Most Americans Aren’t Aware Their Painkillers Contain Opioids

variety of painkiller pills

Opioids are a group of drug substances that are highly potent, highly addictive and highly dangerous. Opioid drugs are derived from the resin in the seed pod of the Asian poppy plant and include opium, morphine, heroin, and methadone. What few Americans know is that many prescription painkillers are also opioid drug substances.

About Opioid Drugs

Opioid drugs move quickly into the bloodstream and brain when they are ingested, and once there they work by blocking the opioid receptors that are involved in the communication of physical pain as well as the processes of pleasure and reward. It is because these drug substances enter the brain so rapidly and produce such marked effects that they are highly addictive in nature. An individual who has consumed opioid drug substances often feels that these substances are necessary to their ability to continue functioning normally, and they may also experience a series of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including intense cravings if they fail to keep a sufficient quantity of opioids in their system.

Individuals who are prescribed opioid painkillers by their medical doctor rarely understand how dangerous these substances actually are. In fact, some individuals will illegally share their opioid painkillers with others or request that friends and family members illegally share their opioid painkillers with them, without realizing the potentially deadly side effects of these actions.

According to a recent survey by the National Safety Council, ninety percent of opioid painkiller users indicated that they were not concerned about the possibility of addiction. This was despite the fact that many of these individuals were actually at risk of developing substance abuse problems based on their current drug use patterns. The council’s medical advisor, Dr. Teater, expressed his concern about the fact that most Americans tend to underestimate the risk that is associated with prescription opioid use.

The Health Department reports that in 2009 in Oklahoma state alone, unintentional drug poisoning deaths exceeded motor vehicle deaths as the leading cause for unintentional injury deaths in the state. In fact, unintentional drug poisoning deaths across America have more than doubled between 1999 and 2012 and quadrupled in Oklahoma state. According to the Health Department, Oklahoma has the fifth highest rate of unintentional drug poisoning deaths in the nation. And yet despite this, many individuals don’t truly comprehend the danger of consuming opioid painkillers or sharing them with others.

Legal and Health Dangers of Sharing Opioid Painkillers

According to the National Safety Council survey, almost seventy percent of Americans surveyed admitted that they didn’t know that is considered a felony in most states to share prescription painkillers with others – including family members and friends. Forty-two percent of adults surveyed admitted that they believed sharing prescription painkillers was appropriate or harmless. Furthermore, while most opioid painkiller users admitted that they were not concerned about experiencing any of the adverse side effects of these drugs, nearly sixty percent of individuals surveyed indicated at least one addiction risk factor. These risk factors included twenty-two percent admitting to a personal or family history with alcoholism, twenty-six percent admitting to a personal or family history of depression, sixteen percent admitting to a history of psychiatric medication and sixteen percent admitting to a history of physical, mental or sexual abuse.

Dr. Teater indicates that in most states, the possession of prescription opioids without a valid medical doctor’s prescription is a felony that is punishable by up to three years in prison. Sharing one’s prescription opioids with others is also considered a felony in most states. He indicates that the laws regarding these drugs are rightfully strict because these drugs are so incredibly dangerous. Studies have shown that opioid painkillers don’t actually affect a significant improvement in cases of chronic pain, and Dr. Teater believes it is best just to keep people off them altogether. It is Dr. Teater’s opinion that individuals should carefully examine whether opioid painkillers are even necessary for their condition, and what other alternatives can aid them in resolving their situation so that they may only need to take opioid painkillers for two to three days at most, if at all, rather than for months or years.



Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.