Have you ever wondered why doctors prescribe two different types of drugs to two different people even though both have the same complaint? This is because doctors know what is right for each one of us and what will result in effective treatment and minimal sideeffects. Despite so many warning signs everywhere about the seriousness of taking an un-recommended drug, people still take such drugs in a belief and false perception that they reduce weight, give more fun, and help to learn effectively. In fact, prescribed pain killers and other medicines help many people to get rid of their symptoms and live a more productive life. But this is only when it is prescribed for a particular individual for a specific condition. Consuming prescription drugs that are not recommended by doctor is also a kind of drug abuse. One such widely misused drug that is our topic of concern is opioids and opioid addiction.
About Opioids Addiction
Opioids or opiates are drugs that are prescribed by doctors for their effective analgesic or pain killer effect. They are employed to relieve pain for over 100 years. The analgesic effect of opioids is due to reduced perception of pain, increased tolerance to pain, and decreased reaction to pain by directly depressing the central nervous system. Opiates are naturally derived from the dried milk of opium poppy and synthetic opiates are produced from chemicals. Both together are called as opioids. Medicines that fall under this class are morphine, codeine, and oxycodone, which are also referred as prescription narcotics. Morphine is generally prescribed before and after surgery to reduce pain, codeine and diphenoxylate is used as pain reliever and also to relieve cough and diarrhea. Using opioids are legal, only if they are prescribed by a licensed doctor and are used by the person for whom it is prescribed. Opioids are available in form of tablets, syrups, capsules, solution, and suppositories.
Few examples of opioids are heroin, opium, morphine, codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, meperidine, hydromorphone, methadone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, paregoric, sufentanil, and tramadol.
The effect of any medicine is carried out by interacting with its specific receptors that are present on the cells. Similarly, opioid receptors are found in the brain, spinal cord, and the gastrointestinal tract. When the drug sits on the opioid receptors, they block the pain signals from reaching the brain, slow down breathing, and generally have a calming and anti-depressant effect. This helps to reduce pain and discomfort, and helps the person to rest and sleep. When opioids are taken in prescribed amount, the person can still be alert and feel normal pain when someone pinches or stubs a toe. But in high dosage, they make the person high and dizzy by affecting the brain region that mediates pleasure. Opioids do not treat or heal any injury they just reduce the pain caused by the injury.
Addiction can be called a disease that changes a person’s behavior. A person initially has control over the use of the drug but later the pleasurable effect of the drug makes a person keep wanting for the drug. And over time, the person actually develops a powerful urge to use the drug. Opioids can also be addictive if not used properly. Opioid when used as guided by the doctor has little effect of being an addictive but if opioids are abused they can finally result in addiction. Addiction is the condition where the person starts craving for the drug for the pleasure it provides and the drug becomes the center of the person’s thought, activities, and emotions. Opioids can be taken orally or crushed into powder and snorted or sniffed or it can be injected.
How do people get addicted to opioids?
Some people love fun and out of excitement start experimenting with prescription drugs in a belief that it will help them to have fun, get high, reduce weight, and many more such wrong beliefs. Opioid addiction is considered as a brain disease that increases the tolerance and pleasure, and finally drives a person to abuse more and more drug to achieve the same effect. Opioids addiction usually happens after treatment for chronic pain, pressure, self-medication, post-traumatic stress or loss of spouse or child. Usually opioid addiction is unintentional and people take them for their medical benefits. Once people start using opioids they start believing that they are safe as they are not using any street drugs and are not poking their arms with drugs, they are using prescribed drugs that is approved by the Food and drug administration (FDA). But this is not the fact as abusing or not following doctor’s instruction in taking opioids can result in serious consequences and ultimately addiction.
People who are addicted to opioids experience pleasure, high, mood swings, and a cycle of high and low emotions. They experience the feeling of euphoria (pleasure) and comfort, and the person feels that the drug has no down side as they do not suffer any negative effect during drug usage. However, overtime the person realizes that the drug is no longer giving him the pleasure that it was giving when used initially for the first few times. The person also feels less than normal when not using the drug therefore he starts using it whenever possible. Now the person takes the drug only to feel normal and not for the pleasure it was giving him. And as time goes by the person requires more and more of the drug to feel normal, which eventually results in addiction and depression. And moreover, opioids are prescription drugs that are more easily available than any other illegal street drugs.
Ways to find whether one is addicted
A person can find out if he is addicted to a drug by cross checking whether he exhibits the following behavior.
- Possessing particular drug in large quantity
- Craving for the drugs
- Cannot be normal without the drug
- Uncontrollable urge to take the drug
- Continuous use of the drug without doctor’s concern
- Consume drug even if the person knows that it is harmful
- Change in mood, interest, and behavior
Before the addicted person knows that he is addicted his family members and friends would know it as they noticed the change in the person’s behavior.
If addicted, what next?
If some known family member or friend is addicted to drugs, it is better to immediately talk to a doctor, teacher, parents, counselor or a nurse about things that is to be done next. Treatment for people who become addicted to prescription drug depends on several factors like – individual needs and the type of drug abused. Drug addiction treatment may be either behavioral or pharmacological. Behavioral treatment focuses on things like – controlling craving, functioning without the drug, avoiding the drug, avoiding situations that would tempt to have the drug, and finally to prevent or to handle relapse of addiction. Pharmacological treatment includes giving the patient medication that would help to overcome drug craving and withdrawal symptoms. Medications prescribed are methadone that helps relieves the person from withdrawal symptoms and craving; buprenorphine, naltrexone, and naloxone.
Apart from seeking doctor’s help, it is very important the person is determined and committed to quitting drugs. The person can get support from any local support center that is dedicated to help people who are addicted.
Taking opioids safely
If the prescribed medication is taken just the way doctor instructed, then there is no need to worry about becoming addicted to the drug. Doctor knows the exact amount of medication that is sufficient for the patient. Correct amount of drug works to relieve the symptoms without making the person addicted. Also remember to read the instructions given along with the drug, reread the instruction even if drug similar to opioids are used in the past. Do not take opioids more than instructed and more often then told. In case, if the patient feels that the dosage of medicine is too little or too more, then it should be informed to the doctor before making any adjustment in the dosage of the drugs. Opioid medicines may take quite some time to relieve the pain, this doesn’t mean that the person should put off the medicine, continue to take the medicines as prescribed at the right time. Suddenly stopping opioid pain reliever can cause withdrawal symptoms, which might cause uncomfortable feelings. When the opioid therapy is over, the healthcare provider himself will gradually decrease the dosage of the medicine. Very importantly never use someone else’s prescription and never allow anyone to use your prescription.
Addiction, the most difficult part of dealing with addiction is – denial. Denial doesn’t come in accepting that they have a problem but they deny that they have lost control over the situation. This denial makes it difficult for the therapist and the patient to undergo treatment. Many people who are addicted to prescribed pain killer later regret and realize that they have just exchanged pain for addiction. It is not necessary that the person should hit the rock bottom before he rises from the cloud of denial and seeks help, patient can undergo treatment at any stage but remember patient’s determination and commitment to quit drugs plays a major role than any other thing.