Painkiller Side Effects
Painkillers involve medications such as Percocet, Vicodin, and OxyContin, among others. All of these prescriptions drugs are opioids, which hold a higher risk value of addiction versus over-the-counter (OTC) medications like Tylenol, Aspirin and Ibuprofen. While all help users to find relief from pain, the side effects of using such medication could prove to be harmful if people are not made aware.
Effects of Opiates
The physical effects of opiates depend on the opiate used, its source, the dose and the method used. Opiates slow breathing, heart rate and brain activity. They help to depress appetite, thirst and sexual desire while increasing the body’s tolerance to pain. Like other depressants, opiates produce a tranquil and euphoric effect. Users who inject an opiate such as heroin may also experience a “rush” as the drug circulates through the body. Some users combine opiates with a stimulant such as cocaine. This is called “speed balling.” The stimulant keeps the user from falling asleep; the opiate reduces the hyperactive effects often caused by stimulants. Potential contamination, using opiates in combination with other drugs, and using un-sterile needles all increase the danger of opiates. Use of un-sterile needles can lead to hepatitis, tetanus or AIDS.
At low doses, effects include:
- Droopy eyelids
- Impaired concentration
- Slowed breathing
With large doses, pupils constrict to pinpoints, the skin is cold, moist, bluish, and breathing may slow to a complete stop, resulting in death. When these drugs are injected intravenously, there is a surge of pleasure that surpasses hunger, pain, and sexual urges. Taken orally, the effects are felt more gradually.
Long-term effects include:
- Severe constipation
- Constricted pupils
- Menstrual irregularities
These symptoms disappear after the drug is no longer taken.
Psychological dependence is probable with continued use of opiates. When a user becomes dependent, finding and using the drug becomes the main focus of life. Opiates induce tolerance: the need for more of the drug in order to produce the same effects.
Regular opiate users who abruptly stop using the drug experience withdrawal symptoms four to six hours following the last dose. This does not necessarily indicate addiction but simply a physical dependence on the drug. Symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Runny nose and eyes
The intensity of these symptoms depends on how much of, how often and for how long the drug was taken. These symptoms are usually strongest 24 to 72 hours after onset and can persist for seven to 10 days.
OTC Side Effects
Taking more than the maximum dose of OTC pain relievers can trigger serious side effects. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofen) and aspirin can cause heartburn, gastrointestinal bleeding, and peptic ulcers and affect the blood’s ability to clot. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is gentler on the stomach, but high amounts of it can damage the liver. “And the more of these pain medications you take the less your brain produces pain-relieving chemicals on its own,” says Scott C. Ritzan, M.D., of Tufts University School of Medicine.
Effects of Opiates on Pregnant Women
Opiates are harmful to a developing fetus. Pregnant women who are dependent on opiates have a higher risk for spontaneous abortions, breech deliveries, premature births and stillbirths. Babies born to opiate-addicted mothers often have withdrawal symptoms similar to adults. These symptoms may last several weeks or months. Researchers have also found an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) among babies born to heroin-addicted mothers.
Painkiller Addiction Help
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to painkillers and wants painkiller addiction treatment please know there is help. Call our toll free number at (888) 371-5713. We are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions about painkiller addiction and treatment.
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