So the opioid situation is even worse than we thought. Not only is teen prescription opioid abuse still high–around 4.4 percent of high school seniors have abused prescription opioids within the last year–but now we have new information on what opioids actually do to your body.
Apparently, even short-term teen prescription opioid abuse has the power to decrease current pain, but later worsens and increases the pain. Researchers think this is one of the reasons many people become addicted to prescription opioids.
But aren’t opioids supposed to help with pain?
Well yes, that is what they’re supposed to do, but apparently it only worsens things later on. A recent 2016 study found that–ironically–opioids actually increase pain later in lab rats. To put it shortly, teen prescription opioid abuse can increase a teen’s pain sensitivity, which means when you stop taking the opioids, pain is much worse. To pile more bad news on, because of the increase of pain sensitivity and buildup of tolerance, people often end up taking higher doses of the drug, possibly leading to addiction.
The long answer is a bit more complicated. Prescription opioids are generally introduced to the system to relieve chronic pain. This leads to a sizable increase in the activity of nerve cells that respond to pain in the brain. Researchers found that only after 5 days of opioid use, once you stopped using it, the pain increased and could last up to many months. This is what’s scary about not only teen prescription opioid abuse, but prescribing it to anyone. The results of this study show that it’s extremely risky to prescribe these because they can lead to a full blown opioid addiction, and we all know when the prescription runs out, the next stop is more illicit options–like heroin.
This means that teens who have had surgery or chronic pain are in a greater danger of becoming addicted to prescription opioids. The study gives researchers and doctors a deeper understanding of how opioids affect us and that maybe alternate pain relievers should be used instead.
Spotting teen prescription opioid abuse
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence provides symptoms and signs of teen prescription opioid abuse (and other substance abuse) to watch out for:
- Deterioration of physical appearance or personal grooming
- Suddenly impaired coordination, unexplained injuries
- Tremors, shakes, or slurred speech
- Changes in sleep or appetite
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Sudden drop in academic performance
- Becoming more withdrawn
- Frequent, unexplained mood changes
If you believe your son or daughter may be suffering from a drug addiction, it’s extremely important to seek out a professional for further help. An addiction can wreck relationships and your child’s future, so it’s imperative to have an intervention as soon as possible.