Opiates are narcotic analgesic substances derived from the poppy plant. Although similar to opioids, the active ingredients in opiates occur freely in nature, making them organically derived. Some common examples of opiates include morphine and codeine.
Opioids, on the other hand, are synthetically produced in laboratory conditions (OxyContin, Fentanyl, etc.). Nevertheless, both categories of substances affect the body in very similar ways. Doctors primarily prescribe these substances to patients suffering from chronic pain or ongoing illness and are extremely detrimental to physical and mental wellbeing when used indiscriminately.
In order to fully comprehend the health hazard that opiates pose, it is important to analyze their effect on brain chemistry. Opiates are narcotics that act as depressants on the human central nervous system. Many animals, including humans, are born with opiate receptors naturally present in their brains. These receptors exist due to endogenous neurotransmitters that react with the receptors to create responses similar to those driven by opiates naturally in the body. Externally introduced opiates essentially bind themselves to particular receptors in the brain, spinal cord, etc., thereby mimicking these endogenous neurotransmitters’ pain-relieving effects. The ultimate effect is a ‘high’ that completely blocks the brain’s ability to process pain, creating a pleasurable numbness and causing side effects such as nausea, fatigue, confusion, and reduced cognitive perception.
The primary characteristic difference between an adult’s nervous system and that of a teenager pertains to the process of ‘myelination.’ Each nerve cell in the human body is covered with a layer of a fat-like substance known as myelin. This substance is not fully developed yet in the teenage brain cell. Therefore, to compensate, the nerves must send louder, more jarring electrical signals to each other in order to communicate. A good analogy to understand this phenomenon is a song playing through a cheap set of speakers compared to a sophisticated, state-of-the-art sound system. Because of these less refined, ‘louder’ communication channels, teenagers’ brains experience both positive and negative emotions and external stimuli with far greater intensity than adults do. This aspect of heightened feelings combined with the alienation young adulthood brings makes teenagers far more susceptible to addictions than adults. Further, neural pathways, which dictate behavioral patterns, form more quickly in teenagers, causing them to adopt addictive habits more easily.
The Los Angeles Teen PHP is a structured teen treatment program that runs for 8 hours each day for 4 days each week. Unlike hospital residents, PHP candidates are free to return to their own homes at the end of each treatment session, thereby benefiting from family, home comfort, and community support. This kind of familiar support is essential to remove feelings of alienation, which may cause teens to fall into relapse.