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Over-Prescription of Painkillers in America

Doctor writes prescription for painkiller and passes it to patient.

Over the past few decades, prescription drug abuse has become a serious problem in this country. But why? For starters, there has been a drastic increase in the number of prescriptions written and dispensed. In addition, there is greater social acceptability for using such medications. This has led to broad “environmental availability” of prescription painkillers and contributed to the severity of the current drug abuse problem in this country.

Opioid Prescription Statistics

Greater availability of prescription painkillers means an increase in the negative consequences related to their use and abuse. Consider the following statistics:

  • In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills.
  • In 2016 prescribers wrote 66.5 opioid and 25.2 sedative prescriptions for every 100 Americans.
  • Drug overdose deaths in America more than tripled since 1999.
  • In 2008, the number of deaths involving prescription opioids exceeded the number of deaths from heroin and cocaine combined.
  • Most persons using heroin have had a history of misusing prescription opioids first.

Thankfully, opioid and high-dose prescribing rates have started to level off and even decline. This suggests that healthcare providers are aware of these facts and are starting to become more cautious in their practices. But for some, this may be too little too late.

Effects of Painkillers

For those already addicted to or dependent on prescription painkillers, they’re left to deal with the serious side effects that come along with their use and abuse. The points listed below highlight how painkiller use can affect an individual’s physical health:

  • Compromised Immune System. Immediately upon taking painkillers, the body’s ability to fight off infection weakens. With no proven way to boost immune function, the best way to manage this side effect is to stop taking painkillers immediately.
  • The Stomach and Intestines. Painkillers are well-known for causing severe constipation. This can set in only a day or two after use begins and can cause abdominal distention and bloating, as well as more serious side effects such as hemorrhoids and bowel obstruction.
  • Increased Pain. As crazy as it may seem, painkillers can actually intensify pain in some people. People who experience this side effect are either transitioned to a different drug or weaned off painkillers altogether.
  • Hormone Levels. Use of painkillers often causes low levels of testosterone or estrogen (the male and female sex hormones), which may result in erectile dysfunction, reduced libido, fatigue, hot flashes, menstrual irregularities, weight gain and depression. And hormone imbalance can lead to more serious complications, such as infertility and osteoporosis.

Want to learn more about the effects of painkillers on the body? Click here.

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Detoxing from Painkillers & Opioids: What to Expect

The longer you use prescription painkillers or opioids, the more severe your withdrawal symptoms are likely to be during detox. While unassisted opioid withdrawal is not typically life-threating, it can increase your chances of relapse. Common painkiller withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Tearing up
  • Muscle aches
  • Agitation
  • Trouble falling and staying asleep
  • Excessive yawning
  • Anxiety
  • Nose running
  • Sweats
  • Fever
  • Racing heart
  • Hypertension
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Stomach cramps
  • Depression
  • Drug cravings

Medical Painkiller Detox versus Sub-Acute Painkiller Detox

Before detoxing from opioids, users should see a medical doctor to help determine what level of detox is needed. In severe cases, people who are struggling with opioid addiction may be referred to a medically-supervised detoxification process. In less severe cases, it could be possible to detox from prescription painkillers at a rehab center like Cycles of Change, which is licensed by the state of California to provide sub-acute detoxification.

Detoxing from Opioids at Cycles of Change

Detoxing from painkillers, or many other drugs, is not a fun process. There’s just no getting around it. However, detox is the critical first step you simply must take before beginning your journey to recovery. At Cycles of Change, we do everything in our power to reduce the feelings of pain and discomfort you may experience during opioid detox.

Get the Help You Need

The over-prescription of painkillers in America has directly led to the severity of this country’s current drug abuse problem. Cycles of Change Recovery Services in California is here to help your loved one gain the knowledge, courage, and determination needed to maintain a drug-free lifestyle. Every step taken is personalized to ensure your loved one reaches the goal of recovery. Facing addiction alone can be overwhelming. We’re here to help. Fill out this form or call today at (661) 630-4176.

Sources Used in this Piece

  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse
  2. https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/advocacy/opioid-addiction-disease-facts-figures.pdf
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/pubs/2017-cdc-drug-surveillance-report.pdf
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/pubs/2017-cdc-drug-surveillance-report.pdf

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