Opiates are the strongest pain relievers known. Their use and abuse dates back to around 4000 years BC. Awareness of the growth of the abuse problem happened at the turn of the 20thCentury when a conference was held in Shanghai to talk about the opiate problem in China.
The opiate family includes a number of drugs such as heroin, morphine, diamorphine, fentanyl, oxycodone, buprenorphine, codeine and dihydrocodeine. They are available in many forms but injecting heroin is unfortunately a common practice in the UK.
Opiates cause an intense feeling of euphoria when used in the absence of pain. The brain produces similar chemicals itself when the person is engaged in essential activities such as feeding or having sex. These chemicals are called endorphins. The problem is that these feelings of euphoria are strongly addictive. They lead to psychological dependence at first and then a physical addiction too. The body becomes dependent on the opiate and severe physical symptoms will occur if there is a sudden withdrawal of the drug.
Unfortunately many people who use opiates use larger and more frequent doses to reach a high. They often become unable to afford the purchase of street drugs and this leads to activities such as stealing and prostitution to fund the habit. Films have sometimes glamorised the abuse of heroin, but the reality is far from pleasant.
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