Signs of prescription painkiller addiction
Prescription painkillers, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone (both opiods), are highly effective in relieving chronic pain. This is why they are often the first choice in treatment by pain management doctors. Although these drugs are legal when properly prescribed, they are chemically similar to heroin, and can be just as addictive.
So how do you know when “take as prescribed” crosses the line from medical use into drug addiction? How to identify a prescription drug addict vs. regular user? And how do you get addicted to hydrocodone or oxycodone? We explore here.
Treating physical pain: how you get hooked
Most people first begin using prescription painkillers for physical pain, but soon notice that the medication can also distance them from emotional pain. They may find themselves drawn to the euphoric effect of these drugs. The pleasurable feelings created by these painkillers can leave a person desiring more.
People prescribed opioid painkillers can also quickly build a tolerance to their prescription drugs, which results in higher and higher doses required to achieve the same effect. Although this is an anticipated side effect to taking pain meds, some people start to also experience cravings and urges. So in addition to physical tolerance, they can also develop psychological tolerance as they become desensitized to the drug. Because the person may have grown accustomed to the euphoric feelings created by the painkillers, the desire to use more medication than prescribed can become the beginning stages of addiction.
Once a person has become addicted to painkillers, they will experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug wears off. Ironically, one of the most common withdrawal symptoms of opioids is intense physical pain. This can make it very difficult for the addicted person to stop taking oxycodone or hydrocodone and end the cycle since their only immediate relief from the pain is taking more of the drug.
Signs of prescription pain med addiction
While pain meds like oxycodone and hydrocodone can play an important role in helping people with chronic pain, they can also be dangerous when not monitored closely. If you have a loved one taking prescription painkillers, stay aware of these warning signs of addiction:
- Changes in personality, behavior, or mood
- Continued usage of the drug even after medical condition has improved
- Defensiveness when discussing the drug use
- Negative changes in daily habits and appearance
- Social withdrawal
- Taking more medication than prescribed
- Visiting multiple doctors in order to obtain more of the drug
Pain treatment should be more than just meds
In addition, it is common for people who are becoming addicted to narcotic painkillers to feel that their physical pain is getting worse. This can be a result of relying on painkillers alone, instead of including proper rehabilitation and exercise to improve the injured body part. In order for proper healing to take place, a focus on strengthening the injured area should also be a part of the plan. Without this vital piece, the person will often rely on taking more medication for relief as their injury continues to suffer from physical neglect.
Is there hope for those addicted to pain meds?
Yes, there is hope for those possibly addicted to pain meds. Let me now speak from personal experience. My husband was prescribed OxyContin for a back injury, which resulted in addiction. Eventually he started going through the medication so fast that he turned to purchasing additional pills illegally. His number one focus became the drug. Whenever he’d run out of medication he would suffer with extreme back pain, stomach issues, and depression.
After several failed attempts at getting off of the drug on his own, he agreed to go into addiction treatment. It took nearly seven days of medical detox before his withdrawal symptoms calmed. Amazingly, once the drugs were out of his system, his back pain was gone. He completed a three month in-patient program, and is now healthy and pain-free.
We found out first hand just how dangerous these drugs can be if not taken correctly and monitored closely. Most people would not voluntarily take heroin if offered, but many are willing to take these opiod prescription painkillers without being concerned. Because they are prescribed and legal, the overall belief is that they are safe. Prescription painkillers are the fastest growing addiction in America, and being aware of the dangers is vital to prevention.