What’s Driving the Prescription Painkiller Epidemic – And How Does it Affect You?
We hear so much about the prescription painkiller epidemic. It’s all around us, and it seems to be getting worse despite efforts to stem the flow of them and keep them well-controlled. So, what do we need to know about it? What’s driving it, and how did things get out of control? What’s being done to stop painkiller abuse, and why do people love them so much anyway? Most importantly, how does the epidemic affect you even if you’re not abusing them?
The Force Behind the Prescription Painkiller Epidemic
Many people believe that the rise in prescription painkiller abuse has to do with those who are legitimately prescribed these medications, and while it is possible that some of those who take these medications do become addicted to them, it’s pretty unlikely that they are directly responsible for the spread of them, or the abuse of them, because they need their pain medications.
Unfortunately, some of it begins with situations like having a tooth pulled. When a teen is prescribed opioid painkillers, they often decide that they like them, and continue taking them long after they are no longer needed. In this case, the prescription is finished off and now the patient wants more. So, he goes looking.
Others still go “doctor shopping,” so they can get their hands on pain medications to either feed their habit or sell them to others who like to abuse them.
The thing that many people don’t realize is that opioid painkillers are highly addictive. They are easy to abuse because they not only ease pain, but they leave you feeling euphoric and comfortable. In fact, many people function very well on these medications, which makes the problem even harder to fight.
When you add that to the fact that for a long time, doctors pushed opioids for almost every pain a person can have, and you’ve got a runaway freight train that nobody really knows how to stop.
Why do We Still Have Prescription Painkillers, Anyway?
Many people want to know why we even still have prescription painkillers, and the short answer is that there are times when you really and truly need them. Take cases of injuries to the body that cause extreme pain. In this situation, an over the counter pain reliever might not be the best course of action because taking too much can be bad for your health. In most cases, the pain medications that your doctor can prescribe are much more effective at easing your pain, and safer for you when used for the short term.
Opioid painkillers are also the best bet for post-surgery when the body needs to stop hurting so it can heal properly. Without the power of an opioid to take the pain away, your body is stressed, and stress keeps you from being able to heal.
It’s also important to note that prescription painkillers are very effective and safe when taken for short amounts of time and only as directed. The key is to stop them before the body becomes accustomed to them and develops a tolerance.
If They are So Safe, What’s the Big Deal?
Many times, we find ourselves asking if opioids are so safe, then what’s the big deal? Why are we so concerned with a prescription painkiller epidemic? This is where things get tricky, because when used as prescribed – prescribed being the operative word – they are safe. When used illicitly, opioid painkillers can cause deadly overdoses.
These drugs slow down the entire system. They lower blood pressure, they slow your breathing, thinking, and heart rate. It’s the slowed or repressed breathing that causes an overdose, and simply, you stop breathing. There is a way to reverse the effects, called Naloxone, or Narcan, but in many states, those who are addicted to opioids still cannot get it.
Not only can these drugs cause even well-meaning pain relief seekers overdoses, but they are highly addictive. When you take them for too long, your body becomes numb to their effects. We all have opioid receptors in the body because we naturally make opioids. When you take opioid pain relievers, you’re just taking a much higher dose of what your body already makes.
Eventually, though, your body stops making opioids on its own, but your receptors need the opioids, so you get hooked. Without them, you have no will to live, and your brain tells your body it’s dying, which is why you have withdrawal symptoms.
You’re physically dependent now, but when you “fall in love,” with opioids, or you develop that emotional attachment, you’re becoming addicted, and this is why prescription painkillers become so dangerous.
With time, the high cost of your usual prescription medications, and the difficulty in getting them might make you want to turn to something much more readily available – and more potent. Something like heroin, and eventually, fentanyl.
What’s Being Done to Stop It?
The prescription painkiller epidemic is a tough one because there are people out there that really, really need these drugs to function normally. They only take them as directed, and they don’t get high when they take them, but these medications allow them to be productive parts of society.
These days, it isn’t so easy to get your hands on those prescription painkillers that some people need, though. Some pharmacies need to place a special order for them, as they simply don’t stock as much of them as they used to. The drug companies are even trying to make these medications much more difficult to abuse, in an effort to stem the flow of the medications that are stolen and used to get high.
There are also strict regulations regarding the prescribing practices of opioid painkillers, and much of the time, unless you have a true and honest reason to need them, you’re not likely to get them. If you’re battling chronic pain, you might find that you have to go to a pain management clinic where they count your pills before you can get a new prescription.
If You Find that You or a Loved One is Hooked
You need to know that nobody really means to get hooked on prescription painkillers. Even if you only took them just to see how they could make you feel, you probably thought that just a time or two can’t hurt. So, if you find that you’re struggling with prescription opioid abuse or addiction, you need to know that there is help for you.
Now, maybe you’re thinking that you don’t want help right now, but you need to understand that this addiction will not get better on its own. It’s going to be tough, but getting clean can be the best thing you ever do for yourself and your loved ones.
Even if you think you can’t afford it, or you don’t deserve treatment, you need to know that you are worth it, you do matter, and you can afford it because there are so many ways to finance addiction treatment. We’ll start with your insurance plan, and go from there. When you don’t have to do the legwork, finding an appropriate treatment option can be so much easier than if you’re doing it alone.
We’ll help you get started on the road to recovery. We’ll help you find addiction treatment options that won’t make you feel like you’re a bad person because you need help. There are lots of choices out there, and no matter what your needs, there is a rehab option for you. In fact, rehab itself is even changing, and you might be surprised with what you find there.
Give us a call today. Don’t let the prescription painkiller epidemic make you a statistic. Take control and get your life back. We’re here to help you get a head start.