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Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs


Opioids are defined by their ability to bind to the opioid receptors of nervous systems. Opioid receptors inherently exist in our bodies because we have endogenous natural opioids such as endorphins and enkephalins which regulate our pain and reward system. External opioids act similarly by affecting the body's ability to perceive, react to, or tolerate pain and reward. Opioid receptors in the brain stem effect the body's ability to control involuntary body functions, which is why respiratory arrest is a common consequences of opioid overdose.

While the use of heroin by University students has decreased between 2009 and 2011 from 0.8 percent to 0.7 percent according to the Boynton Health College Health Surveys, it's important to be aware of the effects, consequences, and resources available to help.

What is an Opioid?

Opioids consist of natural, semi-synthetic, and synthetic derivations. They can be taken through a variety of methods; namely injected, snorted, or smoked. All three methods can lead to addiction and serious health problems. Naturally occurring opioids are opium and morphine. Heroin is an opiate drug that is synthesized from morphine the active component of the opium poppy plant. Heroin is considered a semi-synthetic opioid along with oxycodone, oxymorphone and hydrocodone. Synthetic opioids consist of Fentanyl, methadone, buprenorphine, and codeine.

How it's abused

Injecting opioids may cause a dramatic "rush" or "high" followed by dry mouth, flushed skin, heavy hands and feet, slowed thinking and movement, and reduced pain. After this initial euphoria, the user experiences alternate drowsiness and wakefulness. Snorting and smoking may not give the dramatic initial "rush"; however, the aftereffects are the same.


Heroin use in particular is highly addictive. Tolerance develops in which the user's physiological and psychological response to the drug decreases, and more opioid is needed to achieve the same intensity of effect. NIDA reports about 23 percent of individuals who use heroin become dependent on it.

Other Adverse Effects

Opioid abuse has been associated with increased risks of contracting infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, pneumonia, and liver or kidney disease. In addition to the health risks associated with heroin use, physical dependence results from chronic use of opioids.


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