Painkillers are often found in the bathroom cabinets of many homes. While these are mainly over-the-counter brands that aren’t too high in strength, they can help you get rid of irritating headaches or soothe stiff and painful joints. Most times, people don’t think twice about taking one or two tablets as they are perfectly safe. Stronger pain medication is also safe to use, provided you stick to the guidelines your doctor has told you regarding how much to take and for how long.
However, if you ignore this advice or begin taking painkillers on a regular basis, you could risk developing an addiction. Sadly, this happens more often than you might think.
How They Affect the Body
Opioid medications such as morphine or codeine are some of the most addictive painkillers. They work in the body by attaching to opioid receptors on the nerve cells in your brain, your spinal cord, and other areas in your body. They will block the pain signals that your brain is sending throughout your body, thus relieving you of that sensation. Using them over a short period and sticking to a recommended dosage shouldn’t lead to problems with addiction. However, if you are relying on these opioids for an extended period for more severe issues, like recovering from major surgery or other illness, this is where an addiction might form.
Symptoms of Painkiller Addiction
If you are concerned that someone you care for has developed an addiction to painkillers, but aren’t sure, here are a few things to look out for that could be an indication of this.
Taking More Than They Should
Firstly, taking more than the recommended dose is incredibly dangerous, as this could lead to an accidental overdose. The reason a person might be upping their dosage slightly could be because they’re not getting the same effect from their painkillers as they used to, especially if they have been taking them for a long time. If they are making excuses to have an extra pill or taking them more frequently rather than leaving an adequate, safe amount of time between doses, this is likely due to an addiction.
Approaching Different Doctors
Another sign someone may have developed a painkiller addiction is that they approach various doctors trying to get the prescription they desire. Their usual doctor might refuse to increase their dosage or suggest that it’s time to wean them off the painkillers as they shouldn’t need them any longer, particularly if wounds have healed or they have overcome other treatment/illnesses. As they can’t continue to get what they want from their doctor, they might decide to get a ‘second opinion’ or try to fool other doctors into prescribing them.
Failing to get a prescription from a medical professional, they might turn to illegal ways of getting their fix instead. Street dealers can provide prescription painkillers for a high price on the black market. This is even more dangerous not only because it is against the law, but because these drugs have not been regulated. Therefore, it’s impossible to know exactly what has gone into them. If they have been stolen from a medical center, this also means that other patients who need them are unable to get their medication. If you find prescription painkillers in their home but they aren’t being kept in a pill bottle, there is a chance these have been illegally purchased.
Change in Their Behaviour
Another way to spot an addict is if there has been a strange change in their behavior. Have they started to become more irritable with you? Or do they have terrible mood swings? Perhaps they have become more reclusive or are lying and not giving you a straight answer? All of these can be signs of addiction, so consider investigating further. Equally, if they become angry or defensive when someone comments on their use of prescription painkillers, this is a sign of addiction as well, especially if they have been using them for a long time.
Some people do have to take prescription painkillers for longer than others, but doctors do try to limit how long a patient is taking these to avoid addiction. If they have been taking opioids long after they have had major surgery or have recovered from an illness, this is highly likely because they have formed an addiction, rather than needing those painkillers to help them be more comfortable.
Any kind of addiction is incredibly difficult to go through, and it can be very challenging for an addict to get sober. This is why seeking professional help for things like codeine addiction, oxycodone, morphine, and any opioid is essential. Staying at a rehab facility, attending support groups, or getting outpatient care from your doctor are all examples of how an addict can get the right help to kick their habit. They will also need the support of their loved ones, even if their addiction has strained these relationships. It’s important to be patient on the road to recovery, but it is possible to get clean and move forward to a more positive phase in life.
Even after the recovery period, addicts will continue to need support to help them maintain sobriety, as relapse can happen and there are many things in life that might trigger their impulse to start using again. It’s important to understand how the addiction came to be, and what their triggers are. They must also be prepared to deal with post-acute withdrawal syndrome, as this will likely make them want to start using again to help them sleep or to numb the discomfort they might feel.
Painkiller addiction is a very serious problem and it can happen a lot more easily than you might think. Never take more than the recommended dose from your doctor, or take it for longer than you’re supposed to, and never take strong opioids for minor aches and pains. If you are concerned that someone you know has developed an opioid addiction, speak to a medical professional as soon as possible for further guidance and advice.