Painkiller Addiction in Student Athlete

The Painkiller High School Problem: How Injuries Aren’t the Only Risk in Athletics

High school is one of the most important times in our lives. It is a time of learning, growth, and opportunity, and shapes us for the rest of our lives. There are few things shape us as much as school sports, which teach high school students to work in teams and build relationships.

While the benefits of playing high school sports are many, there are also risks involved. The main risk is being injured, which may lead to an even more deadly risk: addiction to painkillers. In this article, we’ll walk you through what painkillers are, why high school athletes chase the painkiller high, and how young athletes can avoid addiction.

Painkillers: What Are They?

Painkillers are a class of prescription medication called opiates. Opiates come from the opium plant and work by mimicking the pain-reducing chemicals in your brain called endorphins. Endorphins reduce stress and pain and create a feeling of well-being.

Opiates act like endorphins because connect to the same places in your brain and create a sense of euphoria, energy, or well-being. Opiates are powerful because they cause a strong intoxicating effect and are addictive.

Common painkiller drugs include morphine, codeine, and Oxycontin. These drugs are for patients who have suffered an injury and are suffering from intense pain.

The Painkiller High: Dangers for Student-Athletes

So why are painkillers so dangerous for high school athletes? The first reason that painkillers are so dangerous for student-athletes is the potency of these drugs. Painkillers are very easy to overdose on based on their high potency.

Over 68% of overdoses in the United States are from painkillers and with over 130 Americans dying from opiate overdoses per day, the threat is real.

Student-athletes are more likely to use painkillers than others. High school athletes are already more likely to use illegal drugs than students who don’t play sports, which may be due to the stress of performing.

But high school athletes are even more likely to sustain an injury at some point in their sports career. These injuries can be serious, like a broken leg or torn ligament, and need more time to heal and pain management techniques.

Student-athletes are often given a prescription for these painkillers when they suffer an injury. While the painkillers reduce pain in the short term, some students start using the pills to get high or get addicted while managing their pain.

Consequences of Painkiller Abuse

The first and most obvious consequence of abusing painkillers is an overdose. Painkiller overdoses are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Drug users who don’t die from an opiate overdose may suffer from brain damage or organ damage due to lack of oxygen, which may last for a lifetime.

Painkiller abuse can also affect the digestive system of users. Painkillers make the bowels slow down, which leads to constipation, nausea, and vomiting.

The most dangerous consequences of painkiller abuse are an increase in use and using more dangerous drugs. Because painkillers are so addictive and powerful, they lead to addiction and an increased tolerance for the drug. This is dangerous because it causes the user to take more pills to get the same high, which leads to overdoses, serious financial issues, and crime.

Heroin Abuse

When addicts either can’t afford more painkillers or their prescription runs out, they turn to a cheaper drug that is easier to get: heroin. Heroin is an illegal opiate that is usually sold as a powder or resin, which is then smoked, snorted, or injected into the body. It is cheap, easy to get, and very strong,

Heroin is dangerous because the potency isn’t consistent and different things are added to it to make it stronger. Fentanyl is one of the strongest prescription painkillers on the planet and is added to heroin to increase the potency. This has lead to a sharp increase in overdose deaths from opiates.

Avoiding Painkiller Addiction in Student-Athletes

There’s not much you can do to prevent student-athletes from getting injured. But there are many steps you can take to make sure that young athletes don’t become addicted to painkillers.

The first step you can take is to make sure that your student-athlete isn’t prescribed painkillers in the first place. Painkillers help manage pain but there are other ways to reduce pain.


Over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen and aspirin reduce inflammation and pain. They are hard to overdose on, aren’t addictive, and are easy to find.


R.I.C.E stands for the four steps of recovery: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Resting the injured body part, icing the injury, compressing the injury with wraps, and elevating the injury above your heart reduces pain and increases recovery.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help reduce the pain from longterm or recurring injuries. It also prevents injuries in the future by strengthening joints and the muscles surrounding them.


Making sure to supervise your young athlete’s painkiller prescription is also important. If your student-athlete has a painkiller prescription, make sure that they take the right amount and don’t have access to the pills.

You can also make sure that the prescription is appropriate for their injury. If the pain won’t last more than a couple of days, then that is how long the prescription should last for. If the pain takes longer to go away, make sure that the doctor has a plan to reduce the use of painkillers over the course of recovery.

Protect Student-Athletes from Addiction

Now that you know a little more about the use of painkillers in high school sports, you can educate student-athletes about why a painkiller high is so dangerous. The only way to stop addiction is by educating people, and that starts with spreading the word.

If you have any questions about opiate addiction, treatment, and recovery, please visit our blog.


prescription abuse

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Painkiller Addiction

It is no secret that painkillers have played a large role in the addiction rates in the U.S.

In fact, there are currently 58 opioid prescriptions every year for every 100 Americans.

If these are prescribed medications, what kind of damage can they do, and what can I do to help?

Let’s talk about prescription painkillers, their risks, and everything you need to know about them.

What Are Prescribed Painkillers?

Prescribed painkillers are drugs that are prescribed by a doctor for the sole purpose of relieving pain.

These drugs are not meant to treat or cure any disease or illness, but simply to mask pain. They can be prescribed for a wide variety of conditions, from a broken hand to alleviating pain after an operation.

These drugs involve the use of opium, which is a highly addictive compound that can impair judgment and motor functions.

These often lead to a very short-lived euphoria, and many people enjoy the feeling and feel a need to continue to relive it.

