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Hooked On Painkillers


Although considered less ‘seedy’ than some addictions, being addicted to prescription painkillers can be as hard to stop as illegal drug addiction. And whilst the motives for using them initially differ from illegal drug abuse, the end results are exactly the same. Opiods giving euphoric side effects and some painkillers inducing relaxation will eventually lead to reliance then tolerance, a key sign of addiction.

Not everyone who takes painkillers will become addicted, and not all prescription painkillers are habit forming. Most SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) have very little abuse potential but can produce disturbing withdrawal symptoms. Opiods on the other hand can be habit forming. Here are some reasons why painkiller addiction or overuse can happen.

Pain Numbing

Narcotic painkillers make pain control simple. Take a pill and soon the pain diminishes or disappears. Because they work well with minimum effort they become the first choice for pain management for many people. Other methods of pain control may be left unexplored causing some sufferers to take painkillers more often than is safe or necessary.

Pleasurable Effects

Opiods can induce euphoria, similar to the pleasure attained after physical excitement or success but with the added bonus of no effort being involved. And as the pain has often been caused by some kind of trauma or unpleasant accident, these euphoric feelings can be quite pleasantly surprising. It is understandable that a sufferer will seek to repeat these delightful feelings but unfortunately this is one of the trademarks of addiction.

Emotional Distancing

Many people taking painkillers will notice a distancing from emotional pain as well as the effect on physical pain. As people who are suffering physically are often more vulnerable emotionally, the attraction of a pill that can “make things go away” increases to the point of dependency.

Increased Tolerance

Opiods can quickly cause physical tolerance with higher doses of the drug being required to produce the same effect. Psychological tolerance is also created as desensitisation to the effects of the drug occurs. Tolerance is one of the main signs that addiction is developing.

Legal Drugs

Painkillers are dispensed legally and many doctors will readily prescribe them if the individual has no previous record of addiction or drug abuse. Even though some legal drugs are chemically similar to illicit drugs like heroin, the fact that they are dispensed by a professional and encouraged by advertising leads people to believe they are safe. So those who would not normally consider taking addictive or illegal drugs are lulled into believing that dependency won’t become an issue with prescribed drugs.

Stigma Creating

Over time, an opiate painkiller addiction will require a constant level of the drug in the bloodstream to avoid withdrawal. This is the point where doctors may begin to become reluctant to prescribe more drugs and many addicts will then look elsewhere to find a ‘fix.’ This can result in a door opening into the life of illicit drug taking.

The signs of potential addiction are easy to see. If in any doubt about dependency, individuals should immediately seek medical help.

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