Once some people start taking painkillers to alleviate feelings of pain or discomfort, it can be hard for them to stop. Unfortunately, that feeling of dependency can become an addiction, which can cause serious harm and consequences to a person’s life and health. Overcoming the addiction is difficult and is a process that many struggle with or don’t feel they can attempt. However, breaking the habit is possible with the right treatment.
What Causes Painkiller Addiction?
Becoming addicted to pain medication is serious because the addiction cannot be broken without going through a severe withdrawal. This withdrawal can be terrible for some people because their brain has become dependent on the drug. The following is the physical process of addiction as outlined by Spine-Health.com:
- Nerve cells start to function abnormally due to the brain’s increased production of receptors for the painkiller.
- Endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers, stop being produced because the body is now receiving the drugs instead.
- Because the nerve cells have ceased to function correctly, the brain is now dependent on the painkillers instead.
Aside from the physical aspect, other factors contribute to the addiction of painkillers as well. Genetics may play a part in the addiction along with lifestyle. If a person is raised in an environment where drug usage is acceptable or surrounds themselves with people who encourage drug use, then an addiction could very well develop in that person.
Symptoms Of Painkiller Addiction
When people become addicted to painkillers, they may deny it or try to hide it from others. However, a close examination of their actions will probably give them away. These are the symptoms of an addiction to painkillers:
- Using the drug more than needed: If the person is taking an unusually high dose of the drug, or is taking it daily or even several times a day, this is the first sign that he or she is addicted.
- Keeping a well-stocked supply: People with addictions will be sure to have an ample supply of the drug on hand.
- Spending excessive amounts of money on the drug: Some people with addictions will even go so far as to spend money they don’t have on the drug. They may forego other necessary expenses or even steal just so they can afford to feed their addiction.
- Failed attempts at quitting: If the person cannot stop using the drug or feels that the drug is needed in order to deal with life’s problems, then that person is definitely addicted.
Going through a withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, and even painful, especially for those who have been addicted to painkillers for a long time. Many people quit detox or don’t even start for fear of the unsettling experience of withdrawal symptoms, which include intense cravings, twitching, tremors, vomiting, and severe aches and pains once off the painkillers. The ideal detox process should be:
- Done as briefly as possible
- Done through a safe method with as few symptoms as possible
- Completed with the encouragement and understanding of supportive friends and family
Because detox is a serious and somewhat complicated process, those suffering form painkiller addiction should not attempt to detox on their own. It’s best to complete a medically-assisted treatment to ensure the most ease and success throughout the process.
One of the most common methods of detox is known as Rapid Opiate Detoxification or ROD. This method entails going under anesthesia so as not to endure the symptoms of withdrawal. High doses of naltrexone are administered to shorten the withdrawal symptoms and when the patient wakes up, his or her body is free of the drug and did not have to experience any unpleasant symptoms.
Another method is called Accelerated Opiate Neuro-regulation or AON, which is a type of rapid detox. In this process, the patient is also administered anesthesia and basically sleeps off the symptoms of withdrawal. But in this case, the patient will feel slightly ill the next day and may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and have little to no energy. However, the patient should feel better after a few days.
Painkiller addiction is not actually as common as you may think it is. And just because you need to use painkillers doesn’t mean that you have an addiction to them or at risk of becoming addicted to them. But if you are taking painkillers and are worried about dependency, follow these tips:
- Know the side effects of the medication you’re taking and how it can affect you and your health.
- Take the proper dosage. If the medication isn’t working for you, consult with your doctor.
- Check in often with your doctor anyway to make sure the medication is working properly and that you’re on the right track to recovery.
- Follow the directions closely. Take no more than what’s been prescribed for you and never take someone else’s medication.
Having an addiction to painkillers can have a serious impact on your physical, mental and even social health. Getting treatment may seem like a tough, scary process but with the right method, recovery can be easier than you think.