Painkillers are some of the most widely prescribed medications in the United States today. According to Addictions.com’s recent study, 1 in 3 Americans takes painkillers under the treatment and supervision of a doctor in order to manage pain. This use is completely legal, but unfortunately, it does carry with it a number of risk factors about which a large majority of Americans are unaware.
First, many individuals believe that painkillers cannot cause addiction if they are prescribed by a doctor. This is untrue, as many people who start out taking their medications as prescribed begin taking them in other ways, higher doses, or more often, which can lead to addiction. In fact, those who take opioids for more than 7 days at a time have a higher chance of becoming addicted than those who take these drugs for less than a week.
Another common misconception is that higher doses of the drug can cause more relief. This is untrue and also dangerous because it leads many individuals to taking more of their medications than they were prescribed. This is highly likely to lead to dependence, which usually occurs after an individual has been taking opioids for longer than 30 days. It is also likely to lead to addiction, as it is a form of drug abuse.
Many people believe painkillers are actually solving their pain problems or treating the condition that causes their pain. This is entirely untrue. Opioids only deal with the pain itself, and even then, they merely mask the sensation. Over time, this type of use will cause the brain to stop producing neurotransmitters of its own in order to deal with pain, cause the brain and body to relax, etc. As long as you keep taking these drugs, the brain will produce fewer and fewer of these necessary chemicals until it is no longer able to do so on its own. Once you stop taking the medications, it will take the brain months—sometimes even years—to regain the ability to make its own neurotransmitters.
Finally, these drugs can actually cause some serious psychological effects that could lead to additional issues beyond addiction and dependence. For example, those who take prescription painkillers for more than 180 days experience an increased likelihood of suffering depression at some point in their lives. What’s more, opioids can also cause cognitive, memory, and learning problems in those who take them long-term because of the way they decrease blood flow to the brain.
All these potential side effects can occur with the legal and doctor-recommended use of these popular medications. This is why it is so important to be aware of the risks associated with any drugs we are prescribed and the ways in which we can avoid them. Anyone who absolutely needs to take prescription painkillers can avoid these problems by doing so for no more than 7 days. This will drastically diminish your likelihood of experiencing the issues listed above and protect you from any dangerous effects associated with long-term opioid use.