Last Updated on October 13, 2016 by Morris Green
In a recent post on our sister site, AbsoluteAdvocacy.org, we published an infographic that illustrated the 8 most commonly abused drugs. Next to alcohol and marijuana, pain relievers rank high among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States (U.S.). In the category of pain relievers include prescription drugs like morphine, vicodin, oxycodone and codeine – drugs that many people who need more powerful substance to relieve pain are somewhat familiar with. Because of their addictive side effects, these drugs must be prescribed by a doctor and used only for a short period of time.
Also in this category of abused drugs are prescription opioids. Though not as prescribed as other pain relievers, the misuse and abuse of opioids has led to a rapid increase in opiate addiction in the U.S. The excerpt below from a research paper by Sharon Muhammad entitled, Psychopharmacology and Addiction, provides a brief history of opium use for medical treatments as well as the risk factors associated with its use which has also resulted in an ever-increasing problem with misuse and abuse.
In order to begin any discussion on opioids, attention must be given to the source of its origin, the opium plant, and the medicinal benefits gained from its use. Three centuries ago, Arab physicians discovered that substances derived from the opium plant had the ability to relieve pain and distress. From there, trade was made with Asia where opium was used to treat diarrhea caused by the inflammation of the intestinal tract (Rose, 2012). It should be noted that morphine was extracted from opium by Frederich Serturner in 1806, who named it Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams (Hart & Ksir, 2011). …By the mid-nineteenth century, pure opium chemicals (e.g., morphine and heroin) were used by medical practitioners.Opioids are pain reducing medications that minimize the strength of pain signals transmitted to the brain. Regular or long term use can cause addiction, which implies that there is psychological and physical dependency stemming from continual exposure to the drug and distinguished by compulsive drug seeking and use despite the devastating consequences (NIDA, 2011). Opioid addiction can be viewed as a chronic disease and, although incurable, can be managed with a combination of medication and behavioral approaches. Medication counteracts the drug’s effect on the brain and the behavior aspect relieves withdrawal symptoms, cravings and incidents of overdose.
Studies have concluded that several factors such as genetics, personality and environmental issues play significantly in determining whether or not a person is at a risk for developing addiction. The misuse of prescription pain relievers leads to one’s inability to control their pain, drug dependence, and untimely death. Within the past ten years, there has been a significant rise in dependency among women, resulting in death at an alarming rate; in particular those in the age range of 45 to 54 years (Tavernise, 2013). This has been attributed to several factors such as the likelihood of higher doses of medication for chronic conditions (e.g., fibromyalgia); susceptibility to overdose because of lower body weight than men; and the availability of prescriptions for psychotherapeutic, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication which causes lethal overdose if combined with pain relievers.
Psychosocial conditions that are attributed to the abuse of prescription medications among women are linked to feeling overcome with financial responsibility, unemployment, single parenting, low self-esteem, and the weight of guilt and shame associated with the lack of adequate parenting skills. Added to this is the reality that people are looking for relief from pain in all its many forms, often seeking solutions to their problems from prescription and illicit drugs rather than patiently investing time and energy in finding other resources; therefore, by denying or delaying response to life stressors, one sets the stage for dependency (GCU, 2011).
This excerpt brings to light a few of the reasons opioid addiction is so prevalent in the U.S. It also helps us understand that prescription pain relievers without the proper oversight and care can lead to addiction, sickness and other problems. If you or someone you know is using prescription drugs, please follow the doctor’s prescription and be sure to dispose of any unused medications to prevent misuse.