Painkiller abuse can have detrimental effects on the body and brain of the person using the drugs.
Whether prescribed by a physician or bought on the street, they undoubtedly cause serious, often irreparable damage to the human organism. Even though this damage is possible even with
short-term application, it is typically the prolonged intake and substance abuse that brings about serious and even devastating changes to the body and brain.
Long-term use leads to a higher possibility of dependence and addiction to the drug being taken.
A while after a person starts using it, they start needing the drug for a completely different reason than the initial pain – they now have the symptoms of physical withdrawal to deal with, just in order to feel physically well. Read more about the consequences at Addictions.com.
Painkiller addiction comes second in the United States, and is only outranked by marijuana use in the list of abused substances.
How Do Painkillers Work?
Painkillers bind to opiate receptors and thus suppress the brain’s perception of pain. Doing so they hinder the nervous system signals that travel to the brain. Pain relief substancess depress
the central nervous system and alleviate pain while inducing a feeling of relaxation.
When they bind to opiate receptors, painkillers create a state of euphoria. That’s why addicts get “high” after getting a dose of whatever substance they are taking.
Your Body Can’t Cope Naturally Anymore
Long-term use of pain killers inhibits the body’s natural production of a special kind of hormones, called neurotransmitters, which are usually the ones that bind to opiate receptors. When neurotransmitter production is obstructed, due to their artificial supplementation, the body becomes less and less efficient at its natural processes of pain relief.
As a result, the body becomes more and more tolerant to painkillers, so a greater dose will be necessary each time to deal with the pain. Among the blocked neurotransmitters are the feel-good endorphines in the brain which also help deal with pain. This leads to physical dependence on painkillers and increases the chance of addiction, since the patient can no longer rely on their body to take care of the pain without the help of drugs.
And since drugs cannot play all roles that neurotransmitters have in the body, and moreover they are nervous system depressants, this leads to symptoms such as slower reactions, breathing below lung capacity and slurred speech.
You Get Hooked Fast
Painkiller associated physical dependence takes a while to develop, but addiction can form as quickly as continuous use over a period of a few days. (You can read more about drug abuse and dependence here). And once the addiction becomes a fact, even a few hours after taking the last dose could mark the onset of severe physical withdrawal symptoms. They could be feeling sick, restless and sweaty, agitated or downright depressed. Headache, muscle ache, and flu-like joint pain are just a few.
Simply the thought of withdrawal pain is strong enough to drag an addict on for years and years past the point where the person would recognize they have a problem and pursue a way to solve it.
Brain Cell Death
Chemical changes to the painkiller-affected brain result in brain cell death. Memory and learning, as well as cognition, are the most affected. The heart is at risk of damage and heart attacks and nerve cells aren’t spared, either.
The latter have a partial ability to regenerate, though, provided the person takes timely measures to stop the addiction and restore their body to health.