Prescription painkillers are powerful drugs that interfere with the nervous system’s transmission of the nerve signals we perceive as pain.
Like all medicines, you should take painkillers take for the shortest period of time possible, in the lowest dose that controls your pain. This is to help avoid any side-effects. Most people only need to take painkillers for a few days or weeks. However, some people have painful conditions and need to take painkillers on a long-term basis.
Like all drugs, painkillers simply mask the pain. They do not “cure” anything. Most painkillers stimulate portions of the brain associated with pleasure. Thus, in addition to blocking pain, they produce a high. Someone continuously trying to dull the pain may find himself taking higher and higher doses. Then he discovers that he cannot make it through the day without the drug.
There are three main types of painkiller: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), paracetamol, and opioids. Each works in a different way.
The most powerful prescription painkillers are opioids, which are opium-like compounds. They react on the nervous system in the same way as drugs like heroin. The most commonly abused opioid painkillers include oxycodone, hydrocodone, meperidine, hydromorphone, and propoxyphene.
By survey, almost 50% of teens believe that taking prescription drugs is much safer than using illegal street drugs. So while the use of many street drugs is on a decline, abuse of prescription drugs is growing.
Most Abusive Drugs
In 2007, 2.5 million Americans abused prescription drugs, compared to 2.1 million who used marijuana for the first time. Among teens, prescription drugs are the most commonly used drugs next to marijuana. Almost half of the teens abusing prescription drugs are taking painkillers. Non-medical use of painkillers rose 12%.
The painkiller hydrocodone is the most commonly diverted and abused controlled pharmaceutical in the US. Prescription drug abuse is also climbing in older Americans, involving anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and painkillers like OxyContin.
In the UK, tens of thousands of people are said to be dependent on painkillers like Solpadeine and Nurofen Plus.
The dangers of painkillers do not surface until it is too late in some cases. In 2007,abuse of the painkiller Fentanyl killed more than 1,000 people. The drug was found to be thirty to fifty times more powerful than heroin. Methadone, once used in addiction treatment centers and now used by doctors as a painkiller, was found as the cause of 785 deaths in one state alone, Florida, in 2007.
The misuse of prescription painkillers was responsible for more than 475,000 emergency department visits in 2009, a number that nearly doubled in just five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2011, about 131 million prescriptions for hydrocodone-containing medications were written for about 47 million patients, according to government estimates. That amounts to about five billion pills.
Doctors and rehabilitation therapists report that prescription painkiller abuse is one of the most difficult addictions to treat.
People are taking the risk because these drugs are highly potent and mind-altering. Long-term use of painkillers can lead to dependence. The body adapts to the presence of the substance and if one stops taking the drug abruptly, withdrawal symptoms occur. The Body develops a tolerance to the drug. Now a higher dose will achieve the same effects.
Symptoms of withdrawal can include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and involuntary leg movements.
Mental and physiological effects
Constipation,Nausea,Vomiting,Dizziness,Confusion,Addiction,Unconsciousness,Respiratory depression,Increased risk of heart attack,Coma, and Death. One of the serious risks of opioids is respiratory depression—high doses can cause breathing to slow down to the point it stops and the user dies.
Drug Enforcement Administration is battling a rising tide of prescription drug abuse. Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s pharmaceuticals division, said in a statement that the agency has, over the past few years, been “challenged with determining how to balance the need to ensure continued access to those patients who rely on continuous pain relief while addressing the ongoing concerns about abuse and misuse.”
In the end, she said, the level of opioid abuse and the “tremendous amount of public interest” in the matter led the agency to recommend a change. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 24 October 2013,recommended tighter restrictions on products that contain hydrocodone, an opioid painkiller present in commonly prescribed, potentially addictive drugs such as Vicodin or Lortab. Dr. Janet said that she expected the new regulations to go into effect in 2014. The recommendation requires the approval of the Department of Health and Human Services and adoption by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which has long pushed for the measure.
Technically, the change involves the reclassification of hydrocodone-containing painkillers as Schedule II medications from their current classification as Schedule III drugs.
Regulators are trying to tackle the problem from a variety of angles. In an attempt to restrict supply, the DEA has been putting pressure on wholesale suppliers of prescription drugs to police their customers better.
Several companies, including Pfizer Inc and Endo Health Solutions, are working to develop tamper-resistant opioids. Addicts cannot easily crush or dissolve them to get a full dose of the drug quickly.