Chapter 10-1: Welcome to the World of Opiates

Morphine is a purified form of opium, a chemical that is found in opium poppies. Derivatives of morphine are called opiates. Synthetic chemicals that behave like morphine in their ability to bind to opiate receptors in the body, relieve pain, and have other morphine-like properties are called opioids.

Humans have a natural opioid system in their brain. Endorphins, protein molecules that serve as chemical messengers are our powerful natural pain relievers and are also important regulators of the autonomic nervous systems. They influence mood changes, physical activity, sleep and regulate blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, bowel movements and body temperature. Endorphins are also the chemical catalysts for our experiences of key emotions that make human life possible.

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Throughout history, the most effective pain-relieving medications have been various forms of morphine that boost own natural endorphins. Unfortunately, a hit of an opium infused product for someone can provide temporary ‘serenity’ as Thomas de Quincey wrote in his Confessions of an English Opium Eater but also lead to an addiction that often ends in overdose and death.

However, these class of drugs elicit strong opinions from physicians and the public, some strongly favor their use; others consider the drug should be avoided at all costs because of the often lethal consequences of addiction.

In 1997 we were totally unaware of the abuse that was happening with prescription opioids. It would be another ten years before the devastation opioids were wreaking on communities all over the country would become headline news. Meanwhile we were just grateful that Bob was getting pain relief.