of side effects in patients taking oxycodone controlled-release for noncancer pain.
Medline Plus: Opioids
Connecticut Drug Control: Oxycodone

Photo credit: Vironevaeh

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