Effects of opioid use
On the brain
The mu receptor is the type most related to opioid use; mu receptors are what cause opioids to become addictive, as well as produce analgesic and euphorigenic effects.
- 17 known opioid receptors
- The primary three are mu, kappa, delta
- Three subtypes of mu - μ1, μ2, and μ3
The Functions of Opioids at Receptors
- Full Agonists
Most opiates are agonists, imitating neurotransmitters and activating receptors. Full agonist opioids have the highest risk of abuse.
Antagonists bind to receptors in order to prevent neurotransmitters from activatin them. Opioid antagonists include naltrexone and naloxone.
- Partial Agonists
Partial agonists bind to receptors, but activate them less than a full agonist would. Low doses result in the same effect as a proper opioid, but eventually the effect hits a "ceiling" as doses increase. Opioid partial agonists include buprenorphine and oxilorphan.
On the body
Opioids are prescribed medically as:
Whether used medically or especially when abused, opioids can also cause lowered blood pressure and pulse, slower breathing, and confusion. The pain-numbing effects can also extend to insensitivity to pain, which can lead to severe damage.
- Cough suppressants
- Diarrhea prevention
Opioids, especially heroin, can also cause nausea, constipation and irregular cycles.
Overdose can lead to death through severe respiratory depression.
Opioids such as heroin and morphine are capable of crossing the placental barrier extremely quickly, leading to miscarriage, premature labor and stillbirth. Surviving infants will likely be addicted as well, and their withdrawal is more severe due to their smaller size, sometimes being fatal.