Prescription painkillers, or opioids, are medications that reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and impact brain areas controlling emotion. When prescription drugs are taken as directed, they are usually safe. It requires a trained health care person, such as a doctor or nurse, to determine if the benefits of taking the medication outweigh any risks. When pills are abused and taken in different amounts or for different purposes than as prescribed, they affect the brain similar to street drugs. Therefore, prescription drug abuse is when someone takes a medication that was prescribed for someone else or takes their own prescription in a way not intended or for a different reason—like to get high. Important note (in my opinion): if you are taking painkillers correctly, you will not feel "high". If you feel "stoned" you took too much.
Take Pills Safely
Do you want to take pain medication safely - the best thing to do is to try to manage pain without drugs. I know, It is an easy suggestion to make when you are not the one in pain. However, there are many nondrug treatments that seriously work. For back pain, staying physically active and stretching is super helpful. I say this from experience since I had a large ruptured disk that needed surgery. Massage, physical therapy, and yoga also offer a lot of benefits. For arthritis and fibromyalgia, regular exercise can help reduce pain and fatigue.
Here are a few misconceptions:
If you do need to take painkillers, understand that they don't help much with long-term pain. They are much better options for short-term pain like after a surgery or a fractured bone.
Extended-release medication is not always safe. Long-acting pain pill may be overkill. They stay in the body longer and are typically stronger than the short-acting versions. It is also easier to overdose with the extended release medications.
Leftover medication is a bad idea. That is because you might have built up a tolerance when you stopped taking the medication last. Ask your doctor to start you on a lower dose. Throw the old pills away. You or someone else will not be tempted to take them (or steal them).
You will get physically dependent on pain medication. This is true for anyone. This is true when you are using the drug legitimately and as "prescribed". Dependence is not the same as addiction. Dependence means that the body gets used to the presence of the drug. Addiction is when a person seeks out and uses the drug over and over even though they know it is damaging their health and their life. When someone is dependent on a drug and they stop using or abusing it, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. Opioid withdrawal can cause terrible side effects. This is the dangerous point where the dependence can turn the person into an addict. Symptoms are restlessness, muscle and bone pain, sleep problems, diarrhea, vomiting (throwing up) and cold flashes.
It's not like painkillers are going to make me a heroin addict.
Prescription pain pills such as OxyContin and Vicodin are made from opium, which comes from the poppy plant. Morphine and codeine are two natural products of opium. Morphine can be turned into heroin. This is why, when prescription opioids are abused, they can have effects that are similar to heroin. Research suggests that people who start out abusing opioids and get addicted to them may turn to heroin, which can be cheaper and easier to get on the street. Nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in 3 recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin.
Pain pill abuse has been growing for years. In 2008, for the first time since at least 1980, poisoning deaths represented the top cause of injury death. That same year, pain meds were involved in almost 15,000 deaths, versus about 5,100 deaths involving cocaine and about 3,000 involving heroin.
The usual suspects:
Opioid Types Conditions They Treat
Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet)
Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet)
Morphine (Kadian, Avinza, MS Contin)
The street names:
oxy, percs, happy pills, hillbilly heroin, OC, or vikes
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