NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
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  • Maybe you've heard of drugs called heroin, morphine, or codeine. These are examples of opioids. If someone uses opioids again and again, his or her brain is likely to become dependent on them.

  • Las células nerviosas padecen de la adicción y de los síntomas del síndrome de abstinencia

    Después de años de experimentos, los científicos han descubierto cómo copiar (“clonar”) los genes que controlan la producción de los receptores de opiáceos. Ahora les será más fácil a los científicos hacer receptores de opiáceos y estudiar cómo los opiáceos afectan las células nerviosas.

  • Provides an overview of commonly abused over-the-counter (OTC) medications and prescription drugs—opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants—and explains effects on the brain and reported use.

  • Hi, my name’s Sara Bellum. Welcome to my magazine series exploring the brain’s response to drugs. In this issue, we’ll investigate the fascinating facts about opioids.

  • woman with flashlight in brain

    ¿Qué les pasa a las personas y a sus cerebros cuando se vuelven adictos a los opiáceos? El uso de opiáceos por largo tiempo cambia cómo funcionan las células nerviosas del cerebro. Estas células se acostumbran tanto a los opiáceos que llegan a necesitar de ellos para poder funcionar normalmente.

  • Provides an overview of commonly abused over-the-counter (OTC) medications and prescription drugs—opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants—and explains effects on the brain and reported use.

  • Opioids look like chemicals in your brain and body that attach to tiny parts on nerve cells called opioid receptors. Scientists have found three types of opioid receptors: mu, delta, and kappa (named after letters in the Greek alphabet). Each of these receptors plays a different role. For example, mu receptors are responsible for opioids’ pleasurable effects and their ability to relieve pain.

    Opioids act on many places in the brain and nervous system, including:

  • Clara Mente observa los opiáceos parar el dolor

    ¿Sabías que algunos opiáceos tienen usos médicos importantes? Son poderosos analgésicos y a veces los médicos los recetan para controlar la diarrea severa. Si miras la etiqueta del remedio para la tos, puedes encontrar que uno de los ingredientes es un opiáceo llamado codeína.

  • Long-term opioid use changes the way nerve cells work in the brain. This happens even to people who take opioids for a long time to treat pain, as prescribed by their doctor. The nerve cells grow used to having opioids around, so that when they are taken away suddenly, the person can have lots of unpleasant feelings and reactions. These are known as withdrawal symptoms.

    Have you ever had the flu? You probably had aching, fever, sweating, shaking, or chills. These are similar to withdrawal symptoms, but withdrawal symptoms are much worse.

  • Sara Bellum

    This past Drug Facts Chat Day, teens from across the country submitted their questions about drug abuse to NIDA scientists.

    A teen from Walter Johnson High School in Maryland asked, “What types of opioids are there?”

    In general, opioids are psychoactive chemicals that work by binding to opioid receptors in the body. These receptors are found principally in the central and peripheral nervous system as well as the gastrointestinal tract and can produce both the good and bad effects of opioid use.

    Many teens don’t know that there are illegal opioids (like heroin) as well as legal opioids that are prescribed for pain relief (like hydrocodone, which has the brand name of Vicodin). This is why common painkillers like Vicodin are so often abused—because they provide a “high” while relieving pain.

    Here are the main types of opioids:

    • Natural opiates are alkaloids, nitrogen-containing base chemical compounds that occur in plants such as in the resin of the opium poppy. Natural opiates include morphine, codeine, and thebaine.
    • Semi-synthetic opioids are opioids created in labs from natural opiates. Semi-synthetic opioids include hydromorphone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone (the prescription drug OxyContin), as well as heroin, which is made from morphine.
    • Fully synthetic opioids are opioids that are completely manmade, including fentanyl, pethidine, levorphanol, methadone, tramadol, and dextropropoxyphene.

    Some opioids (e.g., morphine, codeine, OxyContin) are used by doctors to treat various things, such as pain after surgery. But opioids also have addictive properties and negative health effects that make them dangerous when abused.

