PRESCRIPTION PAINKILLERS and OPIOIDS
Prescription painkillers, or opioids, are drugs originally derived from the poppy plant to help manage pain. Opioids have a long history of being prescribed as strong pain medications, as well as a long history of being a drug of choice for recreational users as well. Understanding opioids and the opioid epidemic is critical to getting people connected with the help they need. Opioids is an umbrella term that covers a variety of psychoactive drugs that mimic the brain’s neurotransmitters to dull pain and induce euphoria. The term encompasses any number of pills, patches, liquids and powders that have been formulated for maximum effect. When ingested, prescription painkillers or opioids enter into the bloodstream and ultimately the brain. In the brain, opioids convert to morphine, and binds to opioid receptors in the brain, relieving pain and spreading euphoria. In recent years, opioid abuse has increased dramatically, in what is being called the opioid epidemic. This sharp increase in the number of people struggling with opioid abuse disorders and overdoses starts with the use or abuse of prescription painkillers. Many patients who are prescribed prescription painkillers misuse them. Between 8 and 12 percent of patients who misuse prescription painkillers develop an opioid use disorder. Repeated prescription painkiller abuse can result in disruption in what is called the reward pathway, the brain functions that control motivation, reward-seeking and the perception of pleasure. It is this disruption that makes opioids incredibly addictive. Tolerance begins to build quickly, and you find yourself needing higher and higher doses, taken more frequently. As legitimate prescriptions run out, some people begin seeking out off-label prescriptions, or street drugs like heroin. The spiral of addiction can take hold rapidly; if you believe you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to prescription painkillers, please reach out to our treatment professionals.
SIGNS OF ABUSE
Prescription painkillers, opiates and opioids all create similar reactions in the brain, and active users share some of the same signs of abuse. These are powerful substances that affect many of the body’s regulatory systems. A person abusing prescription painkillers will exhibit signs of disorientation, short and shallow breathing, slurred speech and drowsiness, possibly causing them to fall asleep. Occasionally someone abusing prescription painkillers will experience nausea and subsequent vomiting. Less serious, but identifiable symptoms include dilated pupils and dry mouth. If you are concerned a loved one is abusing a prescription that they have been prescribed, check the doctor’s orders on the bottle and see if the doses used match up to the date in which the prescription was filled.
Withdrawal does not always look the same, every individual will go through it differently. There are several factors that influence which withdrawal symptoms you will face, and how long they will last, including how long you were using, what dose you were taking, and how you were administering them. Withdrawal symptoms can start 6-12 hours from the last time you used, and peak 24-72 hours from that time. Acute symptoms generally begin to subside after 7 days but can last longer. It is highly recommended that you seek medical care when attempting to stop taking opioids. Withdrawal include can include any combination of the following symptoms: tremors, sweats, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle spasms, muscle pain, joint pain, depression, fatigue, labored breathing, rapid heartbeat, agitation, anxiety and insomnia.