Beware - This Frequently Prescribed Drug Is a Killer
The war against illegal drugs has been going on for over a hundred years. It began with laws against drugs like laudanum, cocaine, and heroin. More recently newer illegal drugs have been added to the list, including MDMA (ecstasy), methamphetamines (meth), and rohypnol (roofies). But can you believe that the biggest addictive drug of them all is totally legal? Believe it.
Legal prescription painkillers have been addicting millions of people in the US each year. Over three million Americans are currently addicted to prescription and over the counter painkillers. That number is much higher than the number of people addicted to illegal drugs.
Chances are you were prescribed one of these highly addictive painkiller drugs at some point. In today’s article I’m going to tell you about these drugs and share with you some natural ways to safely manage your pain.
A large number of older Americans, especially Baby Boomers, are struggling with prescription drug abuse and addiction. The National Institutes of Health claims the number of people aged 50 and older who are abusing prescription drugs has more than doubled from 2002 to 2010. In 2010 half a million seniors over age 65 were addicted to painkillers.
With seniors the health risks associated with all medications increases. Why? Because it takes their bodies longer to break down and pass a drug than it does younger people. So the drug stays in their system longer, where it can cause more damage.
Unfortunately, prescription painkillers don’t hold the same stigma as illegal drugs. People think that because it was prescribed by a doctor, it is safe. In reality, these drugs are far from safe. In fact, they’re actually more dangerous than illegal drugs for that reason.
Another important point to keep in mind is that prescription painkillers are not the only culprit. Over-the-counter painkillers, especially those with acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be fatal even with modest overdoses or too frequent use.
Painkiller Abuse Can Easily Lead to Death
Prescription painkillers (opioids) like oxycodone and hydrocodone are the most abused drugs in the world. They are not only addicting, but they can also lead to slowed breathing and death. The risk is intensified if you add alcohol to the mix.
Most people aren’t aware that prescription painkillers are as much as 100 times more potent than morphine. This makes the potential for addiction much higher. It does not always need heavy use, or even long-term use, to be addictive.
In fact, once you start taking these painkillers a chain reaction is set off in your body that makes it hard to stop. Researchers have found that after taking these drugs for a short period of time (as little as a few weeks) the body starts to change. The pill’s effectiveness begins to wear off and users report only getting about 30 percent relief compared to when they began.
When this happens you start taking more and more pills to get the same benefit. Then, even though the pills aren’t providing much pain relief they still reduce the body’s breathing mechanisms.
This is when the situation turns fatal. When you are awake you might not notice that you are breathing more slowly. But if you fall asleep after taking a few too many pills you might not wake up at al. Alcohol intensifies the effect of the pills and damps down your respiratory system even more.
Prescription painkiller overdoses now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined.
Factors That Increase Risk of Addiction to Painkillers
The mechanism that causes painkillers to work is straightforward. They interact with and inhibit brain receptors, resulting in a decrease in the feeling of pain. They are addictive because they create a feeling of euphoria (a “high”). This is followed by a feeling of unease, depression and anxiety (a “low”). It’s this second feeling, the “low” of depression, which causes the user to crave the “high” again. This quickly leads to dependence and addiction.
A recent study was conducted to determine what influences painkiller addiction and dependence. Researchers studied people who had used painkillers in the past month. They discovered three elements that identified those most at risk of becoming addicted.
- Use prescription painkillers more often
- Have a history of substance abuse (i.e. alcohol, etc. unrelated to pain)
- Are less able to accept or deal with pain
The pattern addiction follows is clear. First, the person has pain that leads to painkiller use. Second, they have risk factors for substance abuse. Third, they have psychological factors relating to pain.
Safely Manage Your Pain
Most people who ended up addicted to painkillers didn’t start out trying to get high. They were just trying to control their pain. The obvious solution is to try to avoid these drugs in the first place. Unfortunately, many doctors don’t consider offering drug-free pain management alternatives to their patients.
If you are in chronic pain I suggest you talk to a health care provider who understands pain management and natural alternatives to drugs. The goal is to find out what is really causing your pain and treat the underlying cause.
Here are a few drug-free pain relief alternatives to give you an idea of what you can try before resorting to prescription pain relievers.
Acupuncture. This is a pain-relief technique that has been around for thousands of years. It involves stimulating specific points on the body by inserting thin needles into the skin. Those stimulated points then work to relieve pain. Although it may seem too “woo” for some of us Westerners, hard science has proven that it really does work for pain relief.
Ginger. This herb has been used for centuries as a powerful anti-inflammatory. It provides pain relief and is best used by steeping in boiling water as a tea. It’s best for mild pain, but it can also take the edge off of more severe pain, making it tolerable.
Capsaicin cream. This is a spice derived from hot peppers. It’s what gives peppers their heat. It helps reduce pain by blocking a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to the brain.
Curcumin. This is the active ingredient in turmeric, the popular curry spice. Researchers in a recent osteoarthritis study gave on group of patients 200 mg of curcumin daily. The other group got a placebo. The curcumin group had increased mobility and reduced pain.
Boswellia. This herb contains active anti-inflammatory compounds. It is very effective against rheumatoid arthritis.
And of course there are many other natural pain relief options that may be available to you depending on the cause of your pain. For example, physical therapy or occupational therapy can be beneficial for many types of pain related to injury or chronic misuse or overuse of the body.
Prescription painkillers should be avoided like the plague. If you’ve exhausted all other options and must take them, do so with extreme caution. I advise you to take them only for the shortest possible amount of time and only when absolutely necessary. Be sure to tell your doctor if you feel like you are having trouble handling these drugs.