Opioid medication is a range of synthetic pain relief drugs that mirrors the effects of its natural counterpart which is made in the human body. Opioids induce calm states, relaxed breathing, and euphoria. The natural pain relievers are not as effective in relieving excessive, prolonged and chronic pain, which explains why opioids are popular and still in use today.
Since they release endorphins, opioids have been commonly abused for pleasure. Many people misuse opioids by crushing them into powder, which is then snorted or injected. They have also been misused through shared prescriptions.
These pain relievers are highly addictive. Once a person engages in repeated opioid use, their body stops producing its own natural pain relief variant. When this happens, the user becomes completely dependent on the synthetic version for all pain. In many cases, people do not necessarily even need the drug for pain relief.
Like other drugs, prolonged use causes the user to develop rising tolerance levels. Over time, an opioid-dependent person will need to use more of the drug in order to achieve the effect they desire. This creates a real risk of overdose, despite the legal nature of these drugs. In order to overcome this, the dependent will need to use stronger opioids. The result is an infinite rabbit hole of widespread drug dependence which slowly develops into an addiction for a large percentage of the population.
These medications may be a cause for concern, but they still have an important part to play in modern medicine. When used as directed, and for short-term periods, opioids have provided pain relief and pain management for many people. They alleviate severe post-surgery pain, as well as that from chronic conditions such as cancer.
Is the risk worth the reward?
What are the benefits of opioid medication?
Opioids are prescribed to address severe and persistent pain. They are effective at pain relief and have been proven to provide a real analgesic effect. Unlike other pain relief options which mask the unpleasantness or counteract the effects, opioids relieve pain. Opioids offer a reduction of pain, as well as reducing any likelihood of pain-related disability.
Opioids are effective for all types of pain. They offer pain relief for non-malignant chronic pain, tissue disorders and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and other musculoskeletal diseases. The range covered by opioids is so big that few singular alternatives could suffice should they be eradicated.
What are the risks associated with opioid medication?
Opioids can be lethal when taken without proper guidance and recommendation by a physician. They have been responsible for an increase in the number of drug-related deaths, and have already become the leading cause of death where drugs are involved.
Even though they relieve pain, opioids create dependence on their users. They have resulted in misuse and overall dependence on the drugs in a large number of people. The side effects of oxycontin, morphine, codeine, and other opioids include a tendency for addiction in cases of prolonged use.
Dependence on pain-relieving opioids results in the development of tolerance, which causes people to take higher quantities of the drugs in order to achieve their desired effects. The consequence of this has been an increase in the number of opioid-related overdose cases.
The dependence on the pain relievers has also caused an increase in the average potency of available variants of the drug. New and stronger opioids are being developed to cure the increased levels of tolerance. These drugs increase the options available to opioid dependents and progressively make the problem difficult to address.
Opioids have contributed to the expansion of the drug menace. Opioid addicts are more likely to engage in drugs such as heroin in order to satisfy their addiction. They are also more likely to look for a black market and over the counter alternatives.
More parents are using and are addicted to pain relief medication. Due to this dependency, many children are being born with drug-related birth defects, such as lower social engagement ability and physical impairment. Cases of diseases like the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome are on the rise, with the parents’ drug dependence transmitted to them.
Parents are more likely to neglect and abandon their children because of dependence on these drugs. Opioids are robbing children of the home environment which is important to their growth. In the short term, the child may be exposed to physical injury. In the long term, the child could suffer emotional damage.
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Opioid use may result in risky and impulsive activity. Due to the relative difficulty in acquiring the drugs, adolescents and young people may engage in violence, robbery, and impulsive sexual activity in order to acquire the drugs or similar alternatives. The rising rate of HIV/AIDS amongst young addicted people highlights the increased tendency for risky behavior.
At work, drug dependency has kept people out of employment, with the size of the workforce expressed as shrinking. Addiction to pain-relieving drugs has rendered many people ineligible for employment in workplaces with no tolerance for drugs.
Can Middle Ground Be Reached?
While opioids may be considered necessary, they have contributed to addiction, increased crime rates, increased cases of HIV/AIDS, the likelihood of parental negligence and increased cases of overdose. Stronger types of the medication are being made regularly to address the high levels of tolerance.
Measures such as increased difficulty in getting these drugs have been put in place. However, the presence of the black market and falsified prescriptions alternatives has undermined it. Even though access is restricted, people can still find the medication. Any attempt to address this problem through this approach must completely deny unauthorized access to opioids.
Pain relief medicine is causing more pain than relief. The addictive opioids that are used to relieve pain have resulted in a range of problems which carry trickle-down effects. Safer methods of pain relief should be embraced in order to fix a problem that seems to grow by the day. In cases where addiction already exists, treatment and counseling can be offered in order to nip the blooming problem before it reaches uncontrollable levels.