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How to Avoid Painkiller Addiction


If you have become addicted to painkillers, it is going to have an increasingly detrimental impact on your life unless you are able to bring it under control. The number of people who are falling into this type of addiction is increasing all the time, and this worrying trend shows no signs of abating. There is help available for those who find themselves in this position, and the sooner people are able to seek out help then the less pain they will suffer because of this behaviour.

Types of Painkiller Medication Most Likely to Lead to Addiction

The painkiller medications that individuals are most likely to become addicted to belong to the opiate family of drugs. Illegal drugs such as heroin are also opiates and the aforementioned prescribed painkillers can be just as addictive and damaging when they are abused. Opiate drugs work by triggering specific endorphin receptors in the brain. This not only helps relieve symptoms of pain, but it also causes feelings of euphoria and deep relaxation. The side effects of opiate drugs are very pleasurable, which is why it is so easy to slip into addiction.

The painkillers most likely to cause addiction include:

  • Morphine
  • Pethidine
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone/Oxycontin

These drugs can be known by a number of different names; for example, Hydrocodone is also called Xodol, Vicodin, and Lortab.

What is Painkiller Addiction?

To say that somebody is addicted to a substance means that they have become physically or psychologically dependent on it – often both. Physical addiction means experiencing uncomfortable physical symptoms should one stop using the substance. This occurs because the body has adapted itself to functioning with these chemicals in the bloodstream and when they are stopped, they body is knocked out of kilter and needs to readapt itself to functioning without these chemicals. Psychological addiction means that the person will experience craving should they try to stop or cut down on the amount of the substance they use.

Danger of Painkiller Addiction

All types of addiction are bad because it means losing some control over behaviour. The negative impact of this type of dependence will be physical, mental, emotional, and social, and include:

  • being at risk of an accidental overdose and death if consuming too much of the substance
  • on overdose can also occur over a long time period because of the accumulation of toxic levels of the substance in the body
  • causing damage to every organ in the body including the liver, lungs, brain, and heart
  • causing the individual to behave unethically in an attempt to get their hands on more of the substance – in other words, the person may start to lie to their doctor about their symptoms
  • leading to financial problems because the person needs to spend large amounts of money to obtain the substance illegally
  • meaning that people are no longer capable of taking care of their work, social, and family commitments
  • leading to other forms of addiction such as alcoholism
  • robbing people of their own self-respect and turning them into a slave.

Why Do People Become Addicted to Painkillers?

There is often a legitimate reason for why some individuals first begin using strong painkillers. Perhaps they have been in an accident and they are dealing with severe pain. So long as the person sticks to the instruction of their doctor, only taking this medication for treating their symptoms, it should not lead to too many problems. Difficulties occur when the individual begins taking these substances for the wrong reasons – this happens when the person starts to enjoy the side effects of these substances.

As well as dealing with pain, strong analgesics can also produce feelings of relaxation and pleasure. Many begin to enjoy the nice feelings and may be tempted to take the substance to continue these effects rather than to treat pain. When this happens, the person has moved from taking drugs for medical reasons to taking them for recreational use. Once the individual crosses the line into drug abuse, they may then be willing to behave unethically in order to ensure a supply of this substance.

Substance Abuse versus Long-Term Use of Painkillers

Some will need to take painkillers long term to help them deal with chronic pain. They are doing this under the orders of their doctor, meaning that they should be closely monitored. The individual who uses these drugs long term is likely to develop a tolerance for them, which technically means they are physically addicted. The difference is that the individual is not abusing the substance and will have weighed up the pros and cons of taking this drug with their physician. It is preferable to develop dependence on a drug than it is for individuals to be in chronic pain.

Symptoms of Painkiller Addiction

The symptoms of painkiller addiction include:

  • using drugs for any other reason than why it was prescribed – for example, to enjoy pleasurable effects
  • running out of a prescription before it is due to run out
  • going to a new doctor in order to obtain more of a drug
  • exaggerating symptoms in order to get your hands on more of the drug
  • using illegal means to purchase the drug – for example, buying on the black market
  • visiting a casualty department in order to get more of the drug
  • borrowing pain medication from other people
  • spending increasing amounts of time thinking about the drug
  • failing to meet family, work, or social commitments due to using this drug
  • losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • needing to use more of the drug in order to get the same effect – this is evidence of increased tolerance
  • losing interest in personal hygiene and grooming.

How to Avoid Becoming Addicted to Painkillers

Painkiller addiction can destroy lives. There is a lot that can be done to avoid ending up with this type of problem. Some of these are:

  • only taking medication given by a doctor as prescribed
  • never exaggerating or lying about symptoms
  • asking the doctor if there is any lighter medication available that will control symptoms
  • being honest with oneself about the reasons for using this drug
  • being aware of the signs of addiction
  • those feeling that they do not need a strong painkiller should definitely tell their doctors about this
  • learning about prescribed medication and making sure any potential side effects are known.

Those that have become addicted to painkillers will probably need some help in order to escape the substance. Inform your GP right away. If the addiction is severe, you will benefit from spending some time in rehab. This is a great option as it gives you the opportunity to deal with the issues that led you into addiction in the first place.

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