It is no secret that painkillers have played a large role in the addiction rates in the U.S.
In fact, there are currently 58 opioid prescriptions every year for every 100 Americans.
If these are prescribed medications, what kind of damage can they do, and what can I do to help?
Let’s talk about prescription painkillers, their risks, and everything you need to know about them.
What Are Prescribed Painkillers?
Prescribed painkillers are drugs that are prescribed by a doctor for the sole purpose of relieving pain.
These drugs are not meant to treat or cure any disease or illness, but simply to mask pain. They can be prescribed for a wide variety of conditions, from a broken hand to alleviating pain after an operation.
These drugs involve the use of opium, which is a highly addictive compound that can impair judgment and motor functions.
These often lead to a very short-lived euphoria, and many people enjoy the feeling and feel a need to continue to relive it.
There are many risks involved with these types of medications, particularly with substance abuse, leading to other complications. Let’s talk about that.
7 Things You Didn’t Know About Painkiller Addiction
Painkiller addictions are a serious problem and should be treated that way. You have likely heard stories of addictions from the media or from loved ones.
Painkillers can lead to serious health risks, especially when taken consistently or with high doses. Here are some of the facts.
1. Painkillers Can Lead To Other Addictions
This may sound obvious, but it is to a much higher extent than you would believe. People who are prescribed opioids are 19 times more likely to start using drugs like heroin.
In fact, urban injection drug users interviewed in 2008 and 2009 found that 86% had used pain relievers either medically or nonmedically prior to their heroin addiction.
2. Withdrawal Symptoms Are No Joke
After you use these medications for a while, the body can become dependant on it. Once the body has adapted to the presence of the substance, a higher dose may be needed to create the same effects.
After a while, once the body is fully dependant on the substance, quitting can cause some serious effects. Including insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and involuntary muscle spasms.
3. Side Effects Can Be Lethal
Overdoses are all too common in the US, and 68% of them involve the use of opioids.
One of the most serious risks with painkillers is the possibility of respiratory depression. High doses can cause breathing to slow down to the point that users die.
Some of the side effects you may encounter with these drugs include constipation, nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, and decreased cognitive abilities.
While those are not fatal, they can certainly inhibit one’s ability to perform essential duties for their health. That can lead to malnourishment and other potentially fatal complications.
Not only that, day-to-day operations can be incredibly lethal while using these medications, like driving or operating machinery. If you are using these drugs, driving after use can put many people’s lives at risk.
Another serious risk of death with these medications is when they are mixed with other substances, including alcohol. Taking these medications for medical use should be used exclusively, and in the prescribed dosage, to avoid complications.
4. Symptoms Can Be Spotted
Visiting multiple doctors to get prescriptions for painkillers, social withdrawal, slurring speech, lying about whereabouts and activities, or stealing medication that has been prescribed to someone else.
These are all common indicators of painkiller addiction. If you know somebody who exhibits these behaviors, or if you exhibit them yourself, these are key signs of addiction.
If you are looking for physical symptoms, they will likely include dilated pupils, impaired coordination, and heavy perspiration.
If those symptoms fit the bill, then that person needs treatment. Find out how to do an intervention the right way to help a loved one.
5. These Prescriptions Are On The Rise
Since the year 2000, the number of opioid prescriptions in the US has increased by over 400%.
That is a troubling amount considering the rising addiction rates. If you are able to get through the pain with over-the-counter medicine like acetaminophen, it may be a wise choice to choose that alternative.
6. Other Factors Can Influence Addiction
There are many co-occurring illnesses that often pair with substance abuse. People can be more susceptible to addiction when they are facing other mental health issues.
People suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are far more likely to be a victim of substance abuse. People will look for non-medical ways to help ease their suffering.
Be transparent with your doctors about these pre-existing conditions before accepting addictive medications.
However, there is dual diagnosis treatment available for people struggling with addiction and mental illness.
7. Treatment Is Not The End
Unfortunately, many people who receive treatment will relapse, as addiction is very powerful. Between 40% and 60% of patients will abuse the drug again.
That shouldn’t stop you from trying. Yes, many do go back to substance abuse. However, that is only because treatment is not a cure.
Recovery is a lifelong process. The three main steps are seeking treatment, starting recovery, and maintaining abstinence. The latter is the longest and most difficult.
If a loved one has received treatment, do what you can to support them, as they will need a helping hand.
If you are maintaining your abstinence, seek out any support you can get and continue the progress you’ve made.
It is clear that the risks of these medications are incredibly serious, and should be treated with care.
If you have been prescribed a painkiller, make sure that you take the proper steps to avoid addiction.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to painkillers, please check out our admissions page and get the help that is needed today!