Why Are Pain Pills So Addictive?

If you have a problem with prescription-based pain pills, you should know that you are not alone.  And this is substantiated by multiple studies that have examined addiction involving pain pills in the U.S.  In a 2017 study published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the most recent and relevant data available, researchers revealed that an estimated 2 million Americans misused prescription pain relievers.

While we are on the topic, it is important to note that opioids were the ones that many admitted to misusing or abusing the most.  It is also the prescription pain reliever that has led and continues to lead many people down the path of addiction.

Another study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, published in 2019, revealed that opioids were responsible for over 50,000 overdose-related deaths.  It further went on to note that opioid addiction alone is costing the country some $79 billion annually in terms of the following:

  • Healthcare costs
  • Lost productivity
  • Addiction recovery services
  • Court costs

Why Are Pain Pills So Addictive?

Psychologically speaking, some people are just hard-wired to become addicted to anything they perceive as being pleasurable.  In fact, studies show that one’s mental state and emotional health can significantly influence their likelihood of becoming addicted to something even when that something contains little or no addictive properties.  However, for some people, the euphoria derived from abusing a given substance is the thing that opens the door to addiction.  And this is especially the case when it comes to opioids.  Long story short, the very things that make opioids effective in blocking out pain are the same ones that make them so addictive.

What You Should Know About Opioids for Pain Management

To further wrap our minds around what makes opioids so addictive, we need to familiarize ourselves with what happens in the body after someone has ingested them.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the following are all examples of medications characterized as opioids:

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone and Vicodin
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone and Oxycontin

What makes opioids a go-to for pain management is their unique ability to block out pain while simultaneously promoting a sense of calmness, which, by the way, many describe as euphoric.  It is also worth noting that these feelings of euphoria are partly responsible for the over 10 million Americans who admit to struggling with opioid addiction each year.  When an individual takes opioids, the medication attaches itself to opioid receptors located in nerve cells in the spinal cord, brain, and stomach.  From there, those same opioids begin to block pain signals that would otherwise travel from the body to the spinal cord and then ultimately to the brain. But it does not stop there. When opioids bind to receptors throughout the body, they trigger an uptick in dopamine production in the brain.

For those not aware, dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for regulating feelings of pleasure.  That said, when dopamine levels spike too high, it causes a euphoric high.  But when dopamine levels settle back down, the euphoric high that most people experience after taking opioids begins to fade away.  When this happens, most of these same individuals will do everything possible to feel that way again, including ignoring recommendations made by their physician for taking their medication responsibly. In turn, this leads to intense cravings, increased tolerance, and eventually addiction.

What Happens When You Suddenly Stop Taking Pain Pills?

In some cases, individuals who develop an addiction to opioids eventually become consciously aware of their addiction.  As such, many will abruptly stop taking them, which introduces another set of problems by ushering a wave of severe opioid withdrawal symptoms.  Some of the more notable ones include the following:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Profuse sweating
  • Runny nose

According to most physicians and addiction experts, the best way to quit opioids is by seeking the help of a licensed rehab facility.  And this is because most rehab facilities will offer medication-assisted detox to help ease severe withdrawal symptoms, not to mention round-the-clock monitoring by doctors and nurses.

Bottom Line

In summary, pain pills, especially opioids, are exceedingly addictive because of how they affect both the brain and physical body.   To learn more about opioid addiction or to get help finding a rehab facility in your area, you’re encouraged to speak with one of our associates today at 844-639-8371.

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