Reader, so sorry for the long wait on opium and narcotics (the knowledge and information on it; I am not dealing). My research and the presentations I have to give have kept me super busy. This is the post we have all been waiting for, that is until I announce a topic and fail to post for days on end.
Onward with the facts and the wits!
Opium is a mixture of about 18 chemical substances known as alkaloids. People have been using opium for centuries. The Greeks used it to treat headaches, vertigo, coughs, jaundice, fevers, leprosies, and a lot of other illnesses. If it hurt, they gave you opium.
I want to focus on two drugs that come from opium: morphine and heroin.
So, Lesley, who is this Morpheus? Well, Morpheus is the Greek god of sleep, and morphine is named after him. Morphine, in its original form, is a bitter-tasting powder that can be used as a sedative and pain reliever. It was first made from opium in 1805. In 1856 the hypodermic needle came to America. Three cheers for advancement!
So in April of 1861, when the American Civil War broke out, doctors used the needles to give morphine to soldiers. They gave morphine for everything and anything that was painful, and as a result, many Civil War veterans went back home with a morphine addiction. Those with this addiction seen as sufferers from “soldier’s illness.”
When a person is either abusing morphine or even taking it properly, they are likely to be constipated.
- Shallow breathing – it may feel like the person’s chest is barely moving and there may be few breaths each minute. Opiates slow breathing, which is what usually kills a person who has taken too much of the drug.
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Low blood pressure, especially when a person is also taking other medications that cause a drop in blood pressure
- Constricted pupils
- Loss of normal muscle tension
- Cardiac arrest
- Cold and clammy skin
- Circulatory collapse
- They can also fall into a coma
A person using morphine according to a doctor’s instruction can still become addicted to the drug, sometimes in a little as a few weeks.
If he (or she) tries to discontinue the morphine, he will manifest some or all of these signs of withdrawal that are common to opiates:
- Tearing eyes
- Muscle aches
- Dilated pupils
- Trouble sleeping
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Stomach cramps
This next section is very important because honestly seeing and hearing about the faiths of drugged addicted babies causes my blood to boil.
Morphine During Pregnancy (Important note)
A woman taking morphine while she is pregnant is likely to cause her baby to be born addicted to this drug.
Infants going through morphine withdrawal will show the following signs:
- The baby may have trouble breathing right after birth
- They will be irritable and inconsolable
- They will sleep poorly and be very active
- They may shake with tremors and have a high-pitched cry
- They may have difficulty growing and gaining weight due to diarrhea and vomiting
- They may run fevers
If you are pregnant, be smart. Babies can die from addictions. This is not just for morphine but alcohol and any other substance as well. If you are pregnant, don’t. Just don’t.
From bad to worse
After the Civil War, research was done and it was discovered that morphine was addictive. Surprise!
So they used it as medicine but not as often. Later they discovered that morphine could be treated with a less expensive chemical called acetic anhydride it could be made into an even stronger sedative and painkiller. They called this new drug heroin. They prescribed heroin like crazy.
Here was the thing; the drug was stronger than the addictive morphine, therefore, it was more addictive, and actually more dangerous than morphine.
Injection provides the fastest rush and greatest intensity of the drug, usually within seconds. When heroin or morphine are snorted or smoked the effects are usually felt within ten to fifteen minutes. Soon after injection, heroin crosses the blood-brain barrier. In the brain, heroin is converted to morphine and binds rapidly to opioid receptors.
Heroin produces a “downer” effect that rapidly induces a state of relaxation and euphoria. Like other opiates, heroin use blocks the brain’s ability to perceive pain.
- Shortness of breath
- Dry mouth
- Constricted (small) pupils
- Sudden changes in behavior or actions
- Cycles of hyper-alertness followed by suddenly nodding off
- Droopy appearance, as if extremities are heavy
The above signs are not unique to heroin abuse it is pretty much for every drug, however, there are subtle signs such as:
- Having needles or syringes not used for other medical purposes
- Having burned silver spoons
- Having aluminum foil or gum wrappers with burn marks
- Missing shoelaces (used as a tie off for injection sites)
- Straws with burn marks
- Having small plastic bags, with white powdery residue (that’s the heroin…shhhh)
- (Don’t shh… if you think someone has a heroin problem, please offer help and be supportive, addiction is a disease).
Heroin users also will show behavioral signs of heroin abuse and addiction that include:
- Lying or other deceptive behavior
- Avoiding eye contact, or distant field of vision
- Substantial increases in time spent sleeping
- Increase in slurred, garbled or incoherent speech
- Sudden worsening of performance in school or work, including expulsion or loss of jobs
- Decreasing attention to hygiene and physical appearance
- Loss of motivation and apathy toward future goals
- Withdrawal from friends and family, instead spending time with new friends with no natural tie
- Lack of interest in hobbies and favorite activities
- Repeatedly stealing or borrowing money from loved ones, or unexplained absence of valuables
- Hostile behaviors toward loved ones, including blaming them for withdrawal or broken commitments
- Regular comments indicating a decline in self-esteem or worsening body image
- Wearing long pants or long sleeves to hide needle marks, even in very warm weather
Users build tolerance to heroin, leading to increases in the frequency and quantity of heroin consumption, this can lead to an overdose and at times death since the body shuts down. With growing tolerance, more definitive physical symptoms of heroin abuse and addiction emerge:
- Weight loss
- Runny nose
- Needle track marks visible on arms
- Infections or abscesses at injection site
- For women, loss of menstrual cycle (amenorrhea)
- Cuts, bruises or scabs from skin picking
So, why is- how are painkillers dangerous. Well, morphine and heroin are not just normal painkillers. They are highly addictive because of the endorphins they release. They are dangerous because morphine but mainly heroin abuse and dependence produce serious medical side effects, which may directly or indirectly result in death such as:
- Heart problems, including infection of heart lining and valves
- Infectious diseases spread by shared needles (HIV and hepatitis B and C)
- Chronic pneumonia or other pulmonary diseases
- Blood clots or tissue death resulting from collapsed veins or impurities
- Bacterial infections
- Liver disease
- Arthritis and other rheumatologic problems
Are there treatments. Well, yes. Do they work? That depends on the person’s strength and willpower. Withdraws are painful! There is hope for these people. With advances in medication and psychological treatments success rates are slowly but surely raising.
“Gabriel’s face darkened. ‘Is there anything that isn’t a joke to you?’
‘Nothing that comes to mind.”
‘You know,’ Gabriel said, ‘there was a time I thought we could be friends, Will’
‘There was a time I thought I was a ferret,’ Will said, ‘but it turned out to be the opium haze. Did you know it had that effect? Because I didn’t.’
― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel