The powerful pain relieving effects of these opioids does not come without a price: there is potential to become addicted to the pain pills. Increasing numbers of Americans are becoming addicted to pain killers, and the problem is considered by many to be of epidemic proportions.

How Pain Pills Cause Addiction

Opioids bond to neurotransmitters in the brain to depress the function of the central nervous system, thereby blocking pain and creating a state of relaxation. But opioids also affect the brain’s “reward system,” which is responsible for making us feel good when we do pleasant, life-sustaining things, like eating food. The main chemical involved in the reward system is dopamine, and opioids open the floodgates on dopamine.

The overall result is a person who feels quite happy and pain-free after taking opioid pain pills.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

The brain is naturally inclined to want to repeat actions that increase dopamine, which can result in a feeling of “craving” the opioid. Doctors call this a withdrawal symptom, and it is an indication of a growing addiction.

Other withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable — all are created by the brain to try to encourage additional opioid consumption to increase dopamine. These withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Headache

Taking more pain pills results in quick cessation of these symptoms, reinforcing the reward system in the brain.

How Prevalent Is Pain Killer Addiction?

Millions of Americans have a legitimate need for prescription opioids every year. Some won’t experience addiction, but many will. Once addiction takes hold, it is very difficult to quit on your own. Addiction is powerful enough to drive people to steal or lie in order to get additional pain pills.

It is estimated that over 2 million people in America struggle with pain killer addictions. Nearly half a million others are addicted to the related street drug, heroin, which many pain pill addicts begin to use due to its lower cost.

Dying of an opioid overdose is a possible consequence of pain killer addiction, and the addiction can also have financial and social repercussions. An increase in opioid-related deaths and in admissions to addiction treatment centers for opioid addiction has caused alarm among many communities and medical professionals.

Anyone who is prescribed opioid pain killers is at risk of addiction. Talk to your doctor about other ways to manage your pain or to avoid addiction if you are concerned about your prescription, or call us for a confidential consultation. Help is available and opioid addiction can be overcome.



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