There are many risks involved with these types of medications, particularly with substance abuse, leading to other complications. Let’s talk about that.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Painkiller Addiction

Painkiller addictions are a serious problem and should be treated that way. You have likely heard stories of addictions from the media or from loved ones.

Painkillers can lead to serious health risks, especially when taken consistently or with high doses. Here are some of the facts.

1. Painkillers Can Lead To Other Addictions

This may sound obvious, but it is to a much higher extent than you would believe. People who are prescribed opioids are 19 times more likely to start using drugs like heroin.

In fact, urban injection drug users interviewed in 2008 and 2009 found that 86% had used pain relievers either medically or nonmedically prior to their heroin addiction.

2. Withdrawal Symptoms Are No Joke

After you use these medications for a while, the body can become dependant on it. Once the body has adapted to the presence of the substance, a higher dose may be needed to create the same effects.

After a while, once the body is fully dependant on the substance, quitting can cause some serious effects. Including insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and involuntary muscle spasms.

3. Side Effects Can Be Lethal

Overdoses are all too common in the US, and 68% of them involve the use of opioids.

One of the most serious risks with painkillers is the possibility of respiratory depression. High doses can cause breathing to slow down to the point that users die.

Some of the side effects you may encounter with these drugs include constipation, nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, and decreased cognitive abilities.

While those are not fatal, they can certainly inhibit one’s ability to perform essential duties for their health. That can lead to malnourishment and other potentially fatal complications.

Not only that, day-to-day operations can be incredibly lethal while using these medications, like driving or operating machinery. If you are using these drugs, driving after use can put many people’s lives at risk.

Another serious risk of death with these medications is when they are mixed with other substances, including alcohol. Taking these medications for medical use should be used exclusively, and in the prescribed dosage, to avoid complications.

4. Symptoms Can Be Spotted

Visiting multiple doctors to get prescriptions for painkillers, social withdrawal, slurring speech, lying about whereabouts and activities, or stealing medication that has been prescribed to someone else.

These are all common indicators of painkiller addiction. If you know somebody who exhibits these behaviors, or if you exhibit them yourself, these are key signs of addiction.

If you are looking for physical symptoms, they will likely include dilated pupils, impaired coordination, and heavy perspiration.

If those symptoms fit the bill, then that person needs treatment. Find out how to do an intervention the right way to help a loved one.

5. These Prescriptions Are On The Rise

Since the year 2000, the number of opioid prescriptions in the US has increased by over 400%.

That is a troubling amount considering the rising addiction rates. If you are able to get through the pain with over-the-counter medicine like acetaminophen, it may be a wise choice to choose that alternative.

6. Other Factors Can Influence Addiction

There are many co-occurring illnesses that often pair with substance abuse. People can be more susceptible to addiction when they are facing other mental health issues.

People suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are far more likely to be a victim of substance abuse. People will look for non-medical ways to help ease their suffering.

Be transparent with your doctors about these pre-existing conditions before accepting addictive medications.

However, there is dual diagnosis treatment available for people struggling with addiction and mental illness.

7. Treatment Is Not The End

Unfortunately, many people who receive treatment will relapse, as addiction is very powerful. Between 40% and 60% of patients will abuse the drug again.

That shouldn’t stop you from trying. Yes, many do go back to substance abuse. However, that is only because treatment is not a cure.

Recovery is a lifelong process. The three main steps are seeking treatment, starting recovery, and maintaining abstinence. The latter is the longest and most difficult.

If a loved one has received treatment, do what you can to support them, as they will need a helping hand.

If you are maintaining your abstinence, seek out any support you can get and continue the progress you’ve made.

Next Steps

It is clear that the risks of these medications are incredibly serious, and should be treated with care.

If you have been prescribed a painkiller, make sure that you take the proper steps to avoid addiction.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to painkillers, please check out our admissions page and get the help that is needed today!


pain management

5 Ways to Manage Pain Without Opioids

Pain is something we all deal with from time to time. Pain may be caused by illness, injury, surgery, and a variety of other factors. Left untreated, pain can have a negative impact on your overall quality of life and possibly lead to other complications. Effective treatment is the key to adequate pain relief.  

Chronic pain in particular can have a huge effect on a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Chronic pain is when pain becomes long-term, usually lasting for longer than 12 weeks. 

Complications that can arise from chronic pain include depression, weight gain, insomnia, anxiety, hormonal changes, and more. Without proper pain management, a person falls risk to all these complications. We at Addiction Treatment Services care about the whole person, that is why we care about the mind and body, as well as the symptoms. 

There are many options when it comes to pain management. The tricky part is that what works well for one person may not work well for someone else. Unfortunately for this reason, opioids can quickly lead to abuse, and eventually, an addiction may form. 

This is not to say that addiction is always the case. When opioids are used appropriately as prescribed by a medical professional, they can be an important and beneficial component of treatment. 

Serious risks remain however, and for this reason, an individual should always consider the risks of using opioids alongside their benefits. One should also consider the other ways that pain can be managed. 

So, what are some other ways pain can be managed? 

1. Exercise 

Getting some exercise is one example of a simple way to deal with pain without using opioids. While some people cannot imagine exercising through their pain, there are definitely ways it can be done. 

The best way is to exercise through your pain is with the guidance of a physical therapist. A physical therapist is an expert in the area of dealing with chronic pain. It may be a slower path that requires more patience, but the results are well worth it. Physical therapy can help you regain strength and become more active for better overall health. 

