Tennessee is one of the nation’s hotspots for opioid abuse, ranking among the top 15 states for opioid-related overdose deaths, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Every year, the number of opioid prescriptions written in Tennessee outpaces the state’s overall population by more than a million.
Of course, Tennessee is not alone. Opioid abuse, addiction, and overdoses are serious problems in every state, but despite widespread prevalence, there’s still a lot of misunderstanding about opioids, their use, and their potential for abuse.
At Affordable & Restorative Health, Winston Griner, MD, helps women and men in Nashville, Tennessee, get the care they need to beat opioid addiction so they can lead healthier, happier lives. Here are a few of the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding opioid addiction and its treatment.
Myth #1: You can’t get addicted to prescription opioids
Opioids work by blocking pain signals sent by your organs and other tissues to your brain. They do this by binding to special components called receptors found on the surfaces of some cells.
All opioids work this way, regardless of whether they’re prescribed by a doctor or not. That means you can still become addicted, even if you’re using opioid medications prescribed to you.
Taking opioids when they’re not prescribed to you is a leading cause of future addiction to heroin, which is also an opioid drug. In fact, studies show that nearly 90% of people who use heroin used opioids prescribed to someone else prior to getting hooked on heroin.
If you abuse opioid medicines, you’re about 19 times more likely to try heroin compared to people who don’t misuse opioids.
Myth #2: You can only get addicted if you take a high dose
Any dose can lead to dependence, depending on your own risk factors for developing tolerance. Everyone is different, and everyone responds to opioids in a different way. Some people respond very well to low doses, while others may need higher doses to get the pain-relieving effect they need to function and feel better. Likewise, some people can develop a dependence with small doses, while others may never become dependent or addicted.
Myth #3: It’s best to avoid taking opioids completely
Obviously, it’d be great if you can manage your pain without using opioids — or any medication, for that matter. But opioids are prescribed for specific reasons. It’s true that opioids come with a risk of abuse and addiction. But they also help people with specific types of pain manage those symptoms so they can maintain a functional quality of life.
The key is to take them only as prescribed and to see your doctor regularly to monitor their use and effectiveness. Never take more than your prescribed dose, even if the drugs don’t seem to be as effective in relieving your pain. Make an appointment to have your treatment plan adjusted or to explore alternative treatments.
Myth #4: Opioids addicts are easy to spot
TV shows and movies may show opioid addicts as people who are homeless or down on their luck. But in reality, anyone can be addicted to opioids — including coworkers, friends, and family members — without you knowing it. Opioid addiction and dependence get worse over time, and initially, addicts may still be able to lead lives that appear normal on the outside.
Myth #5: Addiction is a weakness
Another similar myth: To beat addiction, all you need is more self-control. These myths are especially dangerous because they diminish the seriousness of opioid addiction and mischaracterize what addiction really is.
Addiction is not a weakness — it’s a real medical problem, and it requires medical intervention to manage it. A person with a known addiction issue typically needs ongoing counseling or support to deal with that addiction even once they’ve broken the cycle — and often, for the rest of their lives.
Get help for opioid addiction
If you’re trapped in the cycle of addiction, you’re probably dealing with feelings of frustration, fear, and even hopelessness. But there is a solution.
With skilled medical treatment and professional support, Dr. Griner and his team can help you break the cycle of addiction and lead a healthy, fulfilling life. Call our office or use our online form to schedule an in-person or virtual appointment today.