According to the CDC, the number of overdose deaths has exceeded the number of deaths by car accidents and suicides. We here at All American Healthcare are joining the fight this month to inform people about the dangers of opioids and encourage others to be a part of #PainFreeNation – All American Healthcare
What are Opioids?
Opioids are painkillers used to treat severe or long-term chronic pain. There are several different kinds of opioids, but they usually fall into one of two groups; weak and strong. Most doctors will start by prescribing a weak painkiller, and move up from there if the first doesn’t work.
- Weak opioids: codeine, dihydrocodeine
- Strong opioids: tramadol, buprenorphine, methadone, diamorphine,fentanyl, hydromorphone, morphine, oxycodone, and pethidine.
The most commonly prescribed strong opioid is morphine, and, even though there are several opioids that fall into this group, they all have varying strengths.
How do Opioids Work?
Opioids work by attaching to opioid receptors in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), gut and other organs of the body. When the receptors attach, they reduce the perception of pain.
How do Opioids Affect the Brain and Body?
Opioids can cause drowsiness, mental confusion, nausea and more. Some people may even experience a euphoric response because the drugs can attach in the brain region. It is important to use the drug as prescribed by your doctor so you do not increase your risk for serious medical complications, including overdose. While many overdoses occur while people are taking painkillers recreationally, those who are prescribed the drugs are still at risk of becoming dependent or even addicted.
Tolerance Vs. Addiction
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain that can seriously effect their well-being. Painkillers are prescribed in an effort to improve the quality of life for these individuals; however, they can often become addicted to the drug, some leading to overdose.
If you use opioids for an extended period of time, you can often develop a tolerance to the drug and require a higher dosage to feel the same effect. This is considered normal and may be a sign that your liver is processing the medication more efficiently while your brain requires more of the drug to reduce the perception of pain. You should follow up with your doctor to talk about your prescription.
It is important as a doctor to diligently talk to your patients to make sure he or she is not developing a drug problem, and be very attentive to the patient’s symptoms and level of functionality. Many patients may experience withdrawal symptoms when the use of the drug is abruptly reduced or stopped. A minor withdrawal can show a physical dependence, which is often accompanied by tolerance; however, where people get into trouble is when they start to self-medicate or seek and use drugs on their own accord. This is a sign of addiction.
Signs of Withdrawal
Do not suddenly stop taking a strong opioid because you may experience unwanted withdrawal effects. This can include tiredness, sweating, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and aching muscles. Talk to your doctor before stopping a prescribed medication so you can bring the dosage down slowly.
Alternative Treatment for Chronic Pain
October is National Chiropractic Health Month, and we are dedicated to educating the public about conservative treatment options to alleviate acute and chronic pain instead of high risk treatments like opioids and surgery. An increase of opioid prescriptions had lead to an increase in accidental overdose deaths.
46 people per day, or almost 17,000 people per year, die from overdoses of the drugs. That’s up more than 400 percent from 1999. And for every death, more than 30 people are admitted to the emergency room because of opioid complications. – Consumer Reports
Non-drug treatments including exercise, acupuncture, adjustments, and massages can significantly reduce pain and improve mobility for everyday functions. Some individuals are able to manage their pain without using medications regularly because of these conservative treatments. Be sure to explore your options before resulting to prescriptions and surgery.
Sources: Drugabuse.org, Everyday Health, Patient