The fail-safe drug type of choice for those in hospitals suffering from unbearable pain, some of the most-common prescription opioid drugs are household names: morphine, codeine, Vicodin, Perodan and oxycodone. Even heroin, for example, is an illegally high concentration of opiate, but where do opiates come from? What makes them so addictive?
Opium originally came from the seeds of the opium poppy flower. Even eating lots of poppy seeds in food can make someone fail a drug test due to the opium released in the bloodstream during digestion. However, poppy seeds aren’t the first source that gave humans a taste for opium.
To understand the long term effects from opiates and the dangers of opiate use, consider this:
All human beings have had an addiction to natural opiates from birth. Scientists analyzing breast milk discovered that it contains a form of natural morphine. In the form of breast milk, this opiate forms part of the perfect food for babies, and this fact shows that especially in their natural state, opiates can be good for you. Expert author Sayer Ji from GreenMedInfo.com explains all about how this natural craving for breast milk may have been an important biological motivator to help develop the necessary bond between a mother and her child.
Then after we stopped feeding on breast milk as infants, many of us became addicted to eating both artificial and natural opiates in our food. It’s not hard to guess which foods these are because we all know them as the foods that are the hardest to go without. Sayer Ji goes on to list these opiate foods as:
- wheat products
- dairy products
- meat and fish proteins
The most common opiate trigger in the average Western diet today is sugar, especially in the form of fructose. After eating fructose and other processed sugars, the brain actually produces more natural morphine on its own. However, fructose alone is actually toxic, particularly in marge quantities, and can cause up to 70 different health conditions.
It’s worth noting here that for someone who’s on a diet that’s rich in opiate-triggering food for many years, they could very well start developing a higher tolerance for opiates that works against them when they’re in pain. The higher of a tolerance that one has for opiates, the more opiate drugs or the higher the dosage they require for severe-pain management.
The big question now is:
What happens when someone takes opiate drugs by prescription for long-term, chronic medical conditions or pain management?
In highly concentrated, synthetic forms, opiate drugs like Vicodin, Percodan, oxycodone, heroin, codeine and morphine do work to effectively reduce anxiety and pain for most people. However, their effects on the body and their addictive nature are such that doctors often won’t continue prescribing them to their patients unless they see no other alternatives for pain management.
Here’s a list of the top dangers of opiate use according to medical experts, listed in order from short-term to long-term side effects:
- respiratory depression
- urinary retention
- cognitive impairment
- higher opioid tolerance that requires higher dosages or opioid rotations to treat chronic pain
- opioid-induced hyperalgesia, or heightened sensitivity to pain
- disruption of hormone levels, leading to low libido, fatigue and other reproductive-system disorders
In 2013, research came to light at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine about patients taking morphine, a prescription opiate, at 100 mg a day for chronic pain. After taking it for more than 10 years, they showed these symptoms:
- Up to 50 percent of the patients had hormonal imbalances.
- Around 50 percent also showed signs of inflammation in the tissues.
- Nevertheless, all patients had less pain and a generally positive mental attitude.
The greater dangers of opiate use become more obvious when someone becomes addicted to opiate-based prescription drugs. Signs of opiate addiction are:
- a debilitated immune system that leads to frequent illness
- unusually slow breathing rates
- risk of coma
- collapsed veins or blood-vessel clots
Even worse, if someone with an opiate addiction tries to stop taking the drug or decrease their dosage, the withdrawal symptoms are so bad that most would rather not stop taking it. Opiate Withdrawal and detoxification symptoms include:
- excessive sweating
- insomnia and tremors
- muscle pain
- nausea and vomiting
What if drugs that help opiate withdrawal are worse than the opiates?
Once a person becomes addicted to opiate drugs and foods with opiate triggers, they may feel unable to face the suffering of withdrawal on their own. In what seemed like initially a way to help patients get off of opiates or lower their opiate dosage, doctors began prescribing suboxone, a combination of the synthetic opioid buprenorphine and the opioid-blocker naloxone. Despite their intentions, what we’re now seeing is a surge of patients becoming addicted to suboxone rather than opiate-based drugs. Unfortunately, getting off of suboxone is not any easier than getting off of the opiate drugs the patient was initially taking.
Sources at the Maryland Addiction Recovery Center say that some patients struggle so much with trying to quit taking suboxone that they end up taking it for more than 10 years. They go on to explain that when a person experiences withdrawal from opiate drugs, it normally takes at least five or even up to 14 days to detox from them.
The withdrawal times for suboxone are far worse. Patients report that in the best case, it could take weeks to recover from suboxone. In the worst cases, it can even take months. Plus, suboxone withdrawals aren’t just painful conditions on the physical level; stopping suboxone leads to terrifying psychological conditions on top of the physical pain.
Suboxone withdrawal includes:
- night sweats
- lack of motivation to do anything
- joint and muscle plain
- loss of libido
Where do all these opiates and opiate-recovery drugs lead us?
Health Line describes how “opioid abuse can impair the brain’s production of natural painkillers and dopamine, the brain’s ‘feel-good’ chemical.” Therefore, it’s no wonder that addiction is one of the most dangerous long term effects from opiates.
Opioids seem to give everything that suffering patients want most: less pain, a sense of calmness and a slight numbing of the mind and body. In large doses, people may even feel euphoric on opiates. Still, opiates are not the only answer to problems like pain management.
Time magazine reported how “an increase in exercise intensity can lead to endorphin release.” As mentioned earlier, endorphins don’t just make someone feel good; they also reduce pain because they are natural opiates produced by the body during and after exercise. No one has as many endorphins in their systems or takes as much care to eat right as top performing athletes, so it’s easy to see how they can endure much higher levels of pain than the average person. The New York Times also wrote an insightful piece on “How Exercise Helps Us Tolerate Pain” where they talk about how regular exercise alters the way that people experience pain. Therefore, those with chronic pain in “untreatable” conditions have more reasons now than ever to exercise more as part of their pain-management programs to combat the negative long term effects from opiates.