The Link Between Chronic Pain and Opioid Addiction

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What Are Opioids?

Opioids are effective for treating moderate to severe pain, especially chronic pain. But, when taken for the long-term, the risks of becoming addicted to the painkillers increases greatly. There are more people suffering from chronic pain than there are with heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined.

That means there are 116 million people across the country living with chronic pain and suffering through the agony every day. While more than 30% of Americans live with severe or chronic pain, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of those suffering from overdoses or opioid addiction.

A survey contacted by Healthline revealed that despite the higher number of people suffering from addiction and the increased number of overdoses, about a third of the country is still suffering in pain because they aren’t getting the relief they need from any kind of pain treatment.

Challenges Faced With Managing Pain

Managing chronic pain has become a public health concern since there have been significant increases in the use of opioids to treat pain. As the number of opioids prescribed in the country has increased, the number of overdoses on the drugs has also increased.

Primary care providers play a vital role in balancing the needs of the patient against drug misuse and abuse. Extended-release and long-acting opioids are powerful drugs that require diligent oversight by a healthcare provider.

How Opioid Addiction Happens

Anyone who takes opioids is at risk for developing an addiction. There are some things that play a role, such as how long you take opioids and your personal medical history, but it is virtually impossible to know who will develop an addiction and who is vulnerable to becoming dependent on these drugs or abusing them.

Whether they are prescribed, legal or illegal, stolen or shared, opioids are responsible for most drug overdose deaths in the United States. Addiction is a serious condition where something that started out as being pleasurable becomes something that you are unable to live without.

Drug addiction is defined as an irresistible craving for a drug where something that started out as being pleasurable has become something that you feel you cannot live without. It is an out-of-control craving for the drug that leads to compulsive drug use.

The drug use continues despite harmful consequences being suffered repeatedly. Because opioids activate powerful reward centers in your brain, they are highly addictive. They trigger endorphins to be released. Endorphins are transmitters in the brain that make you feel good.

When endorphins are released, your perception of pain is reduced, and feelings of pleasure are increased, giving you a powerful, but temporary sense of well-being. When the dose wears off, you might find yourself wanting the good feelings back as soon as possible, so you take another dose.

This is the first step on the road to addiction.

Opioids Short-Term Effects Versus Long-Term Effects

The CDC reported in 2015 that doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers and one of every three Americans took a painkiller that year. In 2015, there were 33,000 people who died from opioid overdoses, which was up from 11,000 people in 2005.

Opioid abuse has been referred to as the deadliest drug epidemic in the nation’s history. A study involving 135,000 opioid overdose victims revealed that 13% percent were patients who suffered from chronic pain.

When you take opioids repeatedly for a long time, the production of endorphins by your body will decrease and slow down. The same dose of opioids stops triggering good feelings like you felt when first taking the drug.

Many people who develop a tolerance to the drug might increase their dosage because they want to keep feeling good. Because doctors are aware of the high risks of opioid abuse and addiction, they are hesitant about increasing doses or even renewing prescriptions.

Some people who believe they need an increased dose then turn to illegally obtained drugs to feed the craving.

Risk Factors For Opioid Addiction

When you start taking opioids in ways that they weren’t prescribed, they become more addictive. Examples of using the drugs incorrectly include increasing your dose without your doctor’s approval, taking doses more frequently, or crushing a pill so it can be injected or snorted so you will feel the effects much more quickly.

If you are taking opioids and you have developed a tolerance, you should tell your doctor and ask for help. There are other choices that will help you control your pain and avoid an addiction to opioids.

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