5 Important Things to Know About Opioids and Opioid Addiction

August 6, 2018by Daniel Skillman

Opioids are narcotic drugs that are often prescribed to relieve pain from medical conditions. They are effective pain relievers when managed properly but because of their addictive properties, they can also be dangerous. Opioid addiction has become one of the biggest problems in the country. Aside from the harm this does to mental and physical health, opiod addiction can also lead to even more dangerous drugs like heroin.

Examples of Well Known Opioids

Some of the most common opioids that are prescribed by medical professionals include Vicodin, Oxycontin or Percocet, codeine and morphine. These drugs are typically given for severe pain or after surgery care.

Why People Become Addicted to Opioids

These strong drugs suppress pain by attaching to the receptors in your brain, giving a calming effect because pain messages are blocked. It also releases dopamine, the hormone responsible for feelings of pleasure. When the brain is overstimulated with dopamine, it has a euphoric effect, which is what makes it addicting. The brain is wired to think of dopamine release as a reward for an important event. So, when drugs release dopamine, our system is programmed to want to repeat this behaviour.

The American Dental Association is working with several agencies and organizations to educate dentists more about the dangers of opioids and help take action against addiction.

Pain Relief for Dental Treatments

When it comes to dental treatments and surgeries, patients are also commonly given pain relief medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. There isn’t really one perfect pill for pain relief, as your dentist’s prescription would depend on several things including your health history, allergies, current medication and the kind of pain you are experiencing.

If your dentist prescribes an opioid and you are not comfortable with it, you might want to take some extra steps to better understand the drug. Here’s what you can do:

  • Ask your dentist about the goal of this prescription and how long you should be taking the pills.
  • Make sure you completely understand how to take the drugs.
  • Talk to your dentist about the risks and side effects from this medication and also do your own research.

Disposing Leftover Pills

It is important to take opioids exactly as directed. Store the pills in a safe place to keep them away from children and pets. Remember that it is your responsibility to keep your prescription pills away from those who might want to abuse them.

When your treatment is done, leftover pills should be properly disposed. Below is a guideline of proper narcotic pill disposal, according to the Food and Drug Administration:

  • Read and follow the disposal instructions included in your prescription bottle.
  • Do not flush pills down the toilet unless otherwise stated in your disposal instructions.
  • You can also find a Controlled Substance Public Disposal Location in your area and surrender your medicines.
  • When disposing them in public trash, mix unused pills that are out of the bottle with coffee grounds or kitty litter to make them less recognizable and desirable.
  • Protect your privacy by removing your personal information from old prescription bottles.

Talking to Your Family Members

Prescription medications are one of the leading sources of drug addiction. Over 23 percent of prescribed doses are being used for nonmedical reasons, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This usually happens when prescription bottles are not stored properly, giving everyone in the household easy access to strong narcotics. It is not uncommon for drug abusers to steal pills from the medicine cabinet to satisfy their drug cravings. There are also instances of children accidentally eating or swallowing pills that are left on tabletops and open cabinets.

Talking to your family about the dangers that surround opioids will help protect them from these risks. Ensuring proper disposal of unused pills can actually help save lives.

If you know of someone who needs help with addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline at 1-800-662-4357. This free hotline is completely confidential and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


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