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The Result of Prescription Opioid Addiction

Prescription opioid addiction has been an ongoing problem in the United States for years.

Prescription sedative abuse is becoming more commonplace in the United States.

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.

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What Types of Drugs are Opioid Painkillers?

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.

These medications must be taken exactly as they are prescribed. Otherwise, they can be dangerous.

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.

What are Prescribed Opiates Used for?

Most people associate these medications with pain relief. However, they can have other uses as well. Doctors can prescribe them for:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Opioid overdose
  • Chronic coughing
  • Use during surgery as anesthesia

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.

Opioid Addiction Statistics in the United States

It's incredible to take a look at what the statistics tell us about opiate abuse and addiction in the U.S.

Opioids might be a prescription medication

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine:

  • 2 million people had a substance use disorder that involved prescribed opiates in 2015.
  • 591,000 people suffered from a heroin addiction, which often comes after an addiction to prescribed opioids.
  • In 2012, there were 259 million prescriptions written for these medications.
  • This is more than enough to supply every adult American with his or her own bottle.
  • The number of people seeking treatment for this addiction in 2009 was six times what it was in 1999.

Teen Opiate Statistics

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.

  • 276,000 teens admitted to nonmedical use of pain relievers in 2015.
  • Of this number, 122,000 of them had addictions to them.
  • During that same year, 21,000 teenagers admitted to using heroin within the last year.
  • 5,000 of them said they were current heroin users. Many most likely first started with prescription drug abuse.
  • Adolescents who obtain these medications usually do so from a friend or relative who shares them.
  • Between 1994 and 2007, the prescribing rates for opiates among this age group almost doubled.

List of Prescription Opiates That Can Lead to Addiction

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.

  • Fentanyl - This drug is said to be more potent than morphine. It is often used to treat severe pain, or pain after surgical procedures. It's often given to people who are resistant to other opiates.
  • Oxycontin (Oxycodone) - Individuals who have chronic pain are often given this medication to help. It works well for moderate to severe pain, but it is often abused.
  • Demerol - This drug is useful in anesthesia, and it also dulls pain.
  • Hydrocodone - This is the generic form of Vicodin. It is frequently given to people after they have sustained an injury to help with pain. It may also be given after surgical procedures.
  • MS Contin - This medication is helpful for treating ongoing pain. Many cancer patients rely on this drug for pain relief.
  • Percocet - This drug is a combination of Oxycodone and acetaminophen. It's useful for moderate to severe pain, such as after childbirth, or a cesarean section.
  • Dilaudid - Many people believe that this medication only works well when given through an IV. Therefore, it's mostly used in hospital settings to help with severe pain.
  • Codeine - This medication is usually found in cough syrup. It can help to relieve cough, but it also has pain relieving qualities.
  • Morphine - Morphine is generally used in hospital settings. However, there may be cases when it's prescribed. It is a powerful painkiller that's usually given for severe, chronic pain.
  • Methadone - This drug's effects last a very long time. It may be used for pain, but it is also used to treat opioid addiction in facilities known as Methadone clinics.

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:

  • Vikes
  • Oxy
  • Captain Cody
  • Syrup
  • China White or China Girl
  • Goodfella
  • Fizzies
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • White Stuff
  • Monkey
  • Blue Heavens
  • Juice
  • Dillies
  • Hillbilly Heroin

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Why are They So Addictive?

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.

Prescription Opiate Abuse: Where it All Begins

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:

  • Simply increase their dosages on their own, without talking to their doctors first.
  • Take too many doses of their medications too close together.
  • Chew the pills instead of swallowing them with water.
  • Dissolve the pills in water or another liquid, and then inject them into a vein.
  • Taking prescribed opiates that were not prescribed for them specifically.

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:

  • Doctor shopping, which is visiting more than one doctor to get your medications.
  • Purchasing prescription pain relievers online, illegally.
  • Behavioral changes, which are common to people who abuse these drugs. For example, frequent mood swings and agitation.
  • Spending a lot of money on opiates, and even stealing money to get what you need.
  • Becoming isolated from your family and friends.
  • Caring less about personal hygiene and appearance.

From Pain Pills to Heroin

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.

Taking prescription opiates for a period of time will result in an increased tolerance level. This means that people find they need to take more to get the same results. This happens in both accidental abuse and intentional abuse situations.

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.

What are the Rates of Addiction to Painkillers?

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 Side Effects Many People Aren't Aware Of

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:

  • Frequent constipation that can become quite severe
  • The risk of respiratory depression
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • The risk of rebound symptoms of pain
  • Endocrine system abnormalities
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Significant changes in the brain
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Problems with memory
  • The onset of depression
  • The onset of anxiety
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Anger and aggression

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:

  • Slower breathing rates than normal
  • Feeling drowsy and fatigued
  • Mild to moderate constipation
  • Bouts of nausea
  • The risk of becoming unconscious, or even slipping into a coma

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:

  • Abdominal bloating and distention
  • Excessive nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme constipation
  • The risk of liver damage, which may be even worse with drugs that contain acetaminophen
  • Brain damage that is the result of respiratory depression

How the Abuse of Prescription Drugs Becomes an Addiction

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?:

  • You're taking more of the medication now than you once did.
  • Your personality seems to have changed since you started taking these drugs.
  • You've become socially withdrawn from the people you love.
  • You're using the medications even though you technically don't need to anymore.
  • You spend a lot of time working to obtain your medication.
  • You're not as responsible at home or at work as you once were.
  • You become forgetful at times.
  • If someone questions your use of these drugs you become very defensive, and even angry.

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.

How to Get Off Pain Pills Safely

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.

Quitting Cold Turkey and Your Risk of Relapse and Overdose

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.

Opiate Overdose Statistics in America

The CDC tells us that:

  • Prescription opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999.
  • Likewise, the sale of prescription opiates has increased at the same rate.
  • Between 1999 and 2015, more than 183,000 people in the United States have died from these overdoses.
  • In 2015 alone, more than 15,000 people died from these overdoses.
  • Nearly all of all opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. involve a prescribed opiate drug.

Why are Overdoses More Frequent with Opioids?

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.

Get Prescription Opiate Addiction Treatment Today

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.

Do you need more information about prescription painkiller abuse, addiction or treatment? Let us know how we can help you by contacting us today.

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