Just leave the drugs alone, people!!
The use of prescription painkillers recreationally is at epidemic levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is it about the pills that makes them so dangerously addictive and a potential gateway for heroin? The surprising answer, at least to many non-medical professionals, is that the common painkillers that doctors and dentists prescribe to patients after injuries and surgeries have the same active ingredient as the drug that alleyway users inject into their arms. And both act in similar ways on the human brain to produce a sense of pleasure that can overwhelm its reasoning functions.
While many who abuse prescription painkillers think of heroin as a low-class drug that will never make its way into their lives, they don’t realize, they’re already addicted to a form of it. Prescription painkillers of the sort that 12 million Americans used nonmedically in 2010, according to the CDC, are narcotic opioid drugs, more commonly referred to as opiates. They include hydrocodone and oxycodone, also known by the brand names Vicodin and Oxycontin, respectively. Although the initial effect of the drug is rewarding and results in a “high,” or feeling of euphoria, the effect is time stamped. When it wears off, the user feels much worse than before having taken the drug.
Addiction psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Gitlow, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, compares this phenomenon to alcohol use, saying that people drink for the immediate effect, regardless of the inevitable hangover that will follow. “The only connection a patient makes is that use of the drug leads to immediate relief — not the longer-lasting discomfort that follows. Unfortunately, the drug causes both the immediate relief and the following discomfort. As time passes, the discomfort becomes more apparent than the relief and the drug is used merely in an effort to avoid the discomfort that the drug has caused in the first place.”
Like any addiction, opiate abuse is considered a relapsing brain disease. While you can’t predict whether a given person will become addicted to drugs or not, certain factors can increase a person’s risk, including genetic makeup, environment, socioeconomic status, and others, researchers say.
One example comes out of a new study from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, in the June issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. It found that adolescents and young adults with mental health disorders were about 2 ½ times more likely to become long-term opioid (synthetic opiate) users that their peers without such disorders.