We often believe that anything given to us by our doctors is completely safe. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and it certainly isn’t true of prescription opioids. These drugs have become some of the most widely used medications in the United States, but their increased use—and abuse—has led to some of the most severe health issues in our country today. Addictions.com has a new study that describes this problem in great detail.
First, many people falsely believe that opioids aren’t addictive at all. Others may be aware of the dangers of these drugs, which caused more than 15,000 deaths in 2015 alone, but another common misconception is that they cannot cause addiction if they are prescribed by a doctor. Sadly, many people start out taking these drugs as recommended and begin to misuse them later on, which can lead to addiction.
Another false impression of these medications is that prescription painkillers can actually fix the problem of pain. The truth is that these drugs only mask pain, keeping you from feeling it without actually treating the underlying problem. This can help minimize needless suffering, but when opioids are taken for a long period of time, the body becomes less able to regulate its own issues. The brain will stop producing the neurotransmitters meant to control pain as well as stress, pleasure, anxiety, and other feelings. Over time, this will make your brain unable to deal with any stimuli—positive or negative—without the use of the drug.
Many people also believe that painkillers, when used in higher doses than recommended, will be more effective. This is actually a dangerous action that is extremely likely to lead to addiction. However, patients sometimes take larger amounts of the drug, take it more often, or take it in a way other than prescribed, believing this is completely safe when all of these actions are forms of abuse.
Opioid users are often under the impression that the drug can only cause short-term side effects like constipation and dry mouth, which will disappear once the individual stops taking the drug. The truth is more complicated. The longer you take painkillers, the higher your chances become of experiencing some serious side effects, such as depression, decreased cognitive functions, heart, liver, and kidney problems, and lowered immunity. In addition, the risk of dependence and even addiction are tied to the amount of time you spend taking the drug. Those who take opioids for more than a week straight dramatically increase their chances of becoming addicted.
Not understanding the potential side effects of opioid use can spell danger, especially for those who take these medications in the long-term. The best ways to avoid these problems are to be aware of all the effects of these drugs, to discuss the treatment with your doctor, and to avoid taking opioids for more than 7 days if possible. Not everyone is able to choose this last option, but it does minimize your risk of addiction—and any other problems—considerably.