Exercise also releases a natural pain reliever in the brain called endorphins, which are hormones responsible for producing a positive feeling. Other exercises that may help with pain include swimming, walking, yoga, and biking. 

2. Acupuncture 

Acupuncture is a form of therapy that involves thin needles being inserted into the skin. While this may sound counterintuitive and quite painful in itself, many people report pain relief after undergoing acupuncture. 

The way this form of therapy works is by stimulating certain points within the body that are believed to be responsible for certain pathways of pain. It is said that acupuncture disrupts the flow of these pathways, thereby blocking the pathway of pain. 

Many people regard acupuncture as just a false form of treatment made popular by people who believe in exotic treatments, however it is actually approved by the FDA to be used as a medical device. 

3. Injections and Nerve Blocks 

Some people turn to receiving injections to manage pain. These injections work by blocking pain receptor sites which results in a decreased sensation of pain. This form of therapy is temporary and works best in cases of acute pain. However, it can be beneficial for people dealing with chronic pain if they use it in conjunction with other forms of therapy. 

Nerve blocking injections are most commonly used in people dealing with joint pain or peripheral nerve issues, and it’s usually only considered when other forms of treatment have not worked. The location in which you receive the injection depends on the site of your pain. If you feel immediate pain relief, the treatment is usually considered successful. 

4. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that addresses the psychological patterns that contribute to pain. CBT is done with a licensed professional therapist, and has been proven to be very beneficial to patients dealing chronic pain. 

In this form of therapy, the therapist helps the individual identify certain patterns and thought processes that may be exacerbating their physical symptoms. Some of these thought patterns may include avoidance, fear, anxiety, anger, and other forms of distress. 

During CBT, you will be trained on how to deal with these negative thought patterns by learning new behavioral techniques to employ instead, which should lead to more positive thinking patterns and decreased stress, thus, decreased pain.  

5. Non-Opioid Medication Options 

There are many medications available to help treat pain that do not fall under the opioid category. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs act within the body to help with pain and inflammation. Inflammation occurs with many chronic pain issues, especially issues of the joints. 

Corticosteroids are a class of medication that also have an effect on inflammation and are given to many people who have arthritis. Acetaminophen is another drug you can get over the counter that helps with pain, but not inflammation. 

Ask your provider about non-opioid medication options. While you can get many of these drugs over the counter, it’s always best to consult with your provider before starting any new medications. 

Take Control of Your Life 

Opioids can be a very beneficial part of treatment for pain. However, it is far too easy to become dependent on opioids, which can lead to a full blown addiction. 

The thing is, there is no limit to how much you can increase the dose of opioids. Unlike non-opioid drugs, you can keep increasing the dose of opioids once you start to become tolerant of the current dose’s effects. This quickly turns into a slippery slope that can easily lead to addiction. The consequences are extremely harmful and can even be fatal. 

If you’re dealing with chronic pain, talk with your provider about your concerns regarding the risks of opioids. There are many other options available and your doctor can help you find the best fit for you.  

We at Addiction Treatment Services want you to know that we are here to help you, whether you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction. Our team of highly qualified professionals care about you and your success in sobriety. Reach out to us today at our 24 hour hotline by calling (855) 247-4046.

What Causes Painkiller Addiction

Prescription Drug Abuse: What Causes Painkiller Addiction

130 people each day. That’s the rate of death stemming from the opioid crisis.

That translates to a little over 5 people every hour, or one death every twenty minutes. So in the time, it takes to watch the newest episode of your favorite Netflix show, another person dies from an opioid overdose.

It’s a grim reality, and one the United States is only just coming to grips with. After all, it was only in 2017 that the federal government declared Opiates a public health emergency. But the opiate crisis has been ongoing since the 1990’s.

But how could this happen? In a country that calls itself the greatest in the world, how is it possible that so many are dying from a preventable addiction?

It’s a complicated answer, and the history is long. But to understand how painkiller addiction happens, it’s necessary to first understand how opiates work, why they are so addictive, and how we got here in the first place.

Only then will you be able to recognize the signs of prescription drug abuse. Keep reading to learn more.

The Beginning of a Crisis

In the 1990’s, pharmaceutical companies wanted to cash in on the miracle of opioid painkillers.

After all, here was this miraculous solution to pain management. They could make the pain simply go away, making it a medical marvel.

And it meant huge dollar signs for pharmaceutical companies, who began aggressive marketing campaigns to get the drugs in the hands of patients.

Prior to 1991, most opioid drugs were for pain management in cancer patients. There was no research suggesting benefits for non-cancer patients, but pharma companies saw a financial opening and a new market. So they started pushing, offering doctors huge perks and benefits for prescribing opioids to non-cancer patients.

The campaign was so successful that pharma companies saw opioid revenue grow from $48 million in 1996 to more than $1 billion four years later.

Worries About Addiction

Medical organizations and doctors raised concerns about the possible addictive properties of these new drugs. After all, they were modeled on opium, the main ingredient in heroin and morphine, both highly addictive.

But the pharma industry brushed aside these fears, assuring doctors that this was part of the miracle: powerful pain relief with no chance of addiction.

Proving them wrong didn’t take long. Deaths from opiate overdose began skyrocketing in the mid-90’s and only got higher as time went on. Pharma companies began producing newer drugs. As Fentanyl hit the market, it produced a new wave of addicts.

And as prescriptions ran out, some patients turned to heroin, which was cheaper and readily available.

