For the record, I’m not opposed to opiate analgesic pain killers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and others. When they’re prescribed by a caring pain management doctor they do have their purpose.
Having worked in rehab centers, and with hospice patients, I know these drugs are often indicated and useful, and no person should ever have to suffer.
Beware of accidental addiction
Obviously, I AM very opposed to the recreational use of pain killers, or their continued use after a patient is no longer battling a pain syndrome. But, unfortunately, some doctors continue to prescribe these drugs even though a person’s pain level could now be managed with a non-addictive analgesic.
This poor practice can, all too easily, lead to what I call “accidental addiction.” And it happens far more frequently that most folks can imagine.
You fill your prescription for 30 hydrocodone after some dental work or back pain, and when the bottle is empty, you ask for a new prescription, “just in case.” Maybe you’re worried the pain will come back. Or maybe you enjoyed the pleasant sensation the drug gave you, or the better sleep you enjoyed.
But regardless of the reason, your condition no longer warrants the use of an opiate, but you want it anyway. Now you’re accidentally addicted, even though you’re not a typical drug-seeking person.
Opiates kill pleasure along with the pain
Opiates are so effective because they deliver a dopamine rush, which makes you feel better for a while after each dose. But what most people don’t realize is that, eventually, those same drugs that once made you feel so good will, literally, rob you of the ability to feel pleasure. They take a terrible toll on your central nervous system
You see, over time opiates deplete your dopamine, along with some other happiness-producing brain chemicals.
Opiates are “drug muggers” of your natural endorphins including…
- Serotonin: Controls appetite, memory, social interactions, muscle contractions
- Melatonin: Controls sleep, immunity, inflammation and fertility
- Dopamine: Controls passion, muscle and movement, libido and heart rate
- GABA: Controls muscle relaxation, sleep, attention and growth hormone
- Acetylcholine: Controls attention, short-term memory and heart rate
Your pleasure center becomes numbed, and you’re no longer able to manufacture your own natural endorphins. This is one of the reasons you can’t just go cold turkey when taking an opiate analgesic drug.
Opiate painkillers are linked to depression and anxiety
After just one month of taking opiates levels of the neurotransmitters that regulate your mood, appetite and happiness drop. Your zest for living goes down between each dose.
Once your dopamine and other brain chemicals become fully depleted, you will begin to feel emotionally numb. You’re no longer able to feel pleasure and you can become depressed, anxious, unable to sleep and possibly even suicidal.
This is a physiological problem, and NOT in your head. But the good news is the change doesn’t have to be permanent.
While it does take time to restore your natural endorphins, you absolutely can get well in time. You may benefit from consulting with an addiction specialist certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine. Talk with your doctor about getting the help you need to wean yourself off these highly addictive chemicals, and free yourself up to feel again.
In addition to writing a syndicated column on health which reaches 20 million people each week, Suzy is the author of a number of books on natural health.
You may have seen Suzy on The Dr. OZ Show (6 different appearances), The View, The Doctors, Good Morning America Health and hundreds of morning shows. Quotes from Suzy, as well as her articles, have also appeared in major publications including Woman’s Day, Reader’s Digest, OK Magazine!, First for Women, Fitness, Natural Health and Better Homes & Garden and dozens more.
Read more from Suzy at suzyCohen.com
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