Opioid painkiller medications are similar to heroin and both are derived form the poppy plant. They have similar chemical structures and both bind to the same opioid receptors in the brain. They both create a feeling of euphoria in the user and decrease pain perception. When painkillers are taken long-term or in higher than recommended doses, the body will begin to build up a tolerance to the drug. The user will have to take more of the drug to achieve the same effects as before. When chronic pain is an issue, the user may take more of the drug to ease the feeling of pain. This behavior eventually leads to addiction to the drug. The body and mind will react to addiction by craving the drug just to feel “normal” and pain free. The user is now physically and psychologically addicted. If the user’s physician will not prescribe more of the painkiller, the person may switch to illicit opioid drugs, usually heroin. This is how painkillers lead to heroin addiction.
Painkillers in the U.S.
America is addicted to pain medications and uses up to 80 percent of the world’s pain medication output. It appeared to be that American physicians were indiscriminately prescribing powerful pain medications to unsuspecting patients who eventually found themselves addicted to the drugs. Prescription drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. with a person dying every nineteen minutes. Because of these dramatic consequences, physicians have been reducing their number of pain medication prescriptions and the medicines themselves have been re-formulated. As a result, overdose deaths from pain pills are dropping but heroin abuse and addiction has doubled. The heroin epidemic has caused an increase in crime while at the same time destroying lives. Street heroin is unregulated and is usually mixed with other dangerous compounds. Legislation to curb pain medication has back-fired. The legislation altered and restricted the medications which placed them increasingly out of the reach of patients. These patients, now addicted to the drugs, have turned to heroin. The legislation was necessary, but the problem of addiction was not addressed. Future drug policy legislation in the U.S. must include treatment for addiction.
Effects of Drug Use
Heroin and painkillers produce the same effects in the body and mind of a user, and can cause tolerance, dependence and addiction. They are semi-synthetic drugs that depress the central nervous system and they are analgesics that block pain. They can also suppress the respiratory system causing hypoxia, leading to neurological and psychological damage. Detox and withdrawal symptoms from heroin and painkillers are the same too. Some withdrawal symptoms an addict may experience include: intense cravings, muscle and bone pain, severe depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shaking, insomnia, restlessness and arm and leg cramps.
Heroin and painkillers are both opioid drugs that affect the brain in the same way. Opiates increase the amount of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. The brain becomes flooded with dopamine which creates intense feelings of euphoria and pleasure. Emotions linked to pleasure, eating, drinking, sex etc. are all affected by opiates. This intense pleasure makes the user want to continue their habit, but there are also many adverse effects that are taking place too. Often the user is unaware of these detrimental effects on their body and mind. Opioid drugs are known to cause structural and functional changes in the brain. Other adverse effects of opioid drug use include: gastrointestinal cramping, nausea, vomiting, constipation, itching, pulmonary problems, collapsed veins, infections, abscesses, depression, mood swings, blood clots, seizures, overdose and death.
Anyone taking heroin or painkillers may be facing addiction. They may also suffer from physical and psychological damage caused by opioid drugs. At White Sands Treatment Center, you can get the help you need. We provide medical detox, cognitive behavior therapy, family therapy, alternative therapies, and much more. By treating the patient holistically in body, mind and spirit, they can overcome their addiction.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.