Painkillers and Their Propensity for Addiction

The lump in the rug where our problems are being swept under is getting bigger and bigger these days, and the nationwide dependence on prescription painkillers is no exception. This epidemic begins in the homes of the injured, and seldom times is it a purposeful addiction. A patient gets their prescription from their doctor, and in trusting their diagnosis; they get the prescription filled and treat the dispensed medicine like they are simply eating vitamins. While painkillers have an apt place in modern medicine, it is rarely explained their physically addictive properties that can wreak havoc on the well-being of the people they’re supposed to help.
The tip of this iceberg is the widely prescribed pharmaceutical known generically as Hydrocodone, which is the active ingredient in pharmaceuticals such as Vicodin and Lortab. This is a lower tier drug on the grand spectrum of painkillers, but it begins the desensitization process, nonetheless. Besides the opiate addiction begins instilling in the patient, the amount of acetaminophen, commonly known as Tylenol, that these pills commonly contain is staggering. As one is obviously advised to refrain from any amount of alcohol while under the influence of said painkillers, the effect on one’s liver from solely stacking doses of these pills is irreversibly detrimental. On top of the fact that one’s judgment is already augmented under the influence, it is not farfetched that one might double their doses as a result of said inebriation.
Next on the pecking order is Oxycodone, which is the active ingredient in a plethora of highly addictive prescription drugs such as Percocet, Percodan, and the infamously dangerous Oxycontin. Although pharmaceutical companies have altered the formula of Oxycontin to thwart the widespread abuse that the medicine has seen, the ever-changing drug culture has found ways around the buffers that these chemical engineers have worked so hard to instill into the pills and make them abuse-proof. These pills are often crushed up into powder and snorted, and in some cases injected intravenously like heroin as to increase the bioavailability of the powerful narcotic. These are the textbook cases of how painkillers can be easily abused and addiction has the ability to get out of control quickly.
On the upper tier of highly addictive painkillers are Oxymorphone, Hydromorphone, and Fentanyl. While the first two are commonly available in pill form, respectively branded as Opana and Dilaudid, Fentanyl is widely available for chronic pain patients in the form of a transdermal patch or a fruit-flavored lollipop. The patches are now only available in matrix form, which is reminiscent of a band-aid without gauze, but they were formerly comprised of pouched that contained the narcotic agent in a gel form, which abusers were breaking open and injecting intravenously. This fatal epidemic left many victims in its wake, to the extent that only matrix patches are currently available.
Painkillers definitely have their place in positive therapy for people who are actually injured, but the propensity for abuse is a clear and present danger. Tolerance is quickly acquired, which can double the recommended dose to feel the original effects. This is especially dangerous after one has quit taking the dose for a while, and then jumps right back in when the pain comes back. The best way go about it is to never exceed the doctor’s orders, but also, start smaller than prescribed. It’s like salting your food; you can always add more, but you can never take it back after you’ve dumped in the whole shaker.