The CDC has even referred to it as an epidemic on numerous occasions. Every year, more and more people receive prescriptions for these drugs and addictions are happening frequently.
You may be in a tough spot right now because you are addicted to your prescription painkillers. You feel as though you need them to help control your pain, and you're not sure how to stop. If that's the case, you need to learn how dangerous and addictive they can be. You also need to know that there is hope for your recovery from this addiction.
Prescription opioids are drugs that are intended to specifically help with pain and other conditions. They are narcotics, which means that they're controlled substances.
According to the U.S. DEA fact sheet, the term "narcotics" is derived from the Greek word for "stupor." This indicates that prescribed pain medications work by dulling the senses. The term applies to all drugs that originate from the opium poppy plant, or its derivatives or synthetic substitutes.
Most people associate these medications with pain relief. However, they can have other uses as well. Doctors can prescribe them for:
Any use outside of the above should be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, people often use them for far too long, or they abuse them for their euphoric effects.
It's incredible to take a look at what the statistics tell us about opiate abuse and addiction in the U.S.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine:
Teenagers are not immune from the opioid epidemic in the United States. In fact, many teens get their start with drug abuse by first abusing pain pills.
Pain medications are highly addictive, but some are more addictive than others. The following is a list of some of the more commonly abused painkillers.
As you're probably aware, the list of addictive opiates is actually much longer than this. However, this should give you an idea of what drugs are more commonly prescribed that lead to addiction.
Every opiate drug has a long list of street names they go by. It would be impossible to list them all here, but some of the more common ones include:
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People often want to know what it is that makes prescription opiates so addictive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these medications change the way the brain works. They alter the brain's nerve cells. This can even happen to people to take these medications as prescribed to treat pain.
As time goes on, the brain grows accustomed to having these drugs regularly. The drugs boost the levels of serotonin, dopamine and other chemicals in the brain. Normally, the brain makes these on its own, but it will stop if opioid drugs have taken over the job.
When someone stops taking their pain pills, the result is a decrease in these chemicals. This causes people to react negatively. They will experience withdrawal symptoms as a result, and not feel like themselves.
Before anyone can become addicted to these medications, they first must abuse them. There are different ways of abusing prescription opiates, which we'll discuss in just a moment.
Most people think that they can abuse these drugs for as long as they want to, without consequences. They assume that they're safe because they're prescribed and technically legal. This could not be further from the truth. If anything, it actually makes them much more dangerous than many street drugs.
People can abuse their pain medications in a number of different ways. They can:
Every method described above is hazardous. These drugs are powerful. They are also intended to be taken for certain amounts of time. The directions on the bottle should be followed completely; otherwise, it's called abuse.
It is possible to become addicted to prescription opioids accidentally, and many people do. This is often seen in elderly people, but it can actually happen to anyone who uses them.
Accidental abuse occurs because people don't understand the addictive nature of their medications. They may not be getting the pain relief they're looking for, so they increase their dosage. Their intentions are not to get high or experience euphoria. They're just looking to decrease their pain.
It's also possible to accidentally abuse these drugs when you take them for too long. This happens far too often, and doctors will prescribe them long-term for some patients.
Purposeful or intentional abuse of opioid drugs is very common. People know that they will get high or experience a euphoric effect when they take them. They'll abuse them on their own, or in combination with other drugs and alcohol.
An addiction can take place in both places. It's important to know how dangerous these drugs can be. Abusing them for too long will eventually lead to addiction.
If abusing prescribed pain pills is becoming a problem for you, there are some signs that you can look for. Some of the warning signs include:
More often than not, people who are addicted to pills eventually move on to using heroin instead. There are a few different reasons why they do this.
As tolerance levels go up, people will take more of the drug to compensate for that. They may run out quickly, and then be unable to get a new prescription. Many states have safeguards in place to prevent doctor shopping. When they're unable to get new prescriptions, heroin seems like a good alternative.
Another reason people may gravitate toward heroin is because of the fact that it's much cheaper. In some areas of the country, it costs about six times less than many opiate pills. People are able to use it and save money, which they view as a good thing.
Heroin's chemical structure is very similar to prescription opioid painkillers. That makes the transition to the new drug very easy, and explains why they are so closely linked.
