Signs of prescription painkiller addiction

How do you know when “take as prescribed” crosses the line from medical use into drug addiction? Top 7 signs of prescription pain killer addiction here.

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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:

  1. Changes in personality, behavior, or mood
  2. Continued usage of the drug even after medical condition has improved
  3. Defensiveness when discussing the drug use
  4. Negative changes in daily habits and appearance
  5. Social withdrawal
  6. Taking more medication than prescribed
  7. Visiting multiple doctors in order to obtain more of the drug

Recognize these signs and symptoms of opiate medication addiction in yourself or someone close to you? If YES…don’t wait to get help. Learn what it’s like to seek help from Painkiller Addiction Treatment Programs and how you can choose the best treatment type, duration, and therapies for you. OR call 1-877-960-2430 NOW for immediate addiction help and appropriate treatment options referral.

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.

About the author
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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  1. Yes, there is hope. I was a patient/addict at several pain management clinics in Oklahoma for 6+ years. I needed surgery on my C-spine disks, but I am self- employed and no insurance :(! After so long the pain from withdraw was so, so, so bad that I no longer felt my neck pain, and I’m a welder I use my neck more than anything. So, 2 stints in rehab, jail lock up multiple times, list goes on and on, lost everything, lost everyone, lost respect most of all, I was done. I went to a methadone clinic and it literally saved my life, I am clean and sober. I recommend it to anyone, for $9 a day I got 95 mg. a day ( more if u need it) and counseling). I can deal with my nerve pain and disk deg and hernia toon and all of it, but no withdraw is the best feeling ever, I’m lucky please if you hear me, DO IT. I’ll help u email me.

  2. Hello Arlene. This is a question for a medical expert. I’d suggest that you consult with a toxologist or a Medical Review Officer at a drug testing lab. These specialized medical professionals can help you read, interpret and analyse your test results.

  3. I have been on pain meds. for the last 15 years due to severe back problems. I was on high doses of oxycodone 20 to 40 mil. for years. A year ago I was in the hospital for a week as my meds. were changed to Methadone while I was on Paxil. Since then the I take Alprazolam and 5mg of oxycodone without Tylenol. I have liver disease. The Doctor just did a drug test on me and I was told the opioids level was just over 1000. Is that normal? Thank you

  4. They are very very expensive on the streets. Once the doctors will not prescribe them anymore good bye savings and checking account. Next goes the grocery money. The solution??? Some people feel living a drug free life is the way to go. Others say legalize drugs and let people buy the drugs at their own risk at reasonable prices.

  5. Thanks for sharing, Jarred. Yes. Painkillers are sort of the “underbelly” of the medical system in our time. While useful for real medical need, there are many people who either unwittingly become addicted to them, or who can manipulate the system to get pain killers. Solution, anyone?

  6. Great insight. Painkillers are so easily accessible and also so easy to become addicted to. I myself, urge people to stick to the correct dosages prescribed by the product or by their medical doctors.

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