Prescription Painkiller Addiction: 8 Signs To Look For – Are You Dependent?
Prescription painkiller addiction is a condition that can develop slowly, over time, in a very subtle way. Unfortunately, the long-term use of opioids can cause dependence, tolerance and result in cravings and withdrawal symptoms when a person tries to reduce their dose or quit altogether.
Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed that an estimated 2.4 million Americans report using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.
You’ve Been Using Painkillers Long-Term
Opioid dependence often begins with a legitimate prescription following an injury, surgery, or other condition such as cancer.
Taking pills for more than just a few days can lead to dependence in some people. A friend of mine became addicted to Vicodin in two weeks following a simple wisdom tooth extraction.
When opioids are prescribed long-term for chronic pain related to severe injuries, disease, or whatever reason, the chances of dependence becomes even greater.
Moreover, the more severe the pain that results from the event and the longer opioids are used, the greater the chance that a person will develop a prescription painkiller addiction.
Your Tolerance Has Increased
When drug tolerance occurs, the person needs higher doses and/or shorter durations between use to achieve the desired effect. Tolerance is the result of your body’s fight against an invader
who is decreasing its own resistance to pain. Moreover, it is becoming less and less able to cope with pain without the opioids.
Signs of increasing tolerance include running out of medication before it can be refilled, and taking doses closer together or higher than directed by the physician.
You Have Been “Doctor Shopping”
If you are going to different doctors or pharmacies trying to obtain multiple prescriptions, this behavior is referred to as doctor shopping.
Some may even go to emergency rooms with random pain complaints trying to obtain drugs.
This also includes trying to obtain drugs from veterinarians for pets with mysterious ailments, which has become increasingly common in recent years.
You’ve Altered Your Method Of Use
If you feel that you have to crush, snort, inhale, or swallow painkillers rather than take them orally, you are doing this to reduce the time interval to the desired effects and increase the intensity. For this reason, many opioids are designed to be tamper-resistant, but even many of those are still privy to abuse.
You Have Mood Swings
Depression or anxiety that results from having limited access to painkillers is a big indicator that you aren’t just using them for pain relief any longer – you are seeking to quell cravings and withdrawals. Furthermore, if you are running out of pills before your prescription can be refilled, you may encounter several days of this as you continue to feel stress and crave the drugs.
You Are Engaging in Drug-Seeking Behavior
Other than doctor shopping, you may try to obtain opioids from family or friends, or buy then illicitly. You may also consider trying heroin or other illegal drugs when you cannot afford or obtain your drug of choice.
Moreover, you may constantly be thinking about how to obtain a drug that satisfies your body’s dependence, and coming up with creative ways to fulfill that need by whatever means possible. And very likely, you are trying to conceal the extent of your use from family and friends.
Your Use Is Affecting Your Functioning In Critical Areas
You may find that you are often more drowsy, sleeping more, and missing work, school, or events that you were not before.
You may find your relationships with your family, friends, or co-workers becoming strained, which is due to noticeable changes in your behavior and mood.
You Have Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal from any substance can impact mental health, and result in agitation, anxiety, and depression. Also, physically the following symptoms may manifest:
- Heart rate and blood pressure fluctuations
- Hot flashes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle aches and pains
- Flu-like symptoms
The longer the duration of use and higher the average dose tends to increase the severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms.
You Are In Denial
Denial is a common reaction for people who have become addicted to drug or alcohol. You may deny to yourself and others that you have a problem, or that your problem is much less serious than it actually is.
Who Is At The Greatest Risk?
Anyone can develop a painkiller addiction, but people with a history of mental health conditions are at a greater risk. These include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic order, and others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that around two million Americans are currently addicted to prescription painkillers. It is extremely common – if you are among them, you are, by far, not alone.
If you believe you have a prescription painkiller addiction, please seek the advice of an addiction specialist as soon as possible.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology