Did you know that, even if you take opioid drugs like hydrocodone and fentanyl exactly as prescribed, you can still end up addicted to them? Did you also know that those who take prescription painkillers for more than a few months can increase their chances of experiencing cognitive and memory problems, depression, and difficulty producing neurotransmitters in the brain?
Sadly, all of this is true. The legal use of prescription painkillers has a number of serious side effects, many of which are unknown to the general public. According to Addictions.com and its most recent study on the opioid epidemic, this is one of the reasons why so many people are still using and abusing these drugs. 1 in 3 Americans is taking prescription painkillers legally through a doctor’s care, and many doctors prescribe more of these drugs than necessary, which has led to a mass amount of leftover pills in medicine cabinets across the country. As a result of these problems, it is important to understand just how serious the side effects of these drugs are.
Though most people know painkillers can cause constipation and dry mouth, many do not realize the increased risk of lowered immunity as well as heart, liver, and kidney problems that are associated with them. Unfortunately, the longer a person takes these drugs, the more likely they are to experience these issues. Death is even one such potential outcome, especially for those who misuse their medications. In fact, half of all the opioid overdoses that occurred in 2015 involved the use of a prescription opioid.
As stated previously, opioid use—even legal use—can cause negative effects on the way the brain works. Someone who takes these drugs as prescribed for several months or years strongly increases their chance of suffering from depression. In addition, many people who use them experience a significant decrease in their brains’ ability to create neurotransmitters on its own. This can become a significant problem when the individual stops taking these drugs, and though the issue can be treated and eventually reversed, it takes a very long time in most cases. Finally, opioid use can cause an individual to experience a decrease in cognitive functions such as memory and learning.
Ultimately, most people understand that addiction is a potential side effect of any type of drug abuse, but many do not realize how dangerous even one’s doctor-recommended use of addictive drugs can become. Those who take opioids for more than 7 days at a time see a significant increase in their risk of addiction as compared to those who only take their medications for a few days. This is one reason why doctors urge patients to only use them when it is absolutely necessary.
Addiction is a serious side effect of opioid abuse, but it is not the only one. Avoiding all of these problems is easiest when you decline the use of prescription painkillers altogether, but when this use is unavoidable, make sure you discuss it with your doctor at length so you can be fully prepared.