Opiate drugs can be both, natural or man-made, which generates the typical effects of opiate (the natural resin present in opium poppy) - a blend of euphoria, out of the world, slackened breathing, reduced feeling of pain, constipation and fixed pupils. Instead of using the term opiates, occasionally scientists make use of the more common word ‘opioids’, which comprise drugs that have a resemblance to substances present in the opium poppy, in addition to endogenous opioids that function in the form of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Precisely speaking, opium denotes a formulation of opium poppy (botanical name Papaver somniferum). All over the world, opium is usually obtained by means of an extremely low-tech, manual method. People who cultivate opium cut the growing seed pod of the opium poppy and save the gum-like fluid that secretes from the place where the seed pot has been cut during the following few days. Subsequently, various different methods are applied to refine the sap. For instance, some cultivators may dry the sap and turn it into a ball (gum opium) for direct use. Alternately, it may also be dried and ground into a powder, called the opium powder.
Raw or unrefined opium has the appearance of a brown colored tar-like substance. Opium may also be used to prepare tincture of opium, which is actually an alcohol-water extract of opium. In effect, this alcohol-water extract is one of the well-known laudanum of the era dating back to your great-great-grandmother or an opium-based painkiller (paregoric) from that period! While countries like Afghanistan, Burma and Thailand in Southeast Asia and Colombia in South Africa grow opium in substantial amounts, Mexico supplies with the basic material for preparing illegal heroin that is offloaded in the United States. Generally, the opium poppies cultivated in the South-eastern countries provide heroin for the European countries, but some of it is also transported to the United States. However, the bulk of the opium poppy for heroin comes to the United States from nations like Mexico and Columbia.
If you intent to prepare an effective drug using opium poppy, the simplest method is to begin with the compounds that occur naturally in it and have some specific influence on the user. This is exactly what the pharmacologists have done with opium poppy. In effect, no less than five significant opiate analgesics exist and these are either prepared directly from the opium seed pods or trivial modifications of the seed pod of the opium poppy.
One of the important constituents of the opium seed pod is morphine, which is basically a very strong opiate that is used in the forms of pills or injections to alleviate pain following a surgery. Another constituent is called codeine, which is comparatively less potent and is primarily used in the form of pills to provide relief from mild pains. Several people have come across this constituent in the form of an acetaminophen-codeine formulation, which is generally employed to ease dental pain or forms an ingredient of prescription cough medications, such as terpin hydrate with codeine, Robitussin A-C, Cheracol and many others. In order to balance the lower strength of codeine, a number of drug users just drink the whole four-ounce content of the bottle that does not have any inebriating volume. Such cough syrups were generally available as over-the-counter drugs till recently, when their recreational use became extremely fashionable.
Several other amalgams are formulated synthetically by means of transforming the substances present in the opium. Such compounds include oxycodone, hydromorphone and also hydrocodone. In fact, hydromorphone (Dilaudid) is an extremely potent opiate and also a useful analgesic, which is abused extensively. Oxycodone is prepared by synthesizing the non-analgesic substance present in opium called thebaine and, from the view of its potency in relieving pain, this compound is graded just after morphine and before codeine.
Among all forms of opiate drugs, heroin is definitely the most ill-famed drug. Actually, heroin is a synthetically refined form of morphine that is developed from partially distilled morphine. Generally, this narcotic substance is prepared in so-called refineries that are located in the neighbourhood of the place of opium production in the countries mentioned above. In addition, heroin is split into small quantities and is generally found on the street in plastic bags in the form of a loose powder. Each such bag usually contains approximately 100 mg of this white powder. The real color of heroin may vary from white to brown or even black conditional on the source of the substance as well as the quality of the preparation method. Heroin hydrochloride that is extremely purified generally has a white appearance and is valued for its clarity. On the other hand, as its name suggests, the heroin available from Mexico, called the Mexican ‘black tar’, has a black appearance. Usually the user directly sniffs the powder or liquefies it in salty water and injects the solution. The genuine constituents of the powder is dependent on the person supplying the substance and may vary from about 10 per cent to 70 per cent of heroin mixed with a variety of impurities, which may include baking powder, talc, and even quinine, maintaining a specific balance.
If the fact is that heroin is simple morphine which has been somewhat chemically modified, what benefits it offers? Precisely speaking, when heroin goes into the brain, it is again transformed into morphine. Nevertheless, the enhanced fat solubility of the converted morphine provides specific benefits, for instance, it enters the brain more rapidly. In effect, several medical practitioners are campaigning for the use of heroin in cancer patients who are in their last stages of life because using heroin means relieving the pain even faster.
It is worth mentioning here that meperidine (Demerol) is employed in the similar way as morphine for easing extreme pains suffered by a patient following a surgery and it also works excellently when given orally. However, using meperidine also results in a number of adverse effects. For instance, when taken in high doses, meperidine may lead to convulsions - an aspect that has actually prompted the physicians to lessen the use of this substance in recent times. On the other hand, methadone is an exceptionally enduring opiate that may even be taken in the pill form. The exceptional time course of this opiate makes this drug especially effective in the treatment of withdrawing addicts, in addition to chronic pain. This drug starts working slowly and mildly which helps to avoid any withdrawal symptoms, but the user does not experience a ‘high’. The use of meperidine for such purposes has given rise to controversies in a number of circles. Despite the fact that it obviously helps in developing tolerance and physical dependence, meperidine actually offers a safe as well as effectual treatment with no similar problems for abuse.
