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Chasing Euphoria: Long-Term Effects of Painkillers on the Brain

Did you know approximately 80 percent of the global opioid supply is consumed in the United States? This would suggest that doctors and American citizens are accustomed to prescribing and receiving painkiller prescriptions.

Painkillers do provide relief from pain and can give people a sense of euphoria. But, if taken for extended periods of time, this need to feel good and escape from pain comes with a price.

While they help in the short term when dealing with pain, painkillers’ long-term effects can be devastating. Painkillers have the ability to hook a user with a rush of euphoria but ultimately impair the brain’s ability to generate feel-good chemicals on its own.

As our nation reckons with an opioid crisis, many are beginning to realize prescription painkillers carry the risk of these and other harmful long-term effects, too.

From Use to Abuse with Prescription Painkillers

Prescription medications may seem harmless. You were having pain from an injury or surgery, and the doctor said you should take these to help. You’re not injecting or smoking anything, and that’s how addiction happens.

Actually, some recent numbers suggest that as many as 75 percent of opioid addiction cases involve prescription painkillers like Oxycodone (found in OxyContin) or Hydrocodone (found in Vicodin).

Your brain and body build tolerance the more you use drugs like these, which may lead to increased doses to achieve similar effects. It doesn’t take long to go from this state to physical dependence on the drug and eventually addiction.

How Painkillers Affect the Brain

Painkillers hit your brain with a one-two punch to relieve pain. They block the receptors responsible for detecting pain, and they spur the release of those feel-good chemicals we mentioned earlier. This is great for helping you get through the temporary pain of healing from an injury.

Unfortunately, the longer you use the drug, the more it disrupts your system’s ability to function normally on its own. In fact, your brain will gradually release less and less of these neurotransmitters naturally, which can cause you to feel negative emotions and physical pain more strongly when the drug wears off.

Potential Consequences of Long-Term Painkiller Use

As you continue using painkillers, changes occur throughout the brain, including:

  • Brain cell death
  • Impairment to the systems responsible for thinking, learning, and remembering.
  • Nerve cell damage
  • Inability to regulate mood and emotions

Depending on the length and severity of painkiller abuse, as well as how it’s being used, you can also develop issues with your heart, lungs, nose, and other parts of the body.

Get Help Healing from Painkiller Addiction at Cycles of Change

Trying to quit painkillers cold turkey when you’re struggling with addiction may lead to relapse. At Cycles of Change Recovery, we are equipped to help you get through the initial detoxification phase of recovery as comfortably and safely as possible.

From there, we can work with you on developing the skills you need to prevent relapse. If you’re struggling with complicated issues like anxiety or depression, our experienced staff is trained in dual diagnosis treatment that can help you deal with both conditions that can lead to better recovery outcomes.

We know that addiction impacts the entire family, so your personalized recovery program can be tailored to fit your family’s needs, as well. If you’re ready to break free from the destructive cycle of painkiller addiction, contact us today.


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