Prescription painkillers — opioids in particular — are some of the most easily accessible and addictive drugs on the market. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that they are becoming quite dangerous to the general population. You might think that drug addiction and overdosing are things that happen to the poor, the young, unsavory characters — not well-off middle-aged women — but, opioid addiction and death caused by overdose is taking the lives of that very demographic in record numbers. Here are some things you should know to keep yourself and your loved ones as safe and healthy as possible.
Opioids are everywhere
If you go to your primary care doctor for chronic pain, or you’re dealing with an accident-related injury or you have an illness that causes discomfort, you’re likely to be offered opioids. This class of drugs includes common names like Percocet, Fentanyl and Oxycodone. That means, even a routine sick visit could be the trigger for a lifelong or even fatal drug problem. Doctors are prescribing these drugs to older adults in alarming numbers, even when lifestyle changes alone could significantly improve the symptoms that are causing pain.
Opioids are highly addictive
It has been said that opioids are as habit-forming and consequently as dangerous as heroin, which is known to cause some of the worst, most severe and often deadly addictions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that Americans between the ages of 45 and 64 accounted for 44 percent of deaths from overdose in the years 2013 and 2014. Out of all the population. The numbers are extreme. According to a doctor at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, mature women are at an even higher risk for this since opioids like to hang out in fatty tissue which we naturally have more of as we age.
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Opioids are covered by insurance
In most cases, opioids are covered by insurance, so expense becomes a non-issue which increases accessibility. If you can’t afford more of the drug, you’re less likely to become or remain addicted once the initial prescription runs out. But, if insurance covers it, all it takes is a quick follow-up visit or even a phone call to get another month’s supply.
Opioids are not innocent
Just because a physician has prescribed a drug, it isn’t necessarily perfectly safe. Take one look at the side effects listed on any prescription, and there’s evidence of that. But, an opioid addiction can form in a matter of days, particularly for those suffering from extreme pain. The body adjusts to the drugs quickly and they become less effective. Which then causes patients to increase their dosage, perhaps without checking with the prescribing doctor, and from there they may become dependent on a drug that is no longer working, creating a spiral effect. All pros and cons should be closely considered before filling an opioid prescription, as well as those of any other pain-relief methods that may help.
Opioids aren’t always recommended
In recent years, the CDC changed its recommendation to state that opioids should not be used for chronic pain and that fast-acting drugs are preferable to long-acting drugs, which have proven to be more addictive. However, there are many physicians who do not keep up-to-date with the latest recommendations or who choose to stick with an older method they believe most effective.
Opioids may be contraindicated
Opioids are contraindicated with a number of other medications, including anti-anxiety drugs and sleep medications. That means that if you are prescribed an opioid by one doctor who doesn’t know that you occasionally take a certain prescription sleep aid, you may end up experiencing adverse effects caused by mixing the two drugs. Additionally, opioids should be avoided by people who have a history of mental illness.