7 Myths about Painkillers Busted

No matter what your reason is for using painkillers, these medicines have to be used cautiously. That taking multiple doses of painkillers at one go helps alleviate pain faster is a myth.
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Opiate-based painkillers, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, are known for their addictive nature. Hence, only short-term use of these painkillers under medical supervision is recommended.
When we seek relief from pain, popping painkillers appears to be the obvious choice. They are found to be effective in relieving discomfort associated with injuries and chronic medical conditions, like arthritis. In the last few decades, the abuse of painkillers has increased tremendously thanks to some popular myths that have been doing the rounds. The following Buzzle article debunks certain myths that have long been the reasons for the excessive use of painkillers.

Myth 1: The higher the dosage, the better these medicines are at alleviating pain and it does not negatively affect a person in any way.

Fact: The effect of the medicines may last longer if you take more than one painkiller at the same time. Initially this may help to treat severe or chronic pain, but repeated use eventually causes drug tolerance, i.e., the given drug is no longer effective in treating pain. Even if a higher dosage of the same medication is administered, the person does not respond to the drug. Also, ingesting more than the prescribed dosage of painkillers can cause some serious side effects.

Myth 2: Painkillers fix the underlying cause to provide relief from pain.

Fact: Painkillers have their own mechanism that only conceals the pain but does not fix the underlying health problem that is causing the pain. Opioid painkillers, such as morphine, prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. They act on the brain and alter the way in which the user feels the pain. On the other hand, painkillers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen simply reduce the secretion of certain enzymes that cause pain.

Myth 3: As painkillers have low addiction rates, I can take these medications the way I want.

Fact: Misuse of painkillers has contributed to increased cases of drug addictions. Painkillers, be it the opioid or the non-opioid versions, should be taken as instructed by the doctor. Ignoring the recommended dosage and taking the medications at will increases the risk of addiction. In other words, increasing the dosage and taking it for an extended duration of time than prescribed can eventually get you addicted to the medication. Taking painkillers on a self-prescription basis—without paying any heed to medical recommendations—can be dangerous and is likely to result in addiction.

Myth 4: Long-term use of painkillers is not detrimental to health.

Fact: Taking painkillers routinely for prolonged durations of time for pain management is not advisable. Habitual usage of painkillers can be harmful to health as pointed out by various studies. To be on the safer side, one should take a short-term course of painkillers. People suffering from chronic ailments, like arthritis, tend to take painkillers in high doses for extended durations of time. However, taking painkillers on long-term bases at high doses has been correlated with higher risks of developing cardiovascular problems. Apart from the associated health risks, long-term usage can also result in dependency and reduce an individual's pain tolerance.

Myth 5: As painkillers can be addictive, one should always avoid taking these medicines.

Fact: It is not that painkillers are bad, but the duration of drug treatment can make them harmful. Pain due to debilitating medical conditions and severe injuries do require the use of painkillers. Whenever you feel that you are no longer able to tolerate pain, taking painkillers may be helpful. However, short-term use of these medicines is advisable to keep side effects to a minimum.

Myth 6: Getting addicted to painkillers is not a cause for concern as doctors know how to treat such addictions successfully.

Fact: Believing that your doctor will definitely be able to wean you off your addiction is another myth that needs to be debunked. Quite a few doctors don't have complete knowledge of treating drug addiction. The patient has to specifically join a rehabilitation center in order to tackle the addiction. An addiction specialist who provides professional counseling is necessary to de-addict a patient.

Myth 7: Withdrawal symptoms indicate addiction to painkillers.

Fact: Experiencing withdrawal symptoms does not necessarily indicate addiction. One should not confuse drug dependency with addiction. Painkillers may cause physical dependence, yet the person may not show any signs of addiction. Addiction is classified as a chronic brain disorder in which the person is psychologically dependent on the drug despite knowing that its intake is adversely affecting his health. The person craves for the drug intensely and stopping its usage makes him violent and aggressive. On the other hand, withdrawal symptoms of painkillers are not completely overpowering; however, one may require medical intervention to discontinue with the drug.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.
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Published: October 25, 2013
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