But how do these drugs work? How have they ensnared so many?

Understanding Opiates

It’s important here to understand the verbiage. Opiates are a type of narcotic.

Now, narcotic has become an umbrella term for all drugs. But when we say narcotic in reference to opioids, it refers to drugs of a specific type.

Before it became an umbrella term, a narcotic was defined as a drug that “…dulls the senses, relieves pain and produces a profound sleep…”

The original opiates were morphine and heroin and were common during medical procedures. Originally, scientists developed morphine as an aid for those with heroin addiction, since when it was first isolated, no one bothered to test its own addictive properties.

So what do they do to the body?

Opiates are “downers”, meaning that they depress the functioning of the central nervous system. This relieves pain, but also can cause euphoria, as well as a whole slew of other side effects, from dry mouth to constipation.

Understanding Addiction

So with the side effects, why would anyone take opiates longer than they had to?

First, it’s important to understand how people get addicted.

Addiction is a disease, and it’s one that isn’t well understood, even within professional circles. Often, people who don’t understand addiction frame it as a lack of moral fortitude or willpower.

In other words, the perception is that only “bad people” or “weak people” become addicts. The reality, however, is far more complicated.

Addiction is a cyclical illness. A person takes a drug, which feeds the pleasure center of the brain by flooding it with dopamine.

Now, the brain produces dopamine anyway as a natural reaction to eating, drinking, or having sex. The brain rewards activities necessary to sustain life in order to make you keep doing them.

But when you introduce drugs, they flood the brain with high levels of dopamine, which throws the system out of alignment. Instead of rewarding healthy behaviors, the drugs force the bran to reward unhealthy behaviors.

The secondary effect here is that, as more dopamine enters the brain on a regular basis, the brain shuts down the cells used to receive it, in an attempt to regulate its functioning. This means that more and more levels of drug use are necessary to maintain the same high.

It’s also vital to understand that not every person who uses painkillers will get addicted. Millions of people every year use them without getting addicted. Whether or not a person becomes addicted depends on several factors, but none of them is ethics or moral fiber.

Genetic Factors

Because addiction is a psychiatric disease, it stands to reason that there is a genetic component, like any other psychiatric disease. The children of people with depression are more likely than the general public to suffer from depression. In the same way, the children of addicts are more likely to become addicts themselves.

Researchers at the National Institue of Drug Abuse have a theory for this.

The brain contains a finite number of dopamine receptors that help the brain regulate its pleasure center. Brain imaging suggests that individuals with fewer of these receptors are more likely to struggle with addiction. And, like with much else in the body, how many receptors are present is largely determined by genetics.

Studies on twins have also shown that identical twins, who share a genome that is 100% indistinguishable, are highly likely to share addictions. So much so that identical twins are often assumed to be concordant, or to either both be addicts or neither.

Genetics account for about half of a person likelihood for addiction. But what about external factors?

Environmental Factors

Genetics accounts for about half of individuals likely to become addicted. The other half is external, or environmental.

Keep in mind that opiates, in particular, offer easy relief from pain. There are other methods of pain management available, but they often take a great deal more effort.

Now, faced with that explanation, many explain it away. “Oh,” they say, “this is just proof that addicts are lazy and unwilling to try other things to reduce their pain!”

But the reality is that debilitating pain is just that: debilitating. Often, it becomes so all-consuming that sufferers just want it to go away so that they can function. The idea of trying anything else is so exhausting as to seem nearly impossible.

It can also be an issue of withdrawal. Even very limited use of painkillers can induce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when the prescription runs out. And if there is still pain from the original problem, the withdrawal symptoms may prove to be too much, especially for those without adequate support systems.

The Process of Addiction

Let’s take a look at how addiction happens in a practical sense.

It starts, perhaps obviously, with pain. Let’s call our patient Claire. She is 19, and a gymnast at her university.

Claire requires surgery for a torn ACL. Surgery goes well, and her surgeon prescribes her a week’s worth of oxycontin for pain the week following surgery. She knows her uncle struggled with addiction years ago, but she doesn’t know him well and assumes his issues stemmed from elsewhere.

The meds keep her pain under control, but she is frustrated by her limited mobility. Her teammates are at a competition, and she is still in recovery. At the end of the week, her meds run out, and the pain returns. It isn’t as bad as it was in the beginning, but she’s had a week of perfectly controlled pain, and the return is unbearable.

She is also feeling sick as the effects of the medication wear off. The narcotics have made her digestion slow, and she is still struggling with her limitations.

She calls her doctor and asks for a refill. They give her five more days worth, at a lower dose.

She takes two at a time to combat the pain at the same levels and begins to test her boundaries at physical therapy. Taking the pills makes the pain go away, which lets her go further in her mobility.

She keeps pushing her injured leg too far, necessitating more rest.

The setbacks cause more frustration, more pain, and more pills. She “borrows” an old prescription from her mother when she is home for Thanksgiving.

She is now buying pills from a cook at her job at a local restaurant because even though her ACL is mostly healed, the euphoria goes away every time she comes down. Coping with the stress of finals is getting impossible.

Only until finals are over, she promises herself.

But the pills are expensive. Her friend at work mentions that heroin is cheaper, and is basically the same thing. In a moment of desperation at the end of finals, she gives in.

In a matter of months, she has gone from promising young gymnast to an addict who can only think of her next pill. And it happened without her ever realizing what was happening.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

The signs of prescription drug abuse come in four categories: behavioral, cognitive, physical, and psychosocial. Recognizing them in a loved one is crucial for recovery.

