Dangers of using prescription drugs: addiction, overdose, etc.
We were told that a cheerful old man lived at the North Pole with a population of elves. We were told that a colorful bunny left eggs full of chocolate everywhere. We were told that our milk teeth had been removed in exchange for money by a fairy. If you grew up in the United States, you were told a lot of things. But while all of these lies are harmless, there is one that has been destructive:
“Dangerous drugs come from strangers.”
Just as most kidnappings and robberies happen between people who know each other, most dangerous drugs are passed on to people from sources they trust. And we don’t mean they’re from friends. No, the most dangerous drugs are prescription drugs.
Prescription drugs and the opioid crisis
You may have heard of the “opioid crisis”. In fact, you may experience it yourself in one way or another. The opioid crisis is a current event in American history in which millions of people are affected by the massive abuse of prescription opioids.
But how did it happen? Well, it all started in the 1990s. Back then, the US military was preparing for the Gulf War. They commissioned pharmaceutical companies to develop a new generation painkiller for them to replace the morphine they were using.
These companies responded by mass-producing huge quantities of the painkillers Percocet and OxyContin. Once they got clearance to distribute these painkillers from the FDA, drug companies began shipping them to hospitals and pharmacies across the United States.
Soon the only painkillers available were powerful and highly addictive opioids.
How do opioids form habits?
Thus, all pharmacies from San Francisco to Miami Beach sell opioids. What’s wrong with that? What do opioids do to get you addicted? And what does this addiction look like?
Let’s start by talking about what opioids are. Because the most accurate name for opioids would be “opioid drugs”. Technically speaking, these painkillers derive their name from the opioid receivers in the human nervous system. These receptors receive pain and stress signals.
Opioid medications act as pain relievers by inhibiting the ability of these receptors to receive these signals. It’s a bit too simplistic, but essentially, if the receptors can’t receive signals, they can’t feel pain.
What’s so bad about that?
Well, consider what pain does to the human body. Pain is a signal that something is wrong. If you’re sitting oddly, your body is sending pain signals to indicate that your posture is bad. If you have a bullet inside you, your body is sending you signals telling you to get rid of it.
Of course, it is possible that these signals become redundant. If you have a gunshot wound, you probably already know that you need to fix it before your body tells you. And if you break your foot, you’ll probably suffer much longer than is useful.
Ideally, opioids help you manage chronic pain to keep it from becoming debilitating. But the problem lies in the method they use to do it. There are many pain relievers that treat pain in different ways. Even other, less potent opioids will at least not be as addictive.
The problem comes from the way the body becomes dependent on opioids to function.
How do opioids get you addicted?
When an opioid suppresses the activity of the opioid receptor, it does not actually get rid of the signals that the receptor receives. A better way to think about it is that signals are a flow of water and opioid drugs build a dam to block the flow of those signals.
Once the drugs wear off, however, the dam breaks. All signals that were built during this effective period are received at the same time. And the only way to escape this pain is to take another dose of the same painkillers. Even then, it only delays the inevitable.
This creates a vicious cycle of bringing the opioids to a dull ache, but then needing the opioids to deal with the side effects of the opioids. Eventually, the user spends all of their time in pain or high on opioids. It doesn’t take a doctor to see the problem here.
What does addiction look like?
Opioid addiction is characterized by long periods of numbness and dissociation. Prescription opioid drugs will eventually be replaced with heroin, which is mixed with fentanyl to dilute it.
Addicts may be functional, but the threat of withdrawal prevents them from meeting their obligations or keeping a job. And of course there is the constant threat of an overdose.
What does an opioid overdose look like?
An opioid overdose occurs when signaling to opioid receptors ceases so massively and suddenly that the body goes into shock. This is usually characterized by nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, massive loss of balance, and possibly loss of consciousness.
If the body does not receive outside help during this time, the growing problems caused by the shock of the overdose will eventually lead to death. Drug overdoses, prescription or otherwise, are responsible for more deaths per year than cars or guns. Overdose is fatal.
But like cars and guns, overdoses are generally preventable. Although it is debilitating, there are things you can do to deal with an overdose, and it is possible to react to your own overdose if you act quickly. Call 911 if you can and apply Narcan injections if you have them.
Narcan is a drug that blocks the effects of opioids, which can prevent opioids from accidentally stopping signals to your lungs. If the opioids stop the signals to your lungs, you stop breathing and you die. So you cannot allow this to happen.
Prescription drug addiction is an epidemic in the United States and one of the deadliest causes of Americans. Feel free to ask if you might have a problem: https://www.ascendantny.com/do-i-need-drug-and-alcohol-detox-or-rehab/