What are Opioid medications?

Opioid medications are those medications that act on opioid receptors to produce morphine-like effects. Medically they are primarily used for pain relief, including anesthesia.

Opioid medications are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some prescription opioids are made from the plant directly, and others are made by scientists in labs using the same chemical structure.
Opioids are often used as medicines because they contain chemicals that relax the body and can relieve pain

Other medical uses of Opioid drugs include suppression of diarrhea, replacement therapy for opioid use disorder, reversing opioid overdose, suppressing cough, as well as for executions in the United States.

Extremely potent opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil are approved only for veterinary use.

Opioid drugs are addictive and may result in a fatal overdose, most are controlled substances. In 2013, about 28 and 38 million people used opioids illicitly.

In 2011, an estimated 4 million people in the United States used opioids recreationally or were dependent on them.

As of 2015, increased rates of recreational use and addiction are attributed to over-prescription of opioid medications and inexpensive illicit powder heroin.

What are the most common prescription opioids medications?

The most commonly prescribed opioid medications used for the treatment of pain in the U.S.A include;

How do Opioids medications work?

Opioids drugs act by binding to opioid receptors, which are found principally in the central and peripheral nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. These opioid receptors mediate both the psychoactive and the somatic effects of opioids.

Opioid drugs include partial agonists, like the anti-diarrhea drug loperamide and antagonists like naloxegol for opioid-induced constipation, which do not cross the blood-brain barrier.

When opioids attach to these receptors, they block pain signals sent from the brain to the body and release large amounts of dopamine throughout the body.

This release can strongly reinforce the act of taking the drug, making the user want to repeat the experience.

Can someone overdose on prescription opioid medications?

Yes, a person can overdose on prescription opioids. An opioid overdose occurs when a person uses too much of the drug to the extent where it produces life-threatening symptoms or death.

An opioid overdose can cause respiratory depression. This can decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, which can result in coma, permanent brain damage, or death

How can I treat an opioid overdose?

An opioid overdose is a very dangerous situation, If you suspect someone has overdosed, the first thing to do is to call 911 so he or she can receive immediate medical attention.

Once medical personnel arrives, they will administer naloxone. Naloxone is a medicine used to treat an opioid overdose when given right away.

Naloxone works by rapidly binding to opioid receptors and blocking the effects of opioid drugs. Naloxone is available as an injectable (needle) solution, a hand-held auto-injector, and a nasal spray.

Some places in the United States of America have passed laws that allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a personal prescription. This allows friends, family, and others in the community to use the auto-injector and nasal spray versions of naloxone to save someone who might be suffering from an opioid overdose.

Tolerance vs. Dependence vs. Addiction

Long-term use of opioids medications can cause some people to develop a tolerance, which means that they need higher and/or more frequent doses of the drug to get the desired effects.

an opioid dependence occurs with repeated use, causing the neurons to adapt so they only function normally in the presence of the drug. The absence of the drug causes several physiological reactions, ranging from mild in the case of caffeine, to potentially life-threatening, such as with black tar heroin.

Opioid addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive, or uncontrollable, drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences and long-lasting and harmful changes in the brain.

What are the side effects of opioid medications on the brain and body?

Opioid use in the short run can relieve pain and make people feel relaxed and happy. However, opioids can also have very severe and dangerous effects on health, some of which including:

Opioid misuse can cause respiratory depression, which can further lead to hypoxia, (shortage of oxygen supply in the brain). Hypoxia can have short- and long-term psychological and neurological effects, including coma, permanent brain damage, or death, etc.

Other health effects of opioid medications

Older adults are at higher risk of accidental misuse or abuse because they typically have multiple prescriptions and chronic diseases, increasing the risk of drug-drug and drug-disease interactions, as well as a slowed metabolism that affects the breakdown of drugs.