The United States is responsible for consuming close to 100% of the world's hydrocodone. We are also responsible for using 81% of the world's Oxycodone, according to NIDA. Also, in 2008, there were 305,000 emergency room visits because of abusing opiate drugs. This is an increase from 2004, when there were only 144,600, nationwide.
It's clear that the rates of addiction to these drugs is very high. With long-term use, and with misuse, you're more likely to form an addiction to them than not.
Opiate drugs come with a long list of side effects. Abusing them is only going to enhance their effects, and with long-term use, they get even worse. If you're currently abusing these drugs, you need to know what you can expect both physically and psychologically.
The physical side effects of opioid medications include:
Even if you only abuse painkillers for a short period of time, you're still likely to experience side effects. Some of the short-term effects include:
The long-term risks associated with continually abusing these drugs are very serious. Unfortunately, they're usually not taken seriously enough. These effects can include:
Once you begin abusing prescription opioid medications, if you don't stop, you can get addicted. These types of addictions take time, but they always begin with abuse first. It's important for you to understand what this means if you think you may be addicted.
An opiate addiction occurs when you cannot do without your prescription drugs. You feel as though you have to have them, and you don't feel like yourself without them. They've become a part of who you are, and they have a high priority in your life.
Once you have reached that level, you're addicted. Sometimes people live in denial because they just don't believe it's possible to be a prescription opioid addict. Please know that it is possible, and if any of the above fit you, it may have already happened.
One of the ways you can tell if you've become an addict is to look for the signs of addiction. Prescription pain pills cause many different symptoms to occur when an addiction is present. Have you noticed any of the following in your own life?:
As you look at that list, do you notice any of those signs? Maybe you notice some of them, or perhaps you're still not sure. If that's the case, you still need to identify if you have a problem. You can do this in a few different ways.
You could begin by taking a prescription drug addiction quiz. This quiz is excellent, and it will be very thorough in asking you about your drug use. Once you finish the quiz, you can get your results right away. You'll even get recommendations about what you should do next.
You could also talk with a trusted friend or a relative about any signs they may notice in you. Sometimes it's hard for us to see them in ourselves, but others can see them. Ask the person to be honest with you, even if they think you're not going to like the answer.
Finally, it may help you to talk with a professional about your drug use history. You can obtain a free phone assessment through may rehab centers for this purpose.
It may have come as a shock to you to find that you're addicted to prescription opiates. If so, you're not alone. Many people are surprised when they discover this about themselves.
The most important thing that you can do right now is to stop using them safely. This is best accomplished by getting professional treatment for your addiction.
Please keep in mind that if you abusing these medications, and you're not addicted, you probably don't need rehab. You may be able to stop taking the drugs safely on your own. However, you should talk with a counselor about your prescription opioid abuse.
Counseling will help you to understand the reasons you started abusing these drugs to begin with. You may not even know. However, there could be an underlying cause that could eventually cause you to start doing it again. Getting therapy now can help prevent a much bigger problem later on.
When you go to prescription opiate addiction treatment, you'll be treated as an individual. You'll most likely begin with prescription drug detox. This will allow you to be weaned off the medication slowly. You may also be given other medications to help with your withdrawal symptoms. Or, it's possible that a more holistic method of detoxification would be best for you.
Once your withdrawal symptoms have been controlled, you'll be able to go to rehab. During this time, you'll talk with a therapist and participate in group therapy as well. Your treatment will be well-rounded, but it will be targeted for your specific needs as a patient.
It is dangerous to try to quit using opioid drugs if you're an addict on your own. If you do, your risk of relapse increases tremendously. If you relapse, you could possibly overdose. This could be fatal if you aren't able to get medical help right away.
The CDC tells us that:
There are many possibilities. It could be because these drugs are so highly addictive. They affect the central nervous system in a powerful way, and they can quickly cause breathing problems. Also, their perceived safety may factor in as well.
If you are addicted to prescription opioids, the time to act is now. Here at Ashwood Recovery, we're available to assist you throughout the recovery process.
You don't have to continue to live your life feeling as though you can't escape this addiction. You can escape it, and we can guide you every step of the way.
Schedule a Free Addiction Assessment with one of our counselors. No obligation. 100% confidential.