Addicts may hide behavioral signs, such a preoccupation with getting more pills or illegally acquiring more pills. Often, addicts are able to cover their tracks until things become too out of hand to hide.

Cognitive signs include disorientation, confusion, and an inability to focus.

Physical signs, which are among the easiest to spot. These can include itchiness, hypersomnia, constipation, irregular heartbeat, pinpointed pupils, and excessive sweating.

Psychosocial symptoms may manifest as mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression.  Addicts may begin stealing pills or money and withdrawing from personal relationships in order to avoid detection.

The Road out of Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disorder. Someone who is an addict will remain an addict for the rest of their life. This does not mean, however, that they must remain in a harmful cycle of abusing pills forever.

Most recovery programs agree that the first step to recovery is simply the addict realizing that they have a problem. They then must realize that there is a way out. Often, addicts try and fail to quit and become discouraged, convinced they will be trapped in the cycle of addiction forever.

They must move past this mindset before recovery can begin.

Once they are ready, ongoing treatment and support are crucial. They will need an unwavering support system, ready to help in moments of crisis. An inpatient treatment program may be necessary, and meetings will a local Narcotics Anonymous can help connect them with others who can empathize with their struggle.

After ninety days of sobriety, their risk of relapse decreases, but vigilance will always be necessary, especially because prescription drugs are the first resource in the event of surgery or major injury.


There is hope for those affected by opiate addiction. And once you know how to recognize the signs of prescription drug abuse, you can help support loved ones as they navigate their way to freedom.

But you don’t have to navigate the waters of recovery alone. We are here to help, connecting your loved ones with the best resources and treatment options.

To help your loved one begin their journey, contact us today.

why are opioids so addictive

Why Are Opioids So Addictive? Here’s How Opioid Addiction Occurs

More than 115 people are dying every single day from this soul-stealing disease.

Let’s break that down.

There are 24 hours in a day. That means nearly five people are dying every single hour.

Every year, the two million people affected, in the U.S. alone, spend approximately $78.5 billion on this disease.

What is this mysterious disease? The culprit is none other than opioid addiction.

“Addiction? That’s not a disease!”

Contrary to the popular belief, addiction is a disease, just like diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. Addiction is defined as, “Addiction involves changes in the functioning of the brain and body. These changes may be brought on by risky substance use or may pre-exist.”

But, why are opioids so addictive? And how do you know when you have a problem?

Read on to answer these questions and find out more on opioid addiction.

Terminology: Opiates vs Opioids

To get things started, let’s go over some basic terminology.

You’ve heard the term opioids, but you’re probably more familiar with the term opiates as well. More than likely, you’ve heard them used interchangeably or incorrectly. But what really is the difference?


Both the terms opiate and opioid are derived from the opium plant. Opiates are the actual chemical substances that are extracted from the opium plant, also known as opium alkaloids. Opiates are natural compounds from the opium plant.

Morphine, Codeine, and Thebaine are the three main opium alkaloids scientist use to synthesize many medical compounds.


Opioids, on the other hand, is a broader term. It refers to any substance that binds with the opium receptors in your body. This substance could be natural or synthetic. So, opioids can be opiates, but opiates can’t be opioids.

In this article, we’re going to focus on opioids because it is a broader term and covers more.

How to Spot an Opioid Addiction

How can you spot an opioid? Are they all dangerous? How can they be taken?

If you suspect your loved one has an opioid addiction, it’s important to learn how to spot it and what danger signs to look out for.

What Does Opioid Addiction Look Like?

A person that is recreationally using opioids might show any of the following signs:

  • High resting heart rate
  • Increased energy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased sexual arousal
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Depression

How Are Opioids Taken?

Opioids can be taken orally or through injection. Many medical professionals will prescribe opioids for severe pain, cough, or diarrhea. Doctors will usually prescribe the opioid to be taken orally, however, if you’re in immediate need for pain relief your doctor make give you an injection.

Some abusers may even snort crushed pills, as this allows the opioid to absorb into the bloodstream much faster.

Why Are Opioids So Addictive?

There are two main factors in addiction: physiology and psychology.

The physiology refers to the body’s biological response to synthetic opioid chemicals, where the psychology focusses on behavioral symptoms.

The Physiology

Did you know that your body makes opioids naturally? You have special protein receptors in your brain, spinal cord, and digestive system called opioid receptors. These natural opioids kill pain, slow down breathing, and relax the body.

Opioids like heroin or oxycodone mimic the chemical structure of these natural opioid neurotransmitters and bind to your receptors. This triggers the brain’s reward system and causes dopamine to be released.

Dopamine is responsible for emotion, motivation, body movement, and is a hedonistic hotspot, more often referred to as the “pleasure center”.

The Psychology

A person’s psyche is affected by many factors, the BRA being a major one in addiction. In addition to the BRA affects, we have deeper roots such as dependence and tolerance.


Your brain is absolutely incredible. It has a built-in reward system. The brain reward system, or BRA, is a group of neurons that control what you like and what you want.

Liking something and wanting something are two completely different stimuli.

When you like something, it’s called intrinsic. Intrinsic stimuli are things that you naturally like. For example, food.

Extrinsic, on the other hand, are learned motivated behaviors, or wanting. Money, for example, is just a piece of paper. But through learned association, money now triggers the BRA.

