Why Painkillers Are So Hard to Detox From

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Pain is a curious product of the human body. Why do we suffer from it? How does it help us? And why do some enjoy it?

First, pain helps us avoid the things that could hurt us. We don’t put our hands on a hot stove because that hurts. This means we aim to stop ourselves from burning off our skin. The same goes for inside our bodies. If we’ve broken a limb, we don’t want to run on it or put pressure on it because it hurts. This means we can avoid damaging it further.

The problem comes when the cause isn’t obvious. We can’t avoid bending usually, because at some point, something will need to be picked up from the floor, so you’ll need to bend over. This means at some point, you might be put onto painkillers to reduce the effects of pain.

Pain and the Effects of Drugs

morphineMoving onto an aside, pain releases endorphins. The idea is to warn you when something is wrong, not to cripple you. If you have a twisted ankle and a tiger is coming at you (whether saber-toothed or not), you need to be able to run away. This means your body can temporarily override pain through the release of adrenaline.

For some people, that adrenaline rush is worth the pain. Indeed for some people, is it exquisite enough that they’ll happily be beaten, spanked, and otherwise injured for sexual pleasure.

However, the same thing that creates pleasure for those people is the same thing that causes euphoria when you take a painkiller. That euphoria is derived from the binding of endorphins or morphine-like chemicals to the opioid receptors in the brain. Morphine is a pretty good one for this—it has strong binding at the sites that cause this pleasure.

stylized brainConsequently, this triggers the release of various chemicals that produce pleasure—dopamine and serotonin. Noradrenalin might be involved, too. This creates a feeling of euphoria, and the more sites that are bound at once, the stronger the feeling of euphoria. Therefore heroin is very effective at this because it breaks down to give double the amount of morphine at once in the brain.

This sense of euphoria is difficult to kick. The effects of sedation are also pretty intense, as the drug courses through the person’s body. This means that they’ll feel warm and sleepy, and that’s why many homeless people take heroin—it inures them against the feelings of coldness and other problems as well.

Naturally, the euphoria is short-lived, and the person must get more of the chemical to feel the same. Heroin typically acts over the period of an hour. Morphine’s half-life is about four hours, and methadone typically lasts for around twelve hours.

The body gets used to the painkiller coursing around the body, which means that you end up needing more to be as effective. You take more, and eventually the body demands even more. This is known as tolerance, and it’s a pain—quite literally.

When you eventually try to quit, you’ll suffer from withdrawal symptoms, everything from nausea to pain. The body has become used to having opiates in it, so it struggles to readjust to the new opiate-free diet. Unfortunately, this means it reacts badly.

Naturally, you’ll be a little put off by this. No one likes knowing that you’ll be in pain from cessation of the drug. However, it’s better than the alternative—permanent addiction. You won’t have to lie or break the law to obtain the drugs you crave, which means you can live life more easily. You also won’t have to worry about hurting others thanks to your addiction—driving under the influence of powerful painkillers makes you between 12 and 15 times more likely to have an accident.

In addition, those on painkillers long term are several times more likely to be fired from work and even injure themselves again because they cannot judge what their body is doing. Likewise, those who inject painkillers, whether it’s heroin or a modified version of a legitimate pill, are putting themselves at risk of gangrene and infections from needles. All of these factors mean that getting clean from painkillers is vital to your health,

So, while the detox and withdrawal is hard, the reality of living with a painkiller addiction is even harder. It’s time to make a choice: Do you really want to die from an overdose or an infection that your immunosuppressed body cannot handle, or do you want to get clean and live the remainder of your life in peace?

If you struggle with an addiction to pain pills, you can find help in and around your area simply by calling the addiction treatment specialists on our toll-free help line: (800) 943-0566.

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