Drug addiction is a touchy subject with most. We're going to explain how drug addiction happens using Opiates.
Causes and Neurology of Drug AddictionEdit
For several thousand years opiates have been used as medicine as well as for recreational purposes. Discoveries have shown that Cyprus (as early as 1200 B.C.) designed opium pipes and vases using poppy capsules as a form of decoration ( Meyer, pg. 246). A famous Greek physician by the name of Galen (in the second century) prescribed opium to many of his patients with medical problems such as: headaches, asthma, coughs, deafness, as well as many others. Some modern uses began in Europe when the religious crusaders returned from the East with a Miracle Cure”. Arabia, Turkey, and Iran as well as many other Islamic countries replaced alcohol consumption, which was prohibited, with the eating and smoking of opiates (which was accepted). In the 1600’s, an English physician named Thomas Sydenham (the father of clinical medicine) introduced an opium-based medicinal drink (Meyer, pg. 246). And by the nineteenth century, here in America, neither the federal government nor any one state chose to control the availability and advertising of this drug that was once described by Homer, “The Odyssey”, as eliciting; a drug that endows a feeling of warmth and well being followed by sleep (Meyer, pg. 246). Then in 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Act was passed. This act required physicians to report prescriptions written for opiates, and only then in the 1920’s was this act altered; limiting these prescriptions to medical use only.
The key source of the family of drugs known as the opiates/opioids is opium; extract of the poppy plant. This substance is prepared by drying and powdering the milky juice which is produced and then in turn is taken by the seed capsules of the opium poppy. Now, when extracting this substance, it is important to do so just before this plant ripens. After the capsules are sliced open, the juice leaks out and thickens into a red-brown syrup material (Meyer, pg. 246). It is very dark in color when in its indelicate state and forms small balls called, “Black tar”. As centuries past, morphine, codeine and thebaine were extracted from opium to serve as very important medicines in today’s society(as it will be discussed in the next paragraph). Finally, the opium poppy has been cultivated in temperature zones as far north as England and Denmark, although the majority of the world’s supply comes from Southeast Asia, India, China, Iran, Turkey, and southeastern Europe (Meyer, pg. 246).
How do opioids affect the dopamine and brain reward pathway in the brain? First, some drugs that fall into the opioid category consist of medications such as: opium (main), heroin, percocet, vicodin, morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Opiate drugs belong to a class known as narcotic analgesics. With a sense of “lying on a cloud”, these drugs can depreciate ones pain without producing unconsciousness at the same time producing a sense of relaxation and sleep. Unfortunately, high doses of this drug can cause a coma or the permanent sleep known as death. This class of drugs run parallel with other types of drugs; prime painkillers known to man. These powerful drugs which can not only produce analgesia, can also produce a variety of side-effects that include: drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and depress respiration depending on the aplenty of drug obtained. Second, opioids induce euphoria (which means it affects the brain regions that intervenes what many individuals perceive as pleasure) that can lead to repeated use followed by tolerance and sometimes dependence to this drug
- Alder, M.W. Opioiod overview. October 20, 2009
- Hsa, M. (2006, March 3). How stimulants affect the brain and behavior. October 22, 2009
- Meyer, Jerrold. Psychopharmacology: drugs, the brain, and behavior. Sunderland: Sinauer Association,Inc, 2005.
- Stokowski, L. (2008, March 31). The dark side of drug addiction. October 20, 2009,
- "Opiates". National Institute on Drug Abuse . November 25, 2009.