Oxycodone is a painkiller given to chronic pain patients and those suffering from terminal illness. It was developed as a “cleaner” solution to pain management than morphine, the drug used previously. Oxycodone produces a feeling of warmth and overall euphoria. The body’s pain receptors are masked by the drug, enabling people with crushing pain to live comfortably. Oxycodone has long-lasting effects due to the pill’s release mechanisms, and while peak effects are at approximately one hour people using this drug will feel its effects for up to 8 hours.
Effects of Heroin
Heroin users report a state of otherworldly and benevolent euphoria, an almost heavenly experience. Their body disconnects with pain and sadness and slowly the individuals separate completely from their former lives. Heroin is not a drug like marijuana or even alcohol where the individual is able to maintain an existence for years without anyone noticing their addiction and dependency. People using heroin crave the substance above all other priorities and they quickly slide into a dangerous spiral.
Opiates and the Brain
Opiates affect the pleasure and reward center of the brain by activating the opiate receptors in the VTA, nucleus accumbens, and the brain’s cerebral cortex. Heroin is able to penetrate the brain quickly, more so even than oxycodone, and is one reason why opiate progression will eventually move from oxycodone to heroin. Opiates are able to produce the same reaction within the human body as occurs during sexual orgasm for an extended period of time. They also work to assist the body’s own pain management mechanisms.
Opiates act differently than other pain killers. They don’t block pain messages the brain sends out as do other chemicals produced by the body or pharmacological products, instead they change the nature of the pain experience. Individuals on opiates still experience pain but it does not “feel” the same to them. Their experience is forever changed.
Part of the problem that treatment centers and programs have with detoxing individuals from opiate addiction is that opiates change the subjective nature of the addicts experiences. Pain is different. Emotions are different. The addicts entire world view is different.
Dependency and Side Effects
Opiates are highly addictive, both physically and mentally. Unlike withdrawal from other drugs, opiate withdrawal occurs within hours. Tolerance is quickly accelerated and therefore large amounts of opiates are quickly required to produce the same effects as before or withdrawal begins to set in. Withdrawal symptoms of opiate addiction are severe and include:
- High fever
- Hot and cold spells
- Respiratory seizure
- Cardiac arrest
Long term side-effects of opiate usage include:
- Cardiovascular difficulties
- Respiratory difficulties
- Neurological issues
- (in extreme cases) psychosis
- HIV, Hepatitis, and other blood borne diseases
You may overdose on any drug if you take enough of it to produce adverse effects. Depending on the tolerance of the user it is difficult to predict a lethal amount. People have overdosed (died) from 80 mgs of heroin. General symptoms of overdose:
- Accelerated heart rate
- Lowered heart rate
- Shallow breathing
If you or someone close to you is experiencing these effects call 911 or a poison control center at once.
Drug Detoxification and Treatment
Detoxification from opiates is a very controversial topic as many feel that successful recovery requires pharmacological intervention (methadone, suboxone, valium, etc) due to the extreme nature of what this strong substance can accomplish within the human body. Opiates swell the receptors in the brain and without medical intervention the time it would take to shrink them back to a normal size can literally be years. While it is not impossible to kick opiate addiction through a cold turkey approach the recidivism is higher than with other substances when this approach is used.
Detoxification from the drug is essential before therapies support programs can be successful. People have died from drug withdrawal and therefore it is highly recommended that individuals withdraw from this drug under the supervision of medical professionals. Follow up recovery programs include behavioral programs, cognitive therapy, and support groups.