Blog post #4- What affects does the decriminalization of drugs have on society?

What are the advantages of decriminalizing drugs? +  opioids

Before reading, here are some in depth definitions ūüôā¬†

Opioids: A substance that stimulates your opioid receptors. They are narcotic pain killers. This triggers feelings of joy, pleasure, and blocks pain signals being sent from your nerve endings. Well known types include morphine, heroin, and fentanyl. Opioids are the drug with the most overdose in America. [1][2]

Noradrenaline: It is a substance released from your sympathetic nerve fibers endings. It is responsible for bodily functions such as digestion, wakefulness, breathing, and blood pressure. [5] [2]

(Marijuana = Cannabis)

Intro:

¬† ¬† The main painkiller being used in America are opioid pain killers. In the late 90’s it seemed that pharmaceutical companies had finally found the solution to pain: opioids. Getting rid of chronic pain seemed too good to be true… spoiler alert, it is. In 2014,¬†Opioid pain killers¬†were the cause of about 40% of drug related deaths in America. Pharmaceutical companies like Purdue pharma did not reveal the dangers of opioid painkillers. Consequently, Purdue pharma paid 5.5 billion dollars in criminal fine and forfeiture. [1] [7][ 8]

‚ÄúOpioid overdose deaths were five times higher in 2019 than in 1999.¬†The majority of those deaths were unintentional.‚ÄĚ [2]

Why do opioids make you feel happy and get rid of pain? 

   Opioids bind to receptors in our brain, releasing dopamine. [1] [2] They bind to these receptors, blocking pain signals from your brain. [1] [3] 

Why are they so dangerous?

   These types of drugs lessen the release of noradrenaline. Noradrenaline is responsible for our digestion, wakefulness, breathing, and blood pressure. When its release is lessened, it can lead to very slow breathing and heart rate, causing unconsciousness or death. [2]

 How is addictive? What would happen to me if I started taking opioids and increased the dose? 

       As you take opioids, your body starts to become less responsive to it. Your receptors will lessen, or they will not work. Because of this, people feel the need to take a higher dose. When you increase your dose, noradrenaline release decreases once again. So that your body can function, it increases its noradrenaline receptors. This way, it can detect it easier. Your body has adapted and created a new system based on the effect of the opioids. Now, you are fully dependent on opioids to run this system. If you stop taking them, your body will immediately begin to produce the same levels of noradrenaline it released before you took opioids regularly. Unfortunately, this does not mean your body will go back to normal. Producing noradrenaline is not a difficult task but getting rid of the extra receptors is. Your body will take much longer to remove these extra receptors than it takes to produce normal levels or noradrenaline. Because of this, you are now extremely sensitive to noradrenaline, due to the excess receptors. Your body begins to function very quickly. This causes withdrawal symptoms, such as vomiting, muscle aches, stomach pain, and fever. [2][4]

¬† ¬† ¬†When you are in withdrawal, you may be very sick for days, or even weeks. At this point, the user is not taking the drug to feel high; they just don’t want to feel ill.¬†As your tolerance drops, your risk for overdose increases significantly. As your¬†opioid receptors begin to come back, your sensitivity to the drug increases. This is because you have essentially ‚Äėundone‚Äô your bodies resistance. Basically, you are back to square one, except you‚Äôre now extremely sick and addicted to opioids.¬†So,¬†what’s¬†your solution? You do not want to feel ill, so you take opioids. Now that your bodies tolerance has decreased, it cannot handle your previous dosage of the drug.¬†Because of this, you will most likely overdose, which usually leads to death. [2]

An image showing how opioids work in our body. [3a]

Morphine - Wikipedia The chemical structure of Morphine [1a]

Can we prevent overdose?

Yes, using naloxone. Naloxone is a drug that binds to opioid receptors without activating them. It can even remove opioids from these receptors, ‚Äėreversing‚Äô the overdose. [2] Unfortunately, due to COVID, opioid drug overdoses have increased by 26.5%. One of the reasons for this is that people are now using this drug alone. In this case, if they overdose they cannot get help. [6]

( Yes, yes I get it: ” Weren’t you supposed to discuss the benefits of decriminalizing drugs? Why are you writing about the dangers of opioids instead?”. To understand the need for decriminalization, you must understand the opioid crisis first. Ignoring a worldwide crisis while making important decisions isn’t the best idea)

 

Now, finally getting to the main point of discussion: What are the advantages of decriminalizing drugs? Research shows that states with marijuana dispensaries have a 24% decrease in opioid pain killer related death. Yup, you read that right. It may come as a shock to some but current research shows that the decriminalization of marijuana decreases the use of opioids. [1]

Though marijuana is not effective for everyone, it is many times safer. No, this doesn’t mean cannabis is perfectly safe. We do not know all the effects it can have on your health long term. This being said, it is still much, much safer than opioids. Opioid painkillers are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths every year. Marijuana has not killed anyone yet.[1] [9]

THC THC structure. [2a]

Our current research shows cannabis has therapeutic effects. It may be able to help alleviate pain in patients. [10] We know that marijuana helps those with PTSD. It has been approved for medicinal use in trauma survivors. [11]

 

Thank you for taking the time to read through this! It was pretty dense, so I appreciate your time and concentration ūüôā Let me know if you have any feedback or constructive criticism, and I hope you found this post interesting! In my next round, I will be discussing the negative impacts of drugs and decriminalization (specifically marijuana). As I kind of spent most of this post talking about opioids, I will also add more about the positive impacts of marijuana.

Sources:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hx7WLlJzrlw&t=6s&ab_channel=Vox
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0CdS128-q4&ab_channel=TED-Ed
  3. https://www.asahq.org/madeforthismoment/pain-management/opioid-treatment/what-are-opioids/#:~:text=Opioids%20attach%20to%20proteins%20called,spinal%20cord%20to%20the%20brain.
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851054/
  5. https://www.britannica.com/science/norepinephrine
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p1218-overdose-deaths-covid-19.html
  7. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/opioid-manufacturer-purdue-pharma-pleads-guilty-fraud-and-kickback-conspiracies
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opioid
  9. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html
  10. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02791072.1998.10399683
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4578915/

Image sources:

1a. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morphine

2a.https://www.ch.ic.ac.uk/rzepa/mim/drugs/html/thc.htm

3a. https://www.oregonlive.com/health/2017/12/opioids_rewire_the_brain_ohsu.html

2 Replies to “Blog post #4- What affects does the decriminalization of drugs have on society?”

  1. Hello Nikki!

    So glad to see your new post up! I actually did not know much about opioids before this read – thank you for following up with good questions and answers.

    I have found two resources that focus on marijuana in Canada’s negative effects for your next round (in a statistic-based approach):

    https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-medication/cannabis/health-effects/effects.html#:~:text=Short%20term%20effects%20on%20your,increased%20risk%20of%20heart%20attack
    https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/cannabis

    Hope these help!

    Warm Regards,

    Galicia

    • Hi Galicia,
      Really, it makes me glad that you enjoy these posts! Thank you so much for reading this, and I appreciate these sources. I will be looking at many stats in my next research round, so these sources will help me so much.
      Thank you,
      Nikki S.

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