According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 130 people in the United States die every day after overdosing on opioids. Opioid addiction is an epidemic sweeping through not just the United States but countries all around the world. So how can we avoid it?
There are many ways to prevent opioid addiction, but here are three of the most important:
- Be Informed
One of the best ways to avoid addiction is to be informed about the dangers of opioids. This means understanding how they work, what they’re used for, and, most importantly, the risks associated with taking them.
Why are Painkillers so Addictive?
There are a few factors that play into this. First, most painkillers are opioids, targeting the brain’s reward system. This system is responsible for releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good. When we take painkillers, our brains release large amounts of dopamine, leading to feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Over time, our brains become used to this high level of dopamine and begin to crave it.
In addition, painkillers can be very physically addictive. When we take them regularly, our bodies build up a tolerance, meaning that we need higher and higher doses to get the same effect. Withdrawal symptoms can also be extremely unpleasant, making it difficult for people to stop taking the drug.
Finally, many people who use painkillers do so because they are struggling with chronic pain. This type of pain can be highly debilitating and hard to treat. Although they may provide relief in the short term, this drug class often worsens chronic pain (hyperalgesia) in the long term. As a result, people who take painkillers for chronic pain often find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of dependence and withdrawal.
Painkillers can be an effective way to treat short-term pain. However, their potential for addiction makes them risky drugs to use. If you are considering taking painkillers, it is essential to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits first and the most suitable plan for providing you with an overall best quality of life.
- Use Painkillers Responsibly
If you do need to take painkillers, make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. This means only taking them for as long as you need to and at the correct dosage. It’s also important to remember that painkillers are meant to be used for short-term pain relief and are not meant to be taken regularly. If you find yourself needing to take them more often than directed, it’s time to talk to your doctor.
Here are some of the signs that can lead to opioid addiction:
How Opioid Addiction Occurs
Opioid addiction generally occurs in three steps:
Tolerance: When people first start taking opioids, they may feel a sense of euphoria in addition to pain relief. However, over time, their bodies begin to build up a tolerance to the drug. This means that they need higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect.
Dependence: As tolerance builds, people may become dependent on opioids. They may feel like they need the drug just to get through the day. In some cases, they may start to experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop taking the drug. Once dependence has developed, breaking free from the addiction can be difficult.
Addiction: People addicted to opioids may find themselves chasing a high that is impossible to achieve. They may also start to lose interest in activities that they once enjoyed. Opioid addiction can have devastating consequences, but it is important to remember that there is hope for recovery. With treatment and support, it is possible to break free from the cycle of addiction.
- Seek Immediate Help If You’re Already Addicted to Opioids
If you have already developed an addiction to opioids, it is crucial to seek professional help as soon as possible. Attempting to quit on your own can be extremely difficult and dangerous. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be intense, and without medical supervision, there is a risk of relapse or even overdose. However, there is hope. With the help of a qualified medically assisted treatment program, you can overcome your addiction and start rebuilding your life.
In treatment, you can overcome withdrawals, eliminate physical and learn other options for pain management. You will also have the opportunity to develop a support system of friends and family who will be there for you during your recovery. If you are struggling with opioid addiction, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There is no shame in admitting that you need assistance, and with treatment, you can achieve sobriety and start living a healthier life.
Painkillers can be an effective way to treat short-term pain. However, their potential for addiction makes them dangerous drugs to use. If you are considering taking painkillers, it is important to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits first and what is the best plan for providing you an overall best quality of life.
The opioid epidemic is a serious problem that needs to be addressed immediately. By being informed about the risks of opioids, using them responsibly, and seeking help if you or someone you know is addicted, we can start to turn the tide against this growing epidemic.
By Clare Waismann, M-RAS, SUDCC II, founder of WAISMANN METHOD® Opioid Treatment Specialists & Rapid Detox Center and Domus Retreat