Those of us who have been inflicted by the disease, or have a loved one who has the disease know first hand the pain, dejection, fear, prejudice, longing to ” be normal”, and all of the other painful by-products of this terminal disease ( sometimes if left untreated) which we struggle through. Often times more than none, in the deathly grips of addiction addicts find themselves caught up in what I would refer to as substance abuse induced behaviors. The cry out for help often comes by way of jails, institutions, and death. Once the addict becomes involved in the judicial system, it’s very hard to get out from under its grip. Addicts are not bad people trying to get good, rather sick people who need to heal, and inventory their grosser handicaps which ultimately block them off from the sun light of the spirit which I call, God! Troubles already flood the family system, so when jail or legal issues are added to the family, it’s often unbearable and viral. I will give you an example; Johnny is hurt in a car accident and rushed to the emergency department by ambulance only to find out he has a broken tibia, collar bone, as well he is in need of invasive and corrective oral surgery all requiring potent narcotic analgesics. I will elaborate somewhat in more detail here below defining such examples.Opiates are a classification of medications that are derived, either naturally or synthetically (man-made) from the opium plant. These medications are very effective pain relievers because they attach to the opiate receptors in the peripheral nervous system to modify the transmission of pain signals. They also attach to receptors in the brain to modify the incoming pain signals and trigger feelings of euphoria. There are many different types of opiate pain relievers, some to relieve severe pain and others for moderate or mild pain.
- PERCOCET ( ox y codone) w/ APAP ( tylenol)
- LORCET ( hydrocodone)
- NORCO ( hydrocodone)
- percodan ( oxy w/ aspirin)
- Vicodin- ( hydrocodone) w/ APAP tylenol
- Vicoprofen ( IBU w/ hydro)
- Oxycodone HCL ( Roxicodone)
How Opiates Affect the Brain and Body
Opiates elicit their powerful effects by activating opiate receptors that are widely distributed throughout the brain and body. Once an opiate reaches the brain, it quickly activates the opiate receptors that are found in many brain regions and produces an effect that correlates with the area of the brain involved. Two important effects produced by opiates, such as morphine, are pleasure (or reward) and pain relief. The brain itself also produces substances known as endorphins that activate the opiate receptors. Research indicates that endorphins are involved in many things, including respiration, nausea, vomiting, pain modulation, and hormonal regulation.
When opiates are prescribed by a physician for the treatment of pain and are taken in the prescribed dosage, they are safe and there is little chance of addiction. However, when opiates are abused and taken in excessive doses, addiction can result. Findings from animal research indicate that, like cocaine and other abused drugs, opiates can also activate the brain’s reward system. When a person injects, sniffs, or orally ingests heroin (or morphine), the drug travels quickly to the brain through the bloodstream. Once in the brain, the heroin is rapidly converted to morphine, which then activates opiate receptors located throughout the brain, including within the reward system. (Note: Because of its chemical structure, heroin penetrates the brain more quickly than other opiates, which is probably why many addicts prefer heroin.)
Within the reward system, the morphine activates opiate receptors in the VTA, nucleus accumbens, and cerebral cortex (refer to the Introduction for information on the reward system). Research suggests that stimulation of opiate receptors by morphine results in feelings of reward and activates the pleasure circuit by causing greater amounts of dopamine to be released within the nucleus accumbens. This causes an intense euphoria, or rush, that lasts only briefly and is followed by a few hours of a relaxed, contented state. This excessive release of dopamine and stimulation of the reward system can lead to addiction.
Opiates also act directly on the respiratory center in the brainstem, where they cause a slowdown in activity. This results in a decrease in breathing rate. Excessive amounts of an opiate, like heroin, can cause the respiratory centers to shut down breathing altogether. When someone overdoses on heroin, it is the action of heroin in the brainstem respiratory centers that can cause the person to stop breathing and die.
As mentioned earlier, the brain itself produces endorphins that have an important role in the relief or modulation of pain. Sometimes, though, particularly when pain is severe, the brain does not produce enough endorphins to provide pain relief. Fortunately, opiates, such as morphine are very powerful pain relieving medications. When used properly under the care of a physician, opiates can relieve severe pain without causing addiction.
Feelings of pain are produced when specialized nerves are activated by trauma to some part of the body, either through injury or illness. These specialized nerves, which are located throughout the body, carry the pain message to the spinal cord. After reaching the spinal cord, the message is relayed to other neurons, some of which carry it to the brain. Opiates help to relieve pain by acting in both the spinal cord and brain. At the level of the spinal cord, opiates interfere with the transmission of the pain messages between neurons and therefore prevent them from reaching the brain. This blockade of pain messages protects a person from experiencing too much pain. This is known as analgesia.
Opiates also act in the brain to help relieve pain, but the way in which they accomplish this is different than in the spinal cord.
Why the craving after pain pill mis-use occurs:Substance abuse occurs when a person uses a substance, which in time the body comes to rely on. When a drug, obtained either legally or illegally, is used regularly, the brain becomes used to its presence and normal functioning may occur. When the amount of the substance in the body is depleted as more of it is released from the body, the cells send a signal to the brain that more of the substance is needed. A craving for the substance has therefore developed.
Chemical addiction can be dangerous because when a person does not obtain the substance they are addicted to, they will feel ill and unable to survive without the substance.withdrawal symptoms such as:
Will be felt. If this period of time continues, the person will get desperate about obtaining the substance. After a longer period of time without the substance, the feelings become more intense and the person may be prompted to commit violent acts such as:
Just so he or she can have the substance.
Another cause of chemical addiction is the addiction to the feeling when taking or abusing a substance. For example, those who go clubbing and use drugs may like the sensual feeling caused by the substance and the ability to dance all night and into the morning. Soon, they will crave for the sensation and will eventually get addicted to it. This kind of addiction is hard to break because the person becomes so dependent on the activity that their life will start to revolve around it. If they stop doing the thing they are addicted to, they will feel like a part of their lives is missing. If they don’t find other activities to fill these times and spaces, they will revert to using the substance.
Another reason why substances are abused is the feeling of “high” that a person gets while using the substance. It will feel so wonderful to them that they cannot imagine feeling that way. Craving and addiction to substance will eventually develop.
What happens when addicts deviate from the legal to the illegal way of obtaining narcotics?
It is illegal to purchase any of the pain medicines from any place other than a Pharmacy with a Legal Rx. Many addicts attempt to : obtain controlled substances by way of fraud, misinterpretation, and forging scripts. This is a felonious act and they may be arrested and placed in jail and have to sit there or bond out.
This is where I feel addicts begin to loose chances to get help.
There is zero rehabilitation in County Jails and often many offenders sit and sit for months on end awaiting a plea offer from the prosecutor and their defense team. If the offender has a long history of involvement with the law, he or she could be facing a prison term for what is called a ” paper crime” or white collar crime. I am not suggesting that this isn’t severe in nature however I am saying that prison and jail has been proven noneffective in obtaining a solution based approach to the disease of addiction. The offender needs what we call, alternative sentencing such as what is offered at www.coastalwellness-rehabnotjail.com
Alternative Sentencing and its Success rate for the Addicted Criminal
See next post for more information on this subject of ” Alternative Sentencing and Diversion Programs for the Addicted Offender