Date of Award
Zoology and Physiology
Every day in America, 90 individuals die from overdosing on prescription pain relievers or synthetic opioids. From 1999 to 2015, American deaths from opioid drug overdoses increased from 8,048 to 33,091 (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2017). Approximately two million Americans in 2015 abused prescription pain relievers, which increased from 2014. Opioid receptors reside in the reward pathway of the brain, releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine, providing users with euphoria and analgesia. Long term drug use induces chronic constipation, drug tolerance, immune suppression, hormonal changes, and increased sensitivity to pain (Dennis, B., Naji, L., et al., 2014). Opioid use disorders also negatively impact an individual’s mental status, increasing incidences of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
This review examines previous research to assess the physiological effects of opioid dependence and overdose, with analysis of treatment. For treatment of opioid dependence, Methadone and Suboxone are useful medications. The medications provide enough opioid receptor activity to avoid withdrawals, but not enough stimulation compared to prescription or synthetic opioids. Since Methadone and Suboxone reduce activity at the opioid receptors, the individual experiences less physical dependence. An additional medication can be used for acute overdoses; Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, can rapidly reverse an acute opioid overdose by blocking the opioid receptors.
Jeffries, Jessi, "Treatment of Opioid Dependence and Overdose" (2018). Honors Theses AY 17/18. 29.