There are many people out there that hear the word “opioids” and think of all of the most addictive drugs around. Cocaine. Heroin. Methamphetamines. These are all commonly known, very addictive drugs and they have a huge street value. The one place that most people don’t consider is in their very own medicine cabinet at home. The prescription pain medication that your doctor gave you the last time you had a sprain or an accident is sitting innocently in the cabinet at home – and you have no idea how addictive this stuff is!

Did you know that there are more than 191 million opioid prescriptions handed out in the U.S every year? They’re called innocent drugs because they are prescribed by a medical professional, but it’s these drugs that can be the most addictive. Most people who end up addicted to them don’t realize that they are in the spiral of addiction until it’s far too late. It’s important to understand how addictive prescription pain medication is so that you follow your doctor’s instructions very closely and don’t stray from those. These drugs are powerful enough to block severe pain and help you to live a normal life. Opioids are designed as a short-term solution but that doesn’t stop people from getting repeat prescriptions: this is because they are addicted to them.

Understanding how addictive opioids are will help you to understand the impacts on the body and the brain and what to do about it. Let’s explore this more in-depth.

Are Prescription Pain Medications Addictive?

Did you know that stores that sell simple paracetamol have to impose limits on how many packs you can buy at a time? This is just for standard headache meds – imagine the stringent rules of prescription opioids? Prescription pain medications may be excellent in combating your pain, but they are highly addictive medications and those who misuse them are at the highest risk of becoming addicted to them. Some people continue to take opioids to avoid the painful withdrawal symptoms, but this then leads to a cycle of addiction.

What Happens When You Withdraw From Opioids?

There are many signs that your body and brain are going through withdrawal from opioids, and these include:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Cold flashes

If your healthcare provider has given you opioids, they should be carefully controlling these to ensure that you are not going to be reliant on them beyond your prescription end date. Any issues should be communicated to your doctor as early as possible so that you can have your medications adjusted as necessary. There are medicines that can help with the withdrawal process, so speak to your doctors about these early.

Effects Of Opioids On The Brain

Prescription pain medications mimic the same effects of the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals. They bind to targeted receptors, blocking the perception of pain in the brain – it’s very clever. The problem is that when you become reliant on those blockers, you end up misusing the drugs. Opioids in prescription pain medications can reduce the feelings of pain, but they can also simulate the sense of euphoria, or “high”, and this is what ends up being chased by those who take these drugs. 

Over time, the brain and body build up a tolerance towards these drugs, which means that people take more and more of them to achieve that state of happiness and calm they are chasing. This can lead to taking heavier doses of the drugs and even mixing them with other drugs, introducing a whole new world of illegal drugs.

The brain has a reward system that is nothing short of powerful and prescription pain medications can be addictive in this part of the brain. The withdrawal can also be painful, and to avoid these withdrawal effects on the brain, people take more and more drugs.

Effects Of Opioids On The Body

The brain adjusts very quickly to accommodate the new drugs in your system, and when the body adjusts, it can build up a tolerance over time. Prolonged use of opioids can cause permanent damage to the organs. Even just one drug can cause respiratory failure or a heart attack in extreme cases! Some of the effects on the body include:

  • Fatigue
  • Slowed breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia

More serious health concerns than these can arise in patients with regular opioid use. If you are prescribed medicines after a procedure or injury, you can avoid opioid addiction by following the instructions set by your doctor. You shouldn’t take the opioids to treat long-term pain and don’t crush the pills down! If you are worried about addiction, get some help as early as possible.

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