Column: Mental Health Awareness
Opioids are one of the most addictive drugs today, but no one talks about them or the danger that they pose to teens. I, myself, have been prescribed opioids on more than one occasion, but I didn’t take them because, thankfully, my family and I know how dangerous they are. This, however, got me thinking about how many families don’t know the dangers that these opioids pose to their children.
Opioids are pain relievers prescribed by doctors that are usually safe when taken for only a short period of time. However, opioids can be incredibly addictive because they not only take away pain but also cause a sense of euphoria. The National Institute on Drug Abuse warns that even regular use of opioids that are prescribed by a doctor can lead a person to develop a dependency to the pills.
These are all prescription opioids that you may have been prescribed in the past: hydrocodone (Vicodin®) oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®), oxymorphone (Opana®), morphine (Kadian®, Avinza®), codeine, and fentanyl.
Opioids activate to your opioid receptors on cells that are located in many parts of your body. Once attached to the receptors, opioids block pain signals that are going to your brain and because of this large amounts of dopamine are released throughout your body. It’s these large releases of dopamine that make you want to keep taking these pills.
Although opioids are known for relieving pain and making people relaxed and happy they also have their harmful effects. Opioids can cause nausea, confusion, and drowsiness. Opioids have also been known to cause constipation and slowed breathing. The slow breathing that opioids sometimes cause can be the most dangerous effect because it could cause hypoxia. Hypoxia is when the brain doesn't get enough oxygen; this could lead to permanent brain damage or even death.
When your doctor prescribes you medication your parents usually don’t think twice about giving them to you, because they trust that your doctor knows what they're doing. However, you and your parents should always do your research on any medication your doctor prescribes you, especially if the medication is for pain.