The opioid use disorder has cast a dark shadow over countless lives across the globe. According to the National Institutes of Health, 3 million US citizens and 16 million people worldwide have suffered or are currently suffering from opioid use addiction. One of the most alarming trends within this public health crisis is the transition from painkillers to heroin addiction. This harrowing journey often begins innocently, with a legitimate need for pain relief, but can quickly spiral into addiction, destruction, and despair.
MAT Care Clinics provide hope for those struggling with addiction in this bleak situation. We ensure everyone can fully recover from addiction and move towards a healthy, fulfilling life.
In this article, we will delve into the types of painkillers, the dynamics of painkiller addiction, the transition from painkillers to heroin, and the role of MAT Care Clinics in offering a lifeline.
What are Painkillers?
For mild headaches or muscle pain, an over-the-counter pain reliever is usually enough to ease the discomfort. However, in cases of severe pain, your doctor may suggest a more potent option: a prescription opioid.
Prescription opioids, known as painkillers, are regulated medications to manage moderate to severe afflictions. Their mechanism of action involves interacting with opioid receptors in the brain to alleviate painful sensations. They are recommended after dental surgeries, medical procedures, and traumatic injuries and are also used to treat chronic pain.
Common Prescription Painkillers
Laboratories design, and doctors prescribe painkillers to treat different pain degrees and medical conditions. It is essential to differentiate between them for proper management and patient care. The following are the most common painkillers and their brand names:
A natural opiate derived from the opium poppy and sold under Tylenol with Codeine and Robitussin AC.
A semi-synthetic opioid derived from codeine to manage moderate to severe pain, the brand names are Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab.
A semi-synthetic opioid derived from morphine, it manages severe pain and sells as Dilaudid.
Doctors prescribe Meperidine, a fully synthetic opioid, for short-term pain relief, especially after surgery. However, due to its potential side effects, Meperidine is less commonly used and is sold under the name Demerol.
It Is a synthetic opioid to manage opioid addiction and chronic pain because of its long-lasting effects. Methadone is available under the brand names Dolophine and Methadose.
For managing severe pain, it is a potent opiate derived from the opium poppy and sold under the names MS Contin and Roxanol.
A semi-synthetic opioid derived from thebaine, found in opium, it’s prescribed for moderate to severe pain and is available in various formulations. It sells under the name of OxyContin, Percocet, and Percodan.
A semi-synthetic opioid derived from morphine and used to manage severe pain, often in extended-release forms for long-lasting relief. It sells under the name of Opana.
How Painkiller Addiction Works
According to a Johns Hopkins Medicine article, although doctors prescribe opioids for pain treatment, legally prescribed or illicit opioid drugs can potentially result in the development of opioid use disorder (OUD). In this article, they also state that between 1999 and 2020, drug overdoses took the lives of more than 800,000 Americans.
Here’s how painkiller addiction typically works:
Initial Pain Treatment: Often beginning with a legitimate medical need to ease the discomfort. A doctor prescribes painkillers, such as opioids, to manage acute or chronic pain resulting from injury, surgery, or a medical condition.
Pain Relief: Opioids are effective at reducing pain but also produce a sense of euphoria and relaxation. Some individuals may find this euphoria pleasurable and misuse the medication by taking it in higher doses or more frequently than prescribed.
Physical Dependence: With continued use, the body can tolerate the drug, meaning higher doses are required to achieve the same pain relief or euphoria, leading to physical dependence, where the body relies on the drug to function normally.
Psychological Dependence: Besides physical dependence, individuals can become psychologically dependent on painkillers. They may believe they cannot cope with pain or life’s challenges without the drug.
Escalating Abuse: As the addiction progresses, individuals may obtain painkillers illegally, doctor-shop to get multiple prescriptions, or turn to illicit opioids.
It is crucial to highlight that the shift from opiates to other drugs is not just a result of patients using them for pain relief. According to a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in interviews with drug users between 2008 and 2009, they found that 86% of them had used opioid painkillers without a prescription for non-medical purposes before turning to heroin.
From Prescription Painkillers to Heroin Addiction
The progression from prescription painkiller misuse to heroin addiction represents a distressing trend in the opioid epidemic. Often, this transition happens because of the inability to obtain or afford the high cost of medications, especially when individuals have developed a dependence on painkillers to manage chronic pain or to chase the euphoria associated with these substances.
Heroin, in comparison, is typically more affordable and widely available on the illicit market, making it an attractive alternative for those struggling with painkiller addiction. It offers a similar euphoric high, which can temporarily alleviate the cravings and withdrawal symptoms experienced by addicted individuals. However, this shift is far from a safe or desirable solution, as heroin use has many new and often more severe health risks.
Heroin originates from morphine, derived from the opium poppy plant. This illegal and highly addictive opioid drug is known for its rapid effect on the brain, where it is converted into morphine and then binds to opioid receptors responsible for pain perception and pleasure sensations. Heroin use results in intense feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and pain relief, but at the same time, it depresses vital body functions.
Heroin use can lead to various immediate and long-term health effects, including slowed respiration, constricted pupils, clouded mental functioning, and profound addiction. Chronic use can have detrimental consequences, including physical and psychological dependence, overdose, and increased risk of infectious diseases through shared needle use.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some long-term effects also can be:
- Collapsed veins
- Respiratory depression
- Nausea and vomiting
- Liver and kidney disease
- Decreased libido
- Weight loss
- Risk of infection
- Brain damage
Heroin’s impact on the body underscores its dangerous and destructive nature, making it a significant factor in the opioid epidemic and a pressing public health issue.
Getting Free From Addiction
Amid the opioid epidemic, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) has emerged as a beacon of hope, providing a comprehensive approach to recovery and healing for individuals struggling with painkillers or heroin addiction. MAT Care Clinics is a comprehensive strategy that combines medications like Suboxone, Soblocade, Naltrexone, or Vivitrol. These medications alleviate cravings and withdrawal symptoms, allowing individuals to focus on their recovery without the constant struggle against the physical dependence of opioids.
No matter where you are on your recovery journey, MAT Care Clinics can provide hope, even if you feel like you’re in the depths of dependence’s despair. The power to prevent a dire situation from escalating is within reach, and we help you through it with two essential strategies:
- Interrupting the Cycle
We interrupt the vicious cycle of addiction by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, allowing individuals to regain control of their lives and make positive changes while preventing further damage to their health, relationships, and overall well-being.
- Safe Medication
Our therapeutic approach involves using secure medications administered by trained medical experts in a controlled environment to significantly reduce the risk of misuse.
Facing Painkiller and Heroin Addiction with MAT Care Clinics
Recovery from opioid addiction is a long and challenging journey, and MAT Care Clinics understands the need for ongoing support. We offer medication-assisted treatment to help you start your recovery, maintain your sobriety, and avoid the dangerous cycle of relapse.