Opioid addiction is an extrinsic stimulus, meaning that a person doesn’t actually like doing drugs, but they have a begging want for them.

The want center, or incentive salience, is responsible for making abusers feel like they need their next fix.

Roots of Addiction

Many abusers don’t want to keep doing these drugs, but they might feel like that have to keep doing them just to feel normal. Things like tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal are big factors in a person’s detox.

Addiction may start out where the user enjoys the euphoric feeling that opioids provide, but it quickly morphs into dependence.

Remember how we said that your body makes a natural opioid neurotransmitter? When the body gets used to receiving the fool chemicals, it actually stops making the natural neurotransmitter. Because of this, users have to continue to take opioids just to feel normal.

The euphoric feeling that once was is now just a dose of “normal” to long-term abusers.

What Makes Opioids Deadly

Opioids kill a person by slowing down the breathing processes. Breathing delivers fresh oxygen and removes poisonous carbon dioxide. When this process becomes too shallow, cells throughout the body begin to die off.

Many of the opioid receptors are found in the brainstem. The medulla and pons are regions inside the brainstem that are responsible for involuntary breathing, they control that rate and depth of breathing. Because the opioids taken are not the exact natural neurotransmitter, the cells react in a different way than normal, causing malfunctions.

Fentanyl, for example, can cause the diaphragm and surrounding muscles to tense up and further restrict breathing. This condition is called wooden chest syndrome.

Other possible causes of death are caused by vomit aspiration or abnormal heart rhythm.

Signs and Symptoms of an Overdose

If you have a loved one that is facing an opioid addiction, there is a possibility that you may one day find them overdosing. While this is a tough truth to hear, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of an overdose so that you can call for the appropriate treatment.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Depressed breathing
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Slow movements

First responders carry a drug called naloxone, which is used in life-threatening overdose situations. Naloxone works by latching onto the opioid receptors and effectively blocking the damaging opioids from continuing to bind. Naloxone works within minutes and may reverse the effects of an overdose if taken in time.

Risk Factors For Addiction

Opioids post the biggest threat when you take them differently than your doctor prescribes. Your risk factor also increases based on the length of time the opioid is taken. The longer the opioid is taken, the higher dependence your body will have formed.

Other known risk factors for addiction include:

When Do Opioids Become a Problem?

Opioids become a problem when a person builds up what is called a tolerance. A tolerance is when the body needs more and more of a substance to create the same effect.

Because of tolerance and dependence, detoxing on your own can actually be a very dangerous process. The body has stopped creating its own opioid neurotransmitters, so when the body all of a sudden stops receiving these chemicals that it’s learned to rely on, it can go into a state of shock. Being in a state of shock can be deadly if not cared for appropriately.

For this reason, it’s important to detox in a certified rehab facility.

How to Detox Safely

Suboxone, for example, can be prescribed in these facilities to aid in successful detox. Suboxone contains two different opioid agonists: buprenorphine and naloxone. We mentioned earlier how naloxone can help, but what is buprenorphine?

buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning that it only partially blocks the opioid receptors, and partially activates them. This allows the user to be gradually weaned off of the drug, preventing the body from going into shock.

Why isn’t suboxone given out in drugstores?

Just like other opioids, suboxone can be abused. Rehab facilities that prescribe suboxone carefully monitor the recovering addicts and watch for warning signs of abuse.

If you know someone taking suboxone, you should learn the warning signs of misuse as well. The following are a few signs and symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings

Emotional Recovery

During and after a person successfully detoxes from opioids, there are many emotional phases they must go through. These phases are very similar to those a grieving person may go through.


The first emotional recovery phase a person may go through is depression. Depression may be felt during or even before opioid use.

This depression is not to be confused with sadness. Just like addiction, depression is a mind-altering disease.

Clinical depression affects the way a person’s brain chemistry works and directly affects the BRA. This depression may be temporary or, sadly, the person may never recover from it.

A treatment facility may prescribe medication to help curb the depression. Finding an anti-depressant medication is never easy, so you’ll want to leave it up to the professionals.


Anger is the second stage a person may experience. This stage tends to be felt during the beginning to the end of the detox process. The user may feel anger towards friends and family, especially if those loved ones suggested the rehabilitation.

This anger is never personal, as it is a side effect of the BRA. The user’s body is used to receiving a stimulus to the BRA, so when that stimulus stops, well, basically the body throws a chemically induced temper tantrum.

This stage is temporary, as the body is working out the kinks. Let some time go by and this stage will correct itself.


Guilt is often felt after the detoxification process is complete. The user begins to realize the many harmful things that they have said or done to their loved ones. Guilt can be more than overwhelming, so it’s important to be patient.

Therapists will usually suggest apologizing as the first step. The therapist will also inform the ex-addict that not every person will accept the apology.

In some cases, similar to depression, the feeling of guilt will never leave a person – no matter how many times they apologize. For this reason, many rehabilitation facilities will recommend further therapy after detox. This therapy may be a personal therapist or NA meetings.

NA, or narcotics anonymous, meetings are held by many ex-addicts, each of them sharing their stories and recovery tips. Some members of NA groups have been clean for many years, others only days.

Whichever type of therapy is chosen, it’s important to stick to it. Leaving a therapy prematurely can result in a relapse.

Getting Help for Addiction

Now you know the answer to “why are opioids so addictive?” If you or a loved one is experiencing opioid addiction, there is hope.

We have state-to-state centers that offer multiple levels of rehab care, including detoxification, inpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, and outpatient treatment.

