In recent years we’ve often heard a lot about the use and abuse of opioid pain medications. This 2-Part Series will clarify for you the risks of opioid pain relievers and what to take instead.
Experts tell us that the widespread abuse of this class of drugs started more than two decades ago. And, across the country today, healthcare authorities are paying increased attention and taking these concerns into consideration when prescribing opioids.
Before you consider taking them, learn more about these powerful medications.
How They Work
➡ They also affect the brain areas that control emotion, which helps to reduce the effects of pain.
It’s what makes them so addictive.
➡ Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
➡ Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®)
These 2 powerful drugs are most commonly prescribed for a range of painful conditions such as injury-related pain, cancer pain or dental pain.
➡ Morphine: This is often used before and after a surgical procedure to alleviate severe pain.
➡ Codeine: This is most often prescribed for mild pain. It is also prescribed for other health issues such as coughs and severe diarrhea.
So Why Are They So Bad?
1. The effects of opioids — including their addictive qualities — contribute to the more than 16,600 U.S. deaths from painkiller use that happen each year.
➡ That’s about 45 people a day in the emergency department (ED).
➡ And this doesn’t include the people who have gone to the ED and survived an overdose.
2. Prescriptions for these drugs have climbed 300% in the last decade or so.
➡ In fact, Vicodin and other hydrocodone-combination painkillers are the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S.
The issue of opioid abuse began in the late 1990s and by 2007, deaths from opioid overdose outnumbered deaths from heroin and cocaine in the U.S.
And by now, hundreds of federal, state, and local interventions have been implemented in response to the opioid epidemic. Today there is a national database that helps healthcare experts to monitor usage, deaths and growing trends.
➡ When abused, even a single large dose can cause severe respiratory failure, which can lead to death.
➡ Exposure to opioids in the womb increases the risk of defects in the baby’s brain, heart, spine, and abdominal wall.
And, to top it all off, these opioids don’t always ease the pain.
Patients on chronic opioids may feel worse overall because of the side effects. These can include:
Some patients even experience worsened pain after starting opioids, an effect known as “opioid-induced hyperalgesia.”
This is a “hypersensitivity” to the pain that can occur in patients with chronic pain with long-term, high-dose opioid use.
Pharmacist Elizabeth Casserly, PharmD, RPh, BCPS, who specializes in pain management warns:
“Unfortunately, anyone can develop an opioid addiction — even those who’ve never been addicted to anything in the past.”
“Opioids are typically safe when taken on their own and in low doses,” she notes. But when you’re taking several opioids at once, or taking them in high doses, the risk of overdose and death spikes.”
In the past several years, hundreds of federal, state, and local interventions have been implemented in response to the opioid epidemic. Today there is a national database that helps healthcare experts to monitor usage, deaths and growing trends.
Coming Up: Part 2- Opioid Pain Relievers-What To Take Instead