No one sets out to become addicted to prescription opioids. They usually start by misusing their medications without realizing how easily they can become physically and psychologically dependent. For years doctors believed that opioids were a wonderful solution for pain problems with little risk of addiction or overdose, and while most doctors have come to recognize this isn’t the case after decades of clinical proof, many of patients still believe these early misconceptions. Furthermore, most people tend to believe that all prescription medications are basically safe, because they are prescribed by doctors. But the truth is, a medication that can be very helpful in some situations for some people, can be incredibly harmful if used differently by someone else.
Misconceptions about prescription opioids are one of the primary reasons behind our country’s skyrocketing rate of opioid overdose deaths. In 2015, over 15,000 Americans died from overdosing on a prescription painkiller such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl, and this increase in overdose rates, along with increased health complications that are caused by prescription opioids, are major contributors to the recently lowered life expectancy in the United States.
Here are a few of the most common misconceptions about prescription opioids:
- Prescription opioids aren’t addictive.
Most people taking a prescription for pain believe that they are immune to addiction because they have a legitimate medical reason to take the drug, and a prescription provided by a doctor, but the truth is, anyone can become addicted to prescription opioids. If you are taking an opioid for pain, you need to carefully follow your doctor’s advice, and be aware of the dangers of taking opioids for more than a short period of time.
- Prescription opioids fix pain.
Many people suffering from chronic pain conditions believe that they need to take prescription painkillers for a very long time or forever to “fix” their pain, but the truth is, opioids do nothing to cure the root cause of pain, they can only mask or block your perception of pain signals. Even worse, taking opioids can increase your sensitivity to pain over time. This means that some people taking opioids for a short-term pain issue like an injury can develop a chronic pain problem if they misuse their prescription, or take the prescription for too long a period of time.
- Higher doses of prescription opioids work better.
When you are in bad pain, you will do almost anything to make the pain stop. It is a natural impulse to want to take more of your medication or to take it more frequently than directed by your doctor, if you believe that a higher dose will more effectively treat your pain. But misusing your prescription in this way will go beyond treating pain to cause feelings of pleasure and sedation that can be psychologically addictive, and the mechanism causing those feelings will lead to physical addiction. If you or someone you love is addicted to painkillers, please seek treatment. Addictions.com can help you find the right treatment for your needs.