As we’ve seen from current news and recent celebrity deaths from overdose, powerful prescription painkillers have been the source of many problems in society during recent years. Most of the issue centers around addiction, but even patients who aren’t necessarily addicted can have serious problems with prolonged use of opioids and other painkillers. This can occur even if the medication is being taken for a legitimate purpose and at a therapeutic level.
These medications were originally intended for only the most serious pain, cases that could not be treated with any other product. Over time, the criteria for issuance of prescriptions for these medications have softened, and they have been given to people whose conditions would have been better managed with other options.
When alcohol comes into the picture, the risk is even higher. Any of these products combined with alcohol is a dangerous combination, one that can easily cause fatal results. It is for that reason that powerful painkillers should be used very, very conservatively.
But it isn’t just the clash between alcohol and these drugs that make such a deadly combination. There are several other factors in play with the prolonged use of the most powerful pain medications.
Inability To Avoid Interactions
When someone is continuously on strong pain medication, it is nearly impossible for him or her to use any other kind of medicine without a prolonged period of review. Not only can there be pharmacological interactions that can diminish a drug’s efficacy, amplify its effect, or cause problems in the body, but there are also mental impacts.
Over time, a person who is regularly taking a heavy pain medicine can have problems keeping a good mental state. The person can forget to take other medicines, take incorrect doses, or otherwise make mistakes that can be dangerous or fatal.
This also goes for over-the-counter products, and although many of those warn the user to consult a doctor before using with other medications, the reality is that very few people will make a doctor’s visit to see if it’s safe to take a decongestant with their pain medication. In this way, they risk a potentially deadly interaction.
We all know that any medication or drug has an initial impact on the body that is gradually diminished as consumption continues. This process, known as tolerance, drives addicts to consume ever-larger amounts of these substances in order to achieve the same impacts. If they fail to acquire enough dosage, they can experience withdrawal and other unpleasant symptoms.
The same is true of legitimate drug use. If a patient is taking a painkiller for a chronic back problem, for example, there will come a time when the dosage is no longer sufficient to manage the pain. The patient then “re-prescribes” the medication, by taking an extra half-pill each dose or otherwise boosting their consumption. This reckless behavior can lead to fatal overdoses.
Potential For Victimization
Because of the strong black market for the strongest pain medications, anyone who uses them is a potential target for desperate addicts or dealers.
While there is no way to simply drive by someone’s home and know that opioids are inside, these criminals can find out by other methods. They peek over a patient’s shoulder a the pharmacy, or eavesdrop on discussions at the doctor’s office. They may even root through trash to seek out prescription containers. And in small communities, people often know that someone is being treated for cancer or a serious injury, and the thieves can expect to find the drugs in those homes.
The strongest medications on the market have their place. There is not necessarily a reason to end their production. However, as prescription rates have increased and the resulting crime and addiction rates along with it, the risks of taking prescription pills are higher today than ever before. Understanding the risks of prolonged use of these products, both medical, psychological and social, is key to protecting ourselves and our loved ones from potential danger.