Contact our addiction intervention specialists for help in overcoming the disease that addiction really is.

Our addiction specialists are available 24 hours a day to help you or your loved one take the first step into recovery before it’s too late.

Addicted to Painkillers

Addicted to Painkillers? Everything You Should Know About Opiate Addiction

Are you, or someone you know, addicted to opiates?

Opiate addiction is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in this country.

Right now, the leading cause of accidental death in the US is due to drug overdose. In 2015, there were 52,404 deaths due to a drug overdose. Of these deaths, 20,101 were due to opiates.

Today, over 115 die per day from abusing opioids.

How do we make this epidemic stop?

That’s a loaded question, and one with many possible solutions. One thing that will help is to educate yourself on this addiction.

Whether you yourself have an addiction to opiates, or you know a loved one who is going through an addiction to painkillers, read on to learn everything you need to know about opiate addiction.

1. What are Opiates?

In order to understand opiate addiction, we first need to understand what opiates are.

Opiates are actually some of the oldest known drugs in the world. In fact, their history spans several centuries as well as several continents. The first known recording of opiate use comes from 3400 BC, where in ancient Mesopotamia farmers cultivated opium for medicinal and recreational use.

Over the centuries, opiate spread to other countries, one of which was the US. In fact, for about 400 years in the US, scientist mixed opiates into pharmaceutical drugs.

Today, people seem to use the terms opiates and opioids interchangeably, however, there is a difference between the two.

Any drug that derives from the opium plant is considered an opiate. There are Schedule II and Schedule I opiates. The ones that people use in medical settings for pain relief are considered Schedule II.

Those considered “no acceptable safety use” are Schedule I. These will include things like morphine, codeine, and heroin.

Opioids, on the other hand, refer to synthetic or at least partially synthetic drugs that have a similar effect to opiates.

In fact, some treatment centers even use opioids in order to treat opiate addiction.

Some drugs that are opioids include Vicodin, Demerol, Percocet, and Oxycodone.

However, when speaking of addiction, people often use the words opiates and opioids interchangeably, so don’t let that confuse you.

2. How Does the Addiction Start?

Opiates, as you know, are painkillers.

When people go to the doctor and complain about their pain, about 20 percent fo the time, the doctor will prescribe them opiates.

The doctor will give the patient a specified dose, and almost always, the patient ha absolutely no intention of abusing the drug.

However, as time goes on, the person may find that the drug is no longer as effective as it was when they were first using it. This is because the person has developed a tolerance for the drug, which means they will keep needing more and more of it in order to feel its original effects.

What makes opiates so addictive is that they produce artificial endorphins in the brain.

These artificial endorphins can make a person feel really good. When someone is on opiates, they often feel a sense of euphoria. However, when the tolerance builds up, this sense of euphoria can start to wear off. Therefore, the person may want more in order to bring that original feeling back.

3. Types of Opiates

We’ve already gone over a few of the different types of opiates, but let’s dive in a little deeper so you can get a better understanding of each one.

Here are the most common opiates that people get addicted to:


Codeine, believe it or not, is actually an over the counter medication. And, one can also easily get their hands on it through a prescription.

It is one of the milder forms of opiates, however, it is still dangerous. Typically, you can find codeine in pain relievers for coughing.

This is an opiate that is most commonly abused by young adults, and it is often mixed with a sugary drink. Street names for this are “sizzurp” or “purple drank.”


This is a synthetic painkiller, with its potency being 100 times that of morphine.

Doctors prescribe Fentanyl only to those who are in severe amounts of pain.

Oftentimes, addicts will use Fentanyl in conjunction with other drugs, such as heroin. This can commonly lead to overdose and death.


Doctors prescribe demerol to treat pain that ranges from moderate to severe.

It has an extremely high potential for addiction, therefore, it is prescribed less frequently these days.


Due to the fact that it once caused thousands of deaths and hospitalizations, Darvon is now banned by the FDA. However, there is still a black market for this drug.


Doctors prescribe methadone to treat moderate to severe pain. And, interestingly enough, it is actually used to help treat other addictions.

However, it can still be dangerous itself.


Oxycodone is perhaps one of the most widely prescribed painkillers out there. Its potential for abuse is also extremely high.


Patients who are in severe amounts of pain often rely on morphine in order to subdue some of the pain and get by.

Unfortunately, this can and does often turn into an addiction. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of unintentional deaths related to drugs.


Hydrocodone is often one of the main ingredients in other powerful painkillers.

One well-known drug that it is found in is Vicodin. Pure hydrocodone is also available for prescription, which has an extremely high potential for addiction.

4. Signs of an Opiate Addiction

If you or someone you know has been taking any of these prescriptions to deal with pain, then you need to know if it is leading to an addiction.

There are common signs that occur when someone is abusing opiates. These include:

  • Numbness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Itching
  • Small pupils
  • Flushed skin
  • Rashes on skin
  • Constipation
  • Slurred speech

These are the common physical symptoms of opiate addiction. However, sometimes the most tell-tale signs are the mental and emotional symptoms. These include:

  • Confusion
  • Poor judgment
  • Anxiety
  • Indecisiveness
  • Memory issues
  • Concentration issues

These are usually the short-term signs you will see when someone has an addiction to opiates. However, there are also things that can happen long-term, some of which are irreparable.