Fentanyl (Sublimaze) is another drug that is extremely fat soluble and, as an analgesic, works extremely fast. This is the main reason why anesthesiologists use this drug when they want the patient to fall asleep. In addition, fentanyl is also used in patches, which release the drug gradually through the skin to make it possible for the patient to experience pain relief for a longer period. In effect, several addicts also use the injectable form of fentanyl and it is often a widespread reason for overindulge. When one uses fentanyl, he or she get a ‘high’ very soon, but the sensation is very extreme, short-lived and only one step away from an inhibition of breathing that may turn fatal. Before concluding, we need to make a mention of another opiate drug - propoxyphene (Darvon). As this drug is a very inferior type of opiate, several physicians do not prefer to use it. In addition, findings of clinical studies have revealed that compared to a placebo, propoxyphene is no better. Nevertheless, there are many people who have faith in this drug, but the basic fact is that it is just somewhat more potent compared to aspirin.
How opiates are taken
Majority of the opiate drugs get into the bloodstream without any difficulty from several dissimilar means as they are fat soluble and this makes their entry into the cells easy. However, heroin is an exception because it dissolves in fatty substances so easily that it can even be taken up by the mucosal lining inside the nose. Many other opiate drugs do not dissolve in fatty substances so easily and, therefore, they cannot be soaked up by the mucosal lining of the nose properly even when snorted. Nevertheless, when heated, a number of opiate drugs, counting the naturally occurring constituents of the opium poppy, release a vapour that can be absorbed by the body provided they are smoked. In fact, this forms the basis of using the ‘opium pipe’ - a device that has been used traditionally to take in opiates and its use also continues to this day. On the other hand, nearly all types of opiate drugs can be soaked up by the body from the stomach. However, injecting the opiates still remain the more effective way of taking them, especially in the instance of morphine, which, compared to other opiates, is poorly absorbed even from the stomach.
In effect, till date, intravenous injection continues to be the most effective and fastest means for delivering opiates into the bloodstream. As intravenous injection is comparatively difficult as well as a dangerous method compared to other methods, most people using opiates do not use this means. Rather, majority of the people would prefer to start taking opiates by injecting the drugs just below the skin (subcutaneously). Usually, heroin powder is liquefied in water and then injected. On the other hand, injectable form of morphine, meperidine and fentanyl injections that is always available as legal drugs, which have been sidetracked from medical use, while some amount of fentanyl is also produced illegally at secretive laboratories.
Of late, snorting heroin has become more popular that taking heroin injections, particularly among the new drug users. This is partially owing to the reason that many drug users are making an effort to avoid the disgrace as well as the perils of developing AIDS that are common when they take injections. There are some other drug users who falsely believe that they are unlikely to turn addicts if they do not take heroin injections, but snort the substance.
On the other hand, propoxyphene and codeine are two opiates that are mostly taken by mouth. While the more potent opiate preparations like oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), methadone (Dolophine) and meperidine (Demerol) are available in the pill form. Occasionally, some desperate drug users also pound the codeine, methadone or hydrocodone pills, prepare a suspension dissolving them in saline water and inject the suspension when they are unable to obtain injectable form of the opiates by any means. However, it needs to be underlined that doing this is highly dangerous because the components of the pills do not dissolve properly in saline water. When you inject particles into the bloodstream, they are likely to cause irritation and this may set off a series of reactions resulting in inflammation of the blood vessels and even causing irreversible harm to them. Moreover, the particles of the pills may also settle down in any part of the blood vessel, thereby, completely blocking the blood circulation to any particular part of the body.
As mentioned earlier, all types of opiates create a pleasurable, sleepy condition wherein users forget about everything and often fall asleep. In addition, owing to their analgesic attribute, the opiates also help to lessen all painful sensations. In fact, the sensations are all the more strong when people use the injectable form of opiates, as it causes a rush within. It has been found that people who are experiencing the effects of opiates often say that they are no longer troubled regarding their problems; in effect, they are in a very unique and safe condition wherein they are unconscious of all their problems and miseries. Therefore, the attraction for using opiates is very much comprehensible. However, the users seldom realize in the beginning that using opiates also lead to miseries as well as withdrawal symptoms.
Even as the individual using opiate feels drowsy and is in an enjoyable condition, his/ her breathing slows down, the pupils become pinpointed and they usually suffers from queasiness and may also vomit. While the impact of the drug on breathing may prove to be fatal, the additional physical symptoms are rather gentle. For instance, even if you take opiates, it will not cause any drastic change in your blood pressure, provided you are healthy and in the best of health. Most of the influences caused by opiates are on the brain, particularly on the opiate receptors in those areas of the brain that are engaged in regulating breathing and additional reflex functions. To understand this better, you will notice opiate users vomiting and this is owing to the fact that morphine invigorates a specific center within the brain - called the chemoreceptor trigger zone - which works to cause vomiting in reaction to digestive disorders caused by any toxin.
It may be noted that opiate produces a very significant impact on the body and for generations this has made the life of people traveling abroad much easy. Actually, opiate augments the pressure in specific muscles present in the digestive tract with the intention that the usual propulsive movements that make the food travel down are not able to function efficiently and this results in constipation - a well-known effect of using opiates. In effect, this can prove to be very beneficial for you in case you are having a traveler’s diarrhea and are currently in Mexico. Using diphenoxylate (Lomotil) makes use of an efficient chemical way to stop diarrhea causing no effect whatsoever on the brain. The usual opiate molecule is somewhat modified with the intention that it does not become so soluble in fat that it may go inside the brain. This actually provides you with an extremely safe as well as useful medication that many pharmaceutical firms have endeavoured to make better, but have had very little success thus far, and is certainly an extensively used drug that is helpful in treating mild cases of diarrhea. Opiates also tighten the urinary bladder muscles using a similar modus operandi and may result in problems while urinating.