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Health and Fitness News

When Killing the Pain Leads to More Pain

What you need to know about opioids and opioid abuse.

What started as an injury or accident ends in drug abuse and addiction. When opioid painkillers were first brought on the scene in the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies claimed they weren’t addictive. They were simply more effective at providing pain relief. As a result, healthcare providers began prescribing them left and right, helping people manage all sorts of pain problems. Over time, it became clear the drugs do help with pain. However, they aren’t nearly as safe as initially promised, and they’re highly addictive. To this day, tens of thousands die from opioid overdoses every year and countless lives are ruined by addiction.

What are opioids and what effect do they have on the body? What are the risks associated with their use and is there treatment for addiction?

From the Poppy

Opiates are naturally derived from the poppy plant. They can be used as a narcotic drug or pain reliever. Opiate drugs include opium, codeine, and morphine. Heroin is an illegal opiate narcotic that is frequently abused. As a street drug, it has no medicinal function.

There are also synthetic opioid drugs. These have similar active ingredients to opiates but are made with chemicals in a lab. Common opioid drugs include hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl. Both opiates and opioids have the same effect on the body.

In most cases,both opiates and opioids are known as opioids or painkillers.

The Opioid Effect

While potentially dangerous, prescription opioids have their place in the world of medicine. If you’ve ever had a serious injury, accident, or surgery, you’ve probably benefited from their powerful pain relieving abilities. When used for a brief time and taken as prescribed, they are considered safe.

Opioid drugs work by blocking pain signals from the body to the brain. If this was all opioids did, there would probably be no problem. But in addition to pain control, they also make you feel high and relaxed. In addition, they come with the risk of dependence. Addiction is a serious risk.

Not prone to addiction? Opioid medications have other negative side effects as well. Constipation, nausea, drowsiness, slowed breathing, and confusion can all occur if taking them on a regular or long-term basis.

Risky Business

Sometimes, pain persists and pain relievers are taken for long periods of time. This puts you at risk for dependence to the drug. Hence why opioid abuse has grown so rapidly in recent years. When people take too much of the medication or use it in a way other than prescribed, the end result can be addiction, overdose, and even death.

How does addiction work? It occurs when the drugs trick your brain into believing you must have the drug in order to survive. Over time, your body agrees. When this happens, you need more and more of the drug to produce the same effect.

Getting Help

Going without opioids produces unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Most commonly, withdrawal causes cravings, insomnia, anxiety, tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, and feeling cold. These usually last three to five days, but can last up to ten. Quitting opioids cold turkey isn’t recommended, as it can make cravings stronger. Rather, seek the help of medical professionals. If you or a loved one is addicted to painkillers, there is help. Ask your doctor for a specialist in your area who treats narcotic addiction.

Special medications are available to relieve withdrawal symptoms, treat dependence, and aid recovery. If someone you love has overdosed on opioids, seek emergency medical attention. If given immediately, the drug naloxone may be able to reverse the life-threatening effects.