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Are Painkillers Safe to Take as Directed?

Are Painkillers Safe to Take as Directed?

Opioid painkillers can be helpful in specific medical situations if used as directed by a physician

It seems like there is a new report of painkiller abuse on the news every night. With so many cases of painkiller addiction and dependence in the United States, it only makes sense to question these medications when they are prescribed. It is important to know what painkiller drugs are made of, and how these drugs should be safely taken.

Which Painkiller Drugs Are Most Dangerous?

There are many types of painkiller drugs. Drugs designed to treat pain are used for everything from common headaches to complicated and terminal cases of cancer. Injuries, chronic illnesses and surgeries are often the reasons people take these drugs.

Over the counter painkiller medications, or analgesics, include brand name drugs such as aspirin, Tylenol, Advil or Alieve. These over the counter medications are not addictive, and are mostly safe when taken in recommended doses.

Opiate painkillers, sometimes known as narcotic painkillers, are available by prescription only. These are the drugs you often see in the news, or hear about among addiction treatment providers. These powerful painkillers include oxycodone, codeine and morphine. Brand names of opioid painkillers include Lortab, Percocet, Lorcet, Vicodin, OxyContin and more.  These drugs are highly controlled substances, meaning that the government has placed regulations on doctors to prescribe them carefully. Pharmacists are often on the lookout for patients who may be abusing these drugs, and the illegal sale or manufacture of these drugs is illegal and may lead to jail time and considerable fines.

These painkillers are highly addictive for a reason. There is a neurobiological reason that opioid narcotics lead to dependence and addiction. These powerful drugs must be taken only for short durations. Over time opioid painkillers will change the way the brain reacts to pain, and the brain will ultimately adjust to these changes and stop producing natural painkillers of its own.

Some People May be More Prone to Opioid Dependence

Let’s break this down further. Why are some people more prone to becoming addicted to painkillers than others? People do not choose to become dependent on painkiller drugs. But all people are susceptible to becoming dependent on opiates like heroin or opium. Similarly, all people are susceptible to developing a dependence on opioid drugs like OxyContin or Percocet.

Science has shown us that addiction can have some genetic components. Some people are simply more predisposed than others to become dependent on these drugs. While the exact gene structure of addiction has not been completely isolated, it is generally understood that when one family member is addicted, other relatives in the same family may have the same issue.

Why Do People Abuse Painkiller Drugs?

Opioid drugs impact the reward center of the brain. While they eliminate some pain-receiving signals, they may also create a sense of euphoria during the first few uses. This feeling of euphoria is the opiate “high.” As the brain adjusts to this drug, certain chemicals like dopamine are released. The result is that many users continue to use the drug even when pain is no longer present in order to feel these temporary feelings created by dopamine receptors. In other words, this drug is commonly abused because it creates a relaxed “feel-good” sensation that originates in the ventral tegmental area of the mid-brain.

The Opioid Problem

As the brain adjusts to the drug, it requires increases dosages in order to feel normal — and the brain adjusts very quickly to these opioid substances. Opioid drugs lead to powerful dependence, sometimes within a matter of weeks or even days.

Once the brain becomes dependent on these drugs, it begins to slowly stop producing these happy dopamine chemicals naturally. On top of that, dependent or addicted users often have a very difficult time after stopping the use of these medications. Withdrawal can appear as flu-like symptoms. Opiate withdrawal causes many people to return to using these drugs, even if the impact of abusing them devastates the user’s health, employment or personal life. Opiate and opioid drugs are well-known to be very difficult to quit.

Yes, opioid painkillers can be helpful in specific medical situations. These drugs work best for only short-term use. It is very important to only use these drugs as directed by a medical doctor. If you feel that your doctor has prescribed these drugs too often, or in larger quantities than needed, please seek a second opinion from another doctor or call our toll-free helpline.

Opioid Addiction Help

The problem of addiction is not an issue that anyone wants to suffer with. Many people become dependent on opiates to numb some kind of pain. For many people, opioid addiction continues in order to treat physical pain. For others, the opioid abuse continues in order to numb anxiety or emotional pain, such as pain from losing a loved one.

Many users benefit from a Dual Diagnosis treatment for dependence to these drugs. Dual Diagnosis treatment works to treat both a physical addiction as well as any underlying mental or emotional causes of this drug use. When users treat both the cause behind the addiction as well as the physical dependence on the drug, addicted individuals are much more likely to achieve lasting wellness.

If you or someone you care about could use more information on painkiller use, painkiller dependence or recovery, please call our completely confidential helpline to learn how we can help.

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