The abuse of prescription painkillers can somewhat be seen in every household in this generation. We never want to feel pain hence the readiness to consume an over-the-counter painkiller at any instance of pain. As understandable as this scenario might be, coupled with the fact that the majority don’t want to visit the doctor’s office every time due to so many underlying factors, the overuse of prescription painkillers does more harm than good.
In general, prescription drugs are drugs prescribed by doctors for the treatment of diagnosed illnesses. And narrowing the topic down, I’ll focus on prescription painkillers. Now, you might wonder how a drug given by a doctor could become dangerous to one’s health. Follow me!
What are prescription painkillers?
Drug Free World defines prescription painkillers, also known as Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as “powerful drugs that interfere with the nervous system’s transmission of the nerve signals we perceive as pain.” In addition to being a pain blocker, “most painkillers also stimulate portions of the brain associated with pleasure,” hence producing a high feeling (euphoria).
In summary, you can say prescription painkillers suppress pain and give relief.
Commonly Abused Painkillers.
Paracetamol is an over-the-counter drug used to treat pain and fever. Every household medicine kit contains paracetamol, and they are usually the go-to for symptoms like headache and fever, even without a proper diagnosis and prescription.
Paracetamol is considered safe at prescribed doses, but it can be lethal in high doses or combined with other substances that affect the liver like alcohol. Along with liver damage, acute liver failure or death can occur if paracetamol is taken wrongly. Toxicity from paracetamol is one of the top causes of acute liver failure in the world.
Imagine all the times you’ve taken paracetamol without the doctor’s prescription!
Barbiturates are depressants and sedative drugs used predominantly in the 60s and 70s to help relax the body and help people sleep. They are Central Nervous System depressants that cause muscle relaxation by reducing the activity of nerves. High doses of barbiturates can cause troubled breathing, and it can be lethal when combined with alcohol.
An example of a barbiturate is Phenobarbital.
-Codeine and Morphine
Opioids are usually abused as well. These medications help diminish pain, yet when taken in enormous dosages, they can cause a euphoric high and dangerous symptoms. Codeine is a generally mild remedy prescription given to patients to moderate pain and cough. It’s sometimes used to treat diarrhea. For the most part, doctors prescribe morphine for extreme pain and codeine for milder pain or coughing. Brands of morphine incorporate Avinza, Kadian, and MS Contin.
There are some misconceptions about prescription drugs, but we’ll touch on a few of them.
- One prominent misconception about these drugs is that they are safe to use anytime because the doctor prescribed them.
This thought is far from the truth because these drugs are given in prescribed doses based on the doctor’s diagnosis and discretion. Taking these drugs after recovering from the illness it was used to treat can cause dangerous results.
Also, having symptoms like the one you had previously doesn’t necessarily imply that it’s the same illness. It’s wise to see a doctor and get a correct diagnosis. For example, there are so many reasons why your head can ache; it could be due to stress, fever, or it could be the symptom of brain hemorrhage! Imagine taking paracetamol for a brain hemorrhage. It is a disaster!
- Another misconception is that you can take painkillers whenever you feel pain, and according to the proportion of pain, which is not valid. Painkillers aren’t meant to be taken in proportion to the pain you feel; that you feel so much pain doesn’t mean you should take five tablets when your doctor said two!
Furthermore, there are times when your doctor needs the initial drug to wear off entirely before administering another dosage. It’s best to consult your doctor before taking any drug.
Painkiller’s Mechanism of Action (MOA)
It is imperative to understand the MOA of painkillers/NSAIDS, in general, to understand better how they work in our bodies. We feel pain when a group of lipids named prostaglandins is released at the site where pain occurs. So, without sounding so much like the biochemist that I am, what painkillers do is inhibit the enzymes that produce these lipids. Like every other thing in the scientific world, there are other proposed mechanisms of action, but this is by far the mainstream explanation.
Prescription Drug Abuse: Painkillers
From the definition given earlier on, we understand that prescription painkillers are prescribed to relieve pain. Now, how do these drugs end up being abused?
Nobody wants to feel pain, we are humans, and we generally feel the need to be active, but we can’t do this when we’re curled up in distress. Due to this fact, we tend to seek relief in any way we can. And painkillers can inhibit the part of the brain that causes you to feel pain.
These drugs are not necessarily harmful to the body but taking it without correct prescription or supervision is dangerous. Also, taking it after recovery is wrong. Imagine you’re sick, and after consulting your doctor, he/she prescribes two doses of ibuprofen for two days. You then take three doses for two days without consulting your doctor because you feel more pain. You also take one dose of ibuprofen in subsequent days whenever you feel a slight pain like the one you felt before. This is a typical example of prescription drug abuse.
Statistics have revealed that more people abuse prescribed drugs than those that take hard drugs! A significant reason these drugs are primarily abused is because of the misconception that they are safe to use and most of them are easily affordable and accessible. Painkillers such as paracetamol may not become addictive substances, but they are widely abused, and the body builds up a dependence on it.
It is important to note that people who abuse medicines can become quickly addicted as if they were taking street drugs. That is why most doctors won’t renew a prescription unless they see the patient and examine to make sure they aren’t getting addicted.
Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse.
- Irregular heartbeat
- Lack of coordination, and so on
Since last night, I have been experiencing excruciating pain from menstrual cramps. My prostaglandins are at work, sobs quietly. You would think that my first line of action would be to pop some pills, but instead, I have chosen to endure the pain even though my waist feels like it could use some massaging this very minute. To manage the pain, I resulted to the holistic treatment of drinking hot water, ginger tea, and applying heat. I am not advocating for the later, but my point is conventional treatment should not always be a go-to.
Suppose the majority can steer from the usual take a pill at every instance of pain mentality and instead try other tested unconventional means; in that case, we can reduce prescription drug abuse statistics.