It has recently been revealed that certain factors can increase the likelihood for painkiller addiction. The four main risks are age (those younger than 65), history of depression, prior drug abuse, and using psychiatric medications. People that fall into these categories run a higher risk of becoming addicted to painkillers, more than 26%.
The most common painkillers prescribed are opioids. Opioids taken for a long period of time can lead to tolerance and physical dependence. Opioids include:
Signs and Side Effects of Painkiller Addiction
Signs of addiction to prescription opiates include:
- Prescription abuse: crushing, inhaling, or injecting tablets that must be swallowed or consuming more than prescribed.
- Behavioral effects: mood swings, poor decision making, depression, lack of interest in regular exercise, anxiety, and dizziness.
- Doctor shopping: visiting more doctors looking for prescription opiates.
- Physical effects: narrow pupils, pale skin, increased itching, and drowsiness.
- Tolerability: more and more drugs are required to achieve the desired effect.
- Psychological: Anxiety, depression, mental impairment
Side effects of painkiller addiction include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Slow heart rate
- Suicidal thoughts
- Legal problems
- Poor interpersonal relationships
Reason For Painkiller Addiction
A common reason people become addicted to painkillers is due to chronic pain, or pain management. Doctors prescribe these individuals the medication that leads to addiction in some cases. Many people who take painkillers believe that the medicine will help numb emotional pain as well. Studies indicate that a large number of people who abuse painkillers have been through emotional trauma of some sort.
They use these drugs to distance themselves from their emotions believing their feelings are more manageable. Opioids have an effect of euphoria in addition to inducing relaxation. Addictions can progress as people seek an easy emotional outlet, which leads to increased tolerance. Increased tolerance is a key indicator that addiction is occurring.
When withdrawing from opioids, addicts feel like their pain is being intensified, making it hard to stop. Some addicts even convince themselves that their pain is becoming worse and they need more medication to treat it. In reality, they are just experiencing the very uncomfortable feelings of withdrawal. Although nobody takes painkillers hoping to become addicted, it is a common occurrence.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Sleeping problems
- Bones pain
- Intense cravings
- Twitching and tremors
Is Withdrawal Process Easy?
There is a difference between dependence and addiction. Withdrawal symptoms in those who are only dependent are not as intense as those addicted. Withdrawal is so painful because when taking opioids, the body stops producing endorphins.
Endorphins act as the body’s natural painkiller. Nerve cells in the brain stop functioning normally because there are a higher number of receptors that were produced while taking the drug. Painkiller addiction is fairly common, occurring in 7% of those prescribed medicine
Painkiller Addiction Treatment
Addicts go through serious discomfort often experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Narcotic painkiller withdrawal can last up to two or three weeks. Some addicts try to go “cold turkey” off of drugs and many stop detoxing and use again because the pain is unmanageable. Detoxification, with supervision, should be quick, with minimal pain, and effective.
There are treatment possibilities for painkiller addiction. 12 step programs offer support in the help to achieve sobriety. Residential treatment facilities specialize in painkiller addiction in addition to detoxification off of pills.