The Dangers of Prescription Opioid Use What Happens to Your Body
Know the Dangers of Prescription Opioid Use and Abuse
Suppose your doctor gives you a prescription for an opioid pain reliever. But, they don’t really explain anything other than you can take a pill every four to six hours, and it will help with your pain.
What your doctor doesn’t tell you is just as important. Opioid pain relievers are exceptionally addictive medications. Over the course of a single year, opioid prescription pain medications were responsible for over 17,000 deaths. Unfortunately, many people do not realize the extent of the side effects or the risks associated with taking prescription opioid pain medication until it’s too late.
What are Prescription Opioid Pain Medications?
Most people don’t realize how dangerous prescription opioid pain medications can be. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies these medications as Schedule II narcotics, which are defined as “drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence and are considered dangerous.” Common prescription opioids include:
Addiction to these medications happens faster than people think. In fact, dependence on prescription opioids can happen in as few as five days. The quickness in which people become addicted catches many users off guard, and they may not even realize their dependence. Without education or help, the dependence can become a long-term problem. In the United States alone, an estimated 1.7 million people suffer from substance abuse disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers.
The Beginnings of Prescription Opioid Abuse
You may begin taking a prescription opioid pain reliever when it is prescribed by your doctor, but even if you are following the directions for consumption, you are still at risk of becoming dependent. In the absence of significant pain, prescription opioid pain medications trigger the pleasure center of the brain.
In other words, these medications activate the “reward center” of the brain. The medication will cause a false sense of well-being, and this stimulation of the brain is the primary reason that someone would begin to take the drug repeatedly, even after their pain is long gone. Over time, they will develop a compulsion to continue to use prescription opioid pain medications, which leads to tolerance and dependence.
Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction
Repeated exposure to opioids causes your brain to stop functioning normally. This repeated use alters the brain so much that it functions normally when opioids are present and abnormally when they are not. Eventually, your brain becomes less and less responsive to the dosage you have been taking. You begin to take more than the prescribed dosage to get the same effect. This is your body building up a tolerance to the prescription opioid pain medication.
Once your brain develops a tolerance to the medication, your body begins to depend on the opioid as well. It becomes exceedingly difficult to stop taking or lower your dosage of the prescription opioid pain medication because your body begins to experience withdrawal symptoms including nausea, depression, insomnia, fatigue, diarrhea, chills, sweating, and many others.
In many cases, the combination of compulsion to use the drug and the body and brain’s dependence on the opioid causes dependence to turn into an addiction. Eventually, you may feel you cannot control your urge to take the drug, have problems with your health and money, or begin to use the medication without your doctor’s consent. In many cases, this leads to buying prescription drugs off the street.
Over time, people don’t have the funds needed to continue to abuse the medications. Many people eventually turn to heroin, a stronger opioid, as the cost of prescription opioids and their tolerance levels no longer afford them the sensation they seek. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, dependence on prescription opioids is the strongest risk factor for heroin use. In fact, 80 percent of heroin users started with a prescription opioid pain killer.
Don’t Let It Happen to You
If you are in significant pain and your doctor feels they must prescribe a prescription opioid pain reliever, you can prevent dependence.
- Check in with your doctor regularly and make sure you are taking the correct medication and dosage.
- Take your medication as it was prescribed. Do not take more without talking to your doctor.
- If the medication is prescribed “as needed,” monitor your pain level and only take the medication when you really need it. If you need help monitoring your use of the medication, have a trusted friend or family member administer the dosage.
- Never use another person’s prescription.
For more information on opioid abuse and prevention, check out the brochures we offer at http://www.primoprevention.com/product-tag/opioid/.
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