People often think about the unauthorized drugs like heroin and cocaine when they hear about the phrase drug addiction. But there are far more kinds of legal drugs being dispensed daily all around the world that can potentially become a source of addiction and physiological dependence.
Pain killer addiction has been slowly becoming a significant problem the past few years. In fact, in 2002, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has revealed that about 3 million teenagers aged 12 to 17 and almost 7 million adults aged from 18 to 25 has used prescription drugs for non-medical uses at least once in their lives. This was a surge from less than half a million in the 1980's. The more potent danger comes from the fact that unauthorized use of these substances can lead to thousands of deaths per year. Pain killers are much harmful if combined with other agents such as alcohol.
The pain killer medications that can become addictive are those that belong to the class of drugs called opioids. Common opioids are as follows:
- Hesperidins (Demerol)
- Oxycodone (Oxycontin)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Hydrocodone (Percocet, Vicodin)
Opioids generally attack particular proteins all around the body, and these are called opioid receptors. They are found in the spinal cord, the brain and the gastrointestinal tract. When they successfully attach to these receptors, they work by blocking the transmission of pain messages into the brain. This also can induce the feeling of euphoria by the stimulation of the regions of the brain that are responsible for mediation of pleasure sensations.
The chronic and long term use of opioids consequently lead to tolerance, meaning users must take more and more doses in order to achieve the same effects. It can also lead to physiological dependence and even addiction, wherein the body now adapts to the presence of the pain killer medication and withdrawal symptoms will likely occur if the dosage is reduced or if use is stopped.
However, despite this pending danger, the use of opioids can be safe if used correctly. Most people who are prescribed the use of pain killers do not become addicted. They are actually godsend, as it relieves the chronic pain of most people who suffer debilitating conditions. But this can only work effectively if taken as instructed.