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Symptoms of prescription pain killer abuse and addiction (Top 10)

Do you think you or someone you love has a problem with pain killers?

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between temporary changes in behavior and lasting effects of pain killer abuse. And while self help for opiate addiction is available, it’s a hard row to hoe. Here, we outline the top ten major symptoms of prescription pain killer abuse to help you identify signs of painkiller addiction. Your questions about pain killer abuse or comments about harm reduction in opioid users  are welcomed at the end.

What are opioid drugs?

Go to the emergency room for an injury, get a root canal from your dentist, or visit your doctor for back pain and it’s likely that you will be prescribed some type of pain killer. Some of the most common pain killers prescribed are opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Opioids are man-made variations of opium, compounds that bind to one or more of the three opioid receptors of the central nervous system. Because opioids are highly effective they are often the first choice in helping to relieve intense or chronic pain.

Risks of opioid use and dangers of opioid addiction

While opioid pain killers can make a positive difference for those suffering, they are also chemically similar to heroin and can be just as addictive. If not taken properly, under close care of a physician who understands the risks, taking these medications can lead to serious problems including a full-blown drug addiction.

One of the dangers is that, because they are prescription drugs, patients tend to believe they are safe. While a person taking these drugs may start struggling with the symptoms of addiction, they may also deny and justify the problem with the excuse that their doctor has prescribed this medication to them.

Do painkillers get you high?

Yes. Pain killers can cause euphoric effect.

People taking opioid pain killers can quickly build a physical tolerance to the drugs, which results in higher and higher doses required to achieve the initial therapeutic effect. In addition to physical tolerance, people can also develop psychological tolerance as they become desensitized to the drug. Because you can become accustomed to the euphoric feeling created by pain killers, the desire to use more medication than prescribed can become the beginning stages of addiction.

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Symptoms of prescription pain killer abuse

If you are taking prescription pain killers, or you have a loved one currently prescribed one of these medications, stay aware of these warning signs of drug abuse and possible pain killer addiction:

1. Taking more medication than prescribed. This is usually the first sign of a problem. If you are unable to stick with the dosing regimen given by your doctor, it’s important to speak with him or her about this. It could be that you are in need of a higher dosing, but it’s also important to speak to your physician about the possibility of developing prescription pain killer dependency.

2. Visiting multiple doctors to obtain more drugs. Known as “doctor shopping”, this behavior is a typical way that people addicted to pain killers get the extra dosing they are craving. If you find that your doctor has cut you off or limited the amount of drugs you are prescribed, and, as a result, you are going to additional doctors with the goal of getting more drugs, you are definitely showing signs of addiction.

3. Going to the streets to get your drug of choice. Prescription pain killers are big business on the streets. Just one oxycodone tablet can sell between $5 to $50 depending on the strength. For those who have fallen into addiction, the cost of purchasing drugs on the street can be financially devastating, not to mention the dangers involved.

4. Changes to personality, behavior, or mood. Drug abuse and pain killer addiction causes a preoccupation with the drug of choice. People who abuse drugs to get high no longer show interest infriendships, love, or fun. None of these things matter as much as they did before. The main goal in life of a pain killer addict gradually becomes the drug before everything else. As a result, the person no longer appears to be the person they were before addiction.

5. Social withdrawal. Once addicted to pain killers, a person may pull away from those they are closest to. The desire to deny the problem is one reason for this. Those who know you best are more aware of the changes happening. They may function as a mirror for you, and it can seem easier to pull yourself away than to face the truth about what’s happening.

6. Negative changes in personal hygiene. Along with pain killer abuse comes lethargy and lack of motivation. Even taking a bath, brushing your teeth, or doing laundry can seem like too much work. Housework may also fall to the wayside as an addiction progresses. If you find that the initial positive feelings pain killers created for you have been replaced with an overall lack of motivation, this is a sign of addiction.

7. Defensiveness when discussing the problem. As family and friends witness the changes happening to their loved one, it is normal for them to want to discuss the issues and attempt to help. If you find your family is bringing up the topic of pain killer abuse, and your reaction is to get defensive, then it’s time for you to reflect. Your defensiveness is likely a form of denial.

8. Preoccupation with the pain killer. Do you find yourself counting your pills several times throughout the day? Planning your week or month around your pain pills — When will you run out? When will you need more? Do you accuse others of stealing pills from your bottle because you feel like they’re disappearing too fast. Are you constantly hiding your pill bottle(s) so that no one can find them? When the drug is taking up your thoughts and focus this is addiction.

8. Continued usage of the pain killer even after medical condition has improved. While some people have chronic pain that may require longtime use of pain medication, most people who are prescribed pain killers are not meant to take these drugs for long periods of time. If you received a root canal three months ago, but you’re still taking pain killers, this is an example of pain killer abuse or addiction.

9. Withdrawal symptoms when stopping the medication. Ironically, one of the most common withdrawal symptoms of opioid pain killer addiction is severe pain. This can make it very difficult for the addicted person to stop the cycle since their only immediate relief from the pain is taking more of the drug. Other symptoms of opioid pain killer withdrawal are nausea, vomiting, cramping, and anxiety. Withdrawal can be dangerous if not medically supervised, so if you struggle with any negative symptoms when you don’t take your medication or miss a dose, contact your doctor immediately for assistance or get to a hospital for help.

10. You recognize any or all of the above signs. Depending on the severity of the pain killer abuse, and how long the problem has been going on, some may recognize all of the signs we’ve discussed here, while others may only recognize only one of the symptoms listed above. It’s important to understand that, regardless of how many of the signs exist, if any of symptoms of prescription pain killer abuse exist, it’s time to get help.

Photo credit: holeymoon

Leave a Reply

2 Responses to “Symptoms of prescription pain killer abuse and addiction (Top 10)
Michael
6:41 pm December 15th, 2012

I was addicted to vicodin for years. It affected me in so many negative ways. I tried to go to a center and after my 30 days just ended up using it again. I tried going cold turkey and the withdrawal side effects were so severe I couldn’t go to work and ended up losing my job. But it was worth it!

Darrell
11:08 pm April 30th, 2013

Michael how did you stop the pain pill addiction? I have. Every symptom above. I have so many health problems& constant back feet pain. I don’t want to spend my life and money on this problem. Please any help is welcome. Thanks

About Lisa Espich

Lisa Espich is the author of the multi award-winning book, Soaring Above Co-Addiction: Helping your loved one get clean, while creating the life of your dreams. For additional articles, resources, and a free preview chapter of Soaring Above Co-Addiction visit her website. Her book is available at bookstores everywhere and at Twin Feather Publishing.

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