    Do you have other questions about types of drugs? Tell us in comments.

    Tags: 
    Opioids
    Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.
  • Opioids can make you throw up—this can even happen to someone given opioids by a doctor—which is why many people don’t like taking them.

    Your brain makes its own versions of opioids, called endogenous opioids. These chemicals act just like opioid drugs, attaching to opioid receptors in your brain. Endogenous opioids help your body control pain. If you’ve ever felt pleasantly relaxed after exercising a lot, that feeling was probably caused by the release of these natural chemicals (sometimes called “endorphins”) in your brain.

  • Sara Bellum

    Learn more about the different types of opioids in this updated post from 2013.

    During the 2013 Drug Facts Chat Day, teens from across the country submitted their questions about drug abuse to NIDA scientists. A teen from Walter Johnson High School in Maryland asked:

    “What types of opioids are there?”

    Opioids are psychoactive chemicals that occur naturally (in the resin of the poppy plant) or can be made in a laboratory. They work by binding to opioid receptors in the central and peripheral nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract.

    There are illegal opioids (like heroin) as well as legal opioids that are prescribed for pain relief (like hydrocodone, which has the brand name of Vicodin). In fact, there is a dangerous trend where people that have become addicted to prescription opioids begin using heroin because it’s cheaper to get.

    There are 3 main types of opioids:

    1. Natural opiates are alkaloids, nitrogen-containing base chemical compounds that occur in plants such as the opium poppy. Natural opiates include morphine, codeine, and thebaine.
    2. Semi-synthetic/manmade opioids are created in labs from natural opiates. Semi-synthetic opioids include hydromorphone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone (the prescription drug OxyContin), as well as heroin, which is made from morphine.
    3. Fully synthetic/manmade opioids are completely manmade, including fentanyl, pethidine, levorphanol, methadone, tramadol, and dextropropoxyphene.

    Prescription opioids (e.g., morphine, codeine, OxyContin) are prescribed by doctors to treat pain and provide millions of people with much needed relief when used as prescribed. However, opioids can produce a “high,” so some people abuse them. This has led to thousands of overdose deaths. In 2008, prescription opioids were responsible for 14,800 overdose deaths and in 2009, for more than 475,000 emergency room visits.

    Do you have other questions about types of drugs? Tell us in comments.

    Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.
  • For teachers: Background information and classroom activities for use with the Opiates Student Booklet.

  • There is still a lot that scientists don’t know about the effects of opioids on the brain. Maybe someday you will make the next big discovery!

    Until then, join me—Sara Bellum—in the magazines in my series, as we explore how drugs affect the brain and nervous system.

  • The first in a 5-part series, offers an understanding of the brain, how the reward center works, and what happens in the brain when a person uses cocaine, opiates (heroine), or marijuana.

  • Activity One

    Objective

    The student will learn the way in which opiates alter the function of nerve cells.

  • Offers the latest scientific information on heroin use and its consequences as well as treatment options available for those struggling with heroin addiction. 

  • Activity Two

    Objective

    The student will learn how opiates produce an analgesic effect.

  • Describes to young teens how opioids, such as Vicodin, morphine, heroin, and codeine, affect the brain—including the limbic system—and the nervous system

  • Tal vez hayas oído de ciertas drogas como la heroína, la morfina o la codeína. Éstas son ejemplos de opiáceos. Si alguien usa opiáceos una y otra vez, es probable que su cerebro comience a depender de estas drogas.

  • Examines the non-medical use of prescription drugs—opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants—describing adverse health effects of their use and the prevention and treatment of addiction.

  • Clara Mente estudiando las amapolas

    ¡Hola! Me llamo Clara Mente y quiero darles la bienvenida a mi serie de boletines informativos que exploran la respuesta del cerebro a las drogas. En este ejemplar, investigaremos varios datos fascinantes sobre los opiáceos. Alguna de esta información fue descubierta recientemente por los científicos que lideran la investigación en este campo.

  • Provides facts about the abuse of cough syrups and other cold medicines, including their effects on the brain and dangers of using these products to get high.