Over 100 Americans die every day because of opioid overdose. Opioids can involve anything from heroin, powerful fentanyl made in illegal laboratories, and prescription painkillers. While opioids come from a number of sources, most of them illegal, prescriptions are playing a significant role in the current opioid epidemic.
America has a prescription medication issue–and the problem is growing. When we take a look at the statistics that are provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), the widespread use and abuse of these medications is startling:
Of all the prescription medications that are being misused in the country, prescription painkillers are the most abused. According to the same study provided by the NIH, 5.1 million of the nearly nine million Americans who regularly abuse prescription medications are abusing painkillers. These medications are widely prescribed and are an effective pain management tool in a variety of medical situations when properly used as prescribed.
However, prescription painkillers are highly addictive, and people who take these medications can become easily hooked on these drugs. It is important that people who find themselves addicted to prescription painkillers find professional help immediately.
If you or a loved one are struggling with prescription painkiller addiction, please call Ocean Breeze Recovery Center and find out more about our Florida prescription painkiller addiction programs. Call us today at 1-800-960-5341.
If the problem is bad and growing worse every day, why have we prescribed more than 200 million opioids every year for the past 10 years?
Unfortunately, it’s a complicated problem and one of the reasons is that opioids are incredibly effective.
Opioids work on every level you experience pain. For instance, when you smash your finger with a hammer, the pain is first received by special receptors called nociceptors at the site of the injury, then the signal travels to the dorsal root ganglion in the base of the spine, and finally to the brain. Opioids stop pain at all three sites by stopping neurotransmitters that send pain signals through synapses (the place between nerve cells through which they communicate.)
Not only do opioid prescription painkillers do a great job of killing pain, but the euphoric effects also affect the way you process that pain to help you avoid developing mental disorders like trauma or phobias. However, that euphoric effect is also part of the reason opioids are so addictive.
Despite efforts, researchers have not yet found a painkiller that is as effective as opioids without any of the side effects. This is partially because opioids work on our body’s natural ability to stop pain. We have built in opioid receptors, because our bodies make their own opioids and endorphins. However, prescription opioids are far more potent.
Pain is a huge problem in the U.S. and chronic or long-lasting pain is a particular issue. Severe pain symptoms that last for long periods of time can be debilitating and viable medical options are limited. An estimated 25 million Americans struggle with daily pain and doctors often prescribe opioids to help manage it. However, extended use of opioids increase the patient’s likelihood of experiencing addiction.
Fentanyl, the opioid that is currently causing a surge in overdose death rates, is increasing in use and prescription. It’s often used in epidurals because it can take effect within a few minutes of administration, which is useful in the unpredictable context of labor. It is increasing in use because it is cheap, potent, and fast-acting. But those three traits that make it useful in medicine also make it deadly on the street.
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Prescription painkillers are powerful narcotic-based medications that belong to a family of drugs called opioids. Opioids are similar in chemical structure to opiate drugs such as heroin, morphine, and codeine and produce analgesic or pain-blocking effects in the body. Prescription painkillers interfere with the nervous system’s transmission of the nerve signals that we perceive as pain. These medications bind to opioid receptors which are at their highest concentrations in the brain, spinal cord. These receptors can also be found in the gastrointestinal tract and other organs in the body.
There are three major types of opioid substances that are found in prescription painkillers. The most commonly known active ingredient is oxycodone and can be found in painkillers such as Oxycontin, Percodan, and Percocet. Another major opioid substance that is an active ingredient in popular painkillers is hydrocodone and it can be found in painkiller medications such as Vicodin and Lorcet.
Lastly, meperidine can be found in Demerol, Dilaudid, and Darvon. Painkillers are commonly found in tablet form and are specifically created to be time-released so the pain blocking agents can eventually be released in a person’s body. The time-release mechanism also makes it more difficult for abuse. Prescription painkillers are also available in capsules and in liquid form.
In some cases, prescription painkillers can lead to addiction through normal use; however, the percentage of people who become addicted after being prescribed opioids and using them as directed is low. Still, some people that have other environmental, genetic, and other risk factors for addiction can develop a psychological of chemical dependence after legitimate use.
Beyond prescribed use of painkillers, people can abuse the drugs by getting them from friends or family and buying them on the street.
As stated earlier, prescription painkillers act on those specific receptors within the central nervous system in order to reduce the sensation of pain. These drugs also release large amounts of dopamine which is the brain’s natural “feel-good” chemical. With increased use, these medications take over in producing dopamine and other neurotransmitters and the levels of naturally occurring neurotransmitters in the body decreases over time. Eventually, the body builds an increased tolerance to the painkillers so more of the substance is needed to produce the same effect.
Although prescription painkillers take the place of neurotransmitters on the opiate receptors, they cannot fill all of the neurotransmitters roles. Painkillers also have a depressant effect on the central nervous system and users can experience slower breathing, slurred speech, and slower bodily reactions. Once someone is physically addicted to painkillers, they will experience extreme physical withdrawal symptoms once they stop taking these medications.
These symptoms can occur within a few hours and can include agitation, restlessness, nausea and vomiting, muscle aches, irritability bone and joint pain, emotional instability, and depression. Not only do painkillers change brain chemistry, they also kill brain cells. The areas of the brain that are most affected are those areas which have to do with cognition, learning, and memory.
There are people who use prescription painkillers who may think the dangers of these medications are decreased because they are prescribed by a doctor. The reality is that painkiller addiction cannot be handled through quitting cold turkey or by means of self-detoxification. The withdrawal symptoms that people endure are similar to those of heroin and other opiate drugs, and depending on factors such as health history, the length of time and the amount of drugs taken, withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening.
With the professional help and supervision of a Florida prescription painkiller treatment addiction, those addicted to these medications can fully recover and lead healthy and happy lives.
In order to help minimize the effects of withdrawal, it is critical that those who struggle with painkiller addiction undergo medical detoxification so they can get weaned off of these medications and get to a substance-free and stable state. During the detox process, staff will conduct a comprehensive medical and mental health evaluation to diagnose any co-occurring disorders that can impact the recovery process. Additionally, medications such as Suboxone may also be used to help clients ease through detox much easier.
After detox, patients at a Florida prescription painkiller treatment facility will go through a rigorous inpatient drug treatment program where they will undergo an individualized recovery program made up individual and group therapy, life and coping skills training, relapse prevention education, and another essential treatment services. Ultimately, the goal of a Florida painkiller addiction treatment program is to give people with Substance Use Disorder the tools, support, and encouragement they need to live a meaningful life in recovery.
For those struggling with painkiller addiction, it can feel overwhelming and as though there is no hope. Fortunately, Ocean Breeze Recovery Center has the effective treatment programming, experienced staff, and full continuum of care that will help you recover in mind, body, and spirit.
NIDA. (2018, December 13). Misuse of Prescription Drugs. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, March 5) Opioid Overdose. U.S. Opioid Prescribing Rate Maps. Key Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/maps/rxrate-maps.html
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Journal of Pain. (2015) Estimates of Pain Prevalence and Severity in Adults: United States, 2012. Hahun, RL. Retrieved from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/estimates-of-pain-prevalence-and-severity-in-adults-united-states-2012
The Guardian. (2017 December 27) 'It's all fentanyl': opioid crisis takes shape in Philadelphia as overdoses surge. Helmore, E. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/27/its-all-fentanyl-opioid-crisis-takes-shape-in-philadelphia-as-overdoses-surge
National Institutes of Health. (2018, May 22) NIH Research Matters. How opioid drugs activate receptors. Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-opioid-drugs-activate-receptors