Opioids constitute the group of compounds whose pharmacological effects duplicate those of morphine. They are commonly used medically as an adjunct to anesthesia, for the relief of pain, for the prevention of an abstinence syndrome, and for cough suppression. Opioids also are abused for their intoxicating effects.
The history of opioid use goes back thousands of years in human history. The Ebers Papyri from approximately 7000 B.C. refer to the use of opium in children suffering from colic (Deneau & Mule, 1981). In the Victorian era, the use of laudanum was socially acceptable. In the present day, opioids use is stringently regulated, especially in the United States; however, demand by addicts results in the existence of a "black market" characterized by crime, disease, poverty, and loss of personal and social productivity. The sexually promiscuous intravenous heroin user is at high risk to contract and effectively spread the deadly acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) virus, as well as venereal and other infectious diseases, such as hepatitis C. High overall death rates are associated with opioid abuse, approximately 10-15 per 1,000 in the United States (Jaffe, 1989). The Drug Abuse Warning Network (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1995) indicates an alarming increase in the use of opioids, especially prescription drugs such as oxycodone.
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