Why Might Opioids Be Wrong For You?

Why Might Opioids Be Wrong For You?

Many people are prescribed opioid medications after an injury or surgery. They can be very effective at reducing pain, since these drugs interact with nerve cell receptors in the body and brain, making the user feel pain-free.

Some commonly prescribed prescription opioids are:

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®, Norco®)
  • Codeine
  • Oxymorphone (Opana®)
  • Morphine (Kadian®, Avinza®)
  • Fentanyl (Actiq®, Duragesic®)

Even when you take prescription opioids exactly as prescribed by your doctor, you may still experience a number of side effects, including:

  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Constipation
  • Nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth
  • Sleepiness and dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Low levels of testosterone that can result in lower sex drive, energy, and strength
  • Itching and sweating

Before beginning to take any opioid, decide whether its potential side effects outweigh its intended benefits for you. Talk with your health care professional for help making this important decision.

Where Opioids Can Go Wrong

The biggest problem with prescription opioids is that they are addictive, so it can be extremely difficult to stop taking them once you start.

Users may develop a tolerance to prescription opioids, meaning they become less effective at reducing pain with continued use of the same amount, or that the user needs to take more and more of the drug to achieve the desired level of pain relief.

People can also experience a physical dependence on prescription opioids, meaning that if you stop taking them, you will feel withdrawal symptoms including nausea and vomiting, anxiety, insomnia, hot and cold flashes, perspiration, muscle cramps, diarrhea, and watery discharge from the eyes and nose.

When people become addicted to prescription opioids but then lose access to them, they may transition to illegal drugs. Prescription opioids are chemically similar to heroin, and about 80% of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

An opioid overdose can occur for a variety of reasons, including overusing or misusing prescribed medications, using someone else’s prescribed opioid, or mixing a prescription opioid with alcohol or other drugs. An opioid overdose is life-threatening and requires immediate emergency attention.

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States, causing more deaths than motor vehicle crashes. And opioids are responsible for most of those deaths.