Behind the everyday activities of life in America—going to work, socializing with friends and family, running errands, etc.—lies the untold story of prescription drug abuse. For many, the use of a powerful pain reliever (Vicodin, Percocet, morphine, etc.) happens only on a rare occasion that usually after a trip to the dentist to get a root canal or a bad accident ending in a broken bone. But for others, it's a daily struggle as these same drugs have taken over their lives causing both physical dependency and addictive behaviors that they can no longer control. In short, narcotic drug abuse can turn into a disease just like any other disease.
Opioids - Overview And Background
Opioids are the strongest of all pain relievers. They include a number of different products including both prescription and illicit drugs. They can be classified into 3 main types:
1) Natural Opioids - Extracted from the poppy seed plant Papaver somniferum. Common products are opium and the primary active component of opium—morphine.
2) Semi-synthetic Opioids - The chemical synthesis of compounds naturally found in plants (alkaloid substances derived from opium). These include heroin, oxycodone (Percocet, Roxicet), oxymorphone, hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab).
3) Synthetic Opioids - This class of opioids is created using completely unnatural substances (petrochemicals) to create a number of different opioid products. Common items include methadone, buprenorphine (Subutex), fentanyl (Duragesic), codeine, meperidine (Demerol), propoxyphene (Darvocet and Darvon - recently withdrawn from the U.S. market).
Many will refer to all of the above medications as narcotics which is only partially true. The term narcotic originated from the ancient Greek words ναρκῶ narkō which means "numbness" or "stupor". Narcotics have been associated with any psychoactive compound that dulled one's senses, relieves pain, and has sleep-inducing properties.
Narcotics have been widely used without a prescription for thousands of years all over the world for their pain relieving properties, but the U.S in 1915 made these drugs available via prescription only due to the potential for serious consequences if used inappropriately. Stricter regulations have been put in place over the years to try and reduce the amount of harm or even death that occurs from misusing these powerful drugs.