These include:

  • Inflammation of the heart: An inflamed heart is an extremely serious issue. This can lead to increased risk of a stroke or a heart attack.
  • HIV/AIDS: While opiates cannot directly cause HIV or AIDS, those who take opiates are often more susceptible to contracting it. This is because once someone has an addiction to opiates, they will seek out different ways to ingest the substance, one of which is through needles. All it takes is one infected needle to contract the disease.
  • Mood Disorders: It is very common for long-term opiate addicts to develop mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety.
  • Hormonal Imbalances: Opiate can cause hormones to go completely out of whack. For example, someone may see a major decrease in sex drive over time.

And of course, the most dangerous long-term effect is the increased risk of overdose.

Let’s look in the next section at the risk factors that make someone more susceptible to a long-term addiction or an overdose.

5. Risk Factors For Addiction

When people use opiates as a short-term solution to treat pain, that is, for no more than a few days, they can actually be quite effective and helpful for a person dealing with pain.

However, the risk factors for addiction can quickly cause the tides to turn.

Risk factors for addiction increase when someone starts taking them in a different manner from what they get prescribed.

For example, someone may crush them up and snort them or they may start injecting them through needles. The effect of ingesting them in these manners will produce a much stronger effect, which will leave the person wanting more and more.

Also, as we just said, opiates can be extremely helpful when used only for a few days. It is only after five days- that’s right, five short days- that the chance of someone being on opiates a year from now increase dramatically.

There are also psychological, genetic, and environmental factors which put people at a greater risk for developing an addiction. These include:

  • A family history of addiction
  • Unemployment
  • Poverty
  • Young age
  • History of criminal activity
  • History of other substance abuse
  • Being in stressful circumstances
  • Heavy use of tobacco products
  • History of anxiety or depression
  • Major problems with friends, family members, or employers

In addition to these risk factors, it is important to note that women are especially susceptible to opiate addiction. 

This is because women are more likely to deal with chronic pain then men are. Therefore, they are also more likely to receive a prescription for opiates. And, interestingly, doctors are more likely to prescribe them higher doses of opiates overtime.

There is also some scientific evidence out there that supports the fact that women, just biologically, are much more likely to become dependent on prescription painkillers.

6. Withdrawal

Withdrawal is another major sign that someone has an addiction to opiates. And, because withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, it is also one of the leading reasons people have trouble quitting.

The good news about opiate withdrawal, however, is that it is not life-threatening if one is only withdrawing from opiates. (If one is withdrawing from other drugs as well, then it may be life-threatening).

Some common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • A runny nose
  • Teary eyes
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Cramping in the abdominals
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hot and cold sweats
  • Low energy
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

Usually, the symptoms of opiate addiction last anywhere from a week to a month.

The first phase of withdrawal will take place around 12 hours after your last use. The withdrawal symptoms will be at their peak on days 3-5, and then the following days and weeks symptoms will persist but improve.

7. Preventing Opiate Addiction

So, what can you do to prevent opiate addiction from happening in the first place?

As we said earlier, most people who become addicted to opiates have no intention of abusing them. They simply want something that will alleviate their pain.

Normally, a doctor will prescribe a patient opiates as a short-term solution for pain relief. When the effects start to wear off or the prescription expires, the person will often go back to the doctor and ask for more.

Doctors now know the dangers of long-term opiate use, so more often then not, they won’t prescribe another dose. This will lead people to turn to illegal means of obtaining the substances.

So, how do we break this cycle?

If you or someone you know is dealing with chronic pain, it’s important to know that there are many other treatments available for pain relief. Therefore, it’s important to talk to your doctor about switching to pain medications that are less addictive.

And, if you are someone who possesses high-risk factors for developing an addiction, it may be best to avoid opiates altogether. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and discuss with them alternative methods for dealing with your pain.

8. Seeking Help

If you spot the signs of dependency in you or a loved one, it’s important to know that effective treatment for opiate addiction exists.

The first step is to stop taking the drug and start the withdrawal process.

If, however, you feel like this is something you’ll need help with, you should seek out treatment. This may come in the form of inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab, or counseling.

Addicted to Painkillers?: What to Do Next

This article should have given you a good idea of what opiate addiction is all about.

The most important takeaway from this article should be that anyone can become addicted to opiates. While there are risk factors that make someone more susceptible, people from all walks of life have become addicted to the drug.

The other very important thing to remember is that treatment exists for those who have an addiction to painkillers.

To learn more about the different treatment options available, contact us today.

pain pill addiction

What to Expect If You’re Experiencing Pain Pill Addiction

Did you know that more than 2 million Americans have either become dependent on or have become addicted to pain pills?

While pain pills help individuals manage legitimate cases of intolerable pain, they also fuel a dangerous addiction that has swept across the country.

Pain pill addiction is a very serious disease, and it is even more serious if you don’t realize that you have an addiction.

If you think you or someone you know is experiencing a pain pill addiction, please know that you are not alone. We are here to walk you through everything you need to know about pain pill addiction and what you can do to treat the addiction.

What is Pain Pill Addiction?

Pain pills are extremely beneficial to managing pain when prescribed by a doctor for a short amount of time. However, pain pills are highly addictive because they create a rush of euphoria by binding to the area of the brain that controls pain and emotions and then releasing a rush of dopamine, which is the feel-good hormone in the body. This euphoric high sensation is what can easily result in the misuse of painkillers.

But, believe it or not, there is a difference between being dependent on pain pills and being addicted to pain pills. If your body is dependent on pain pills, that means that you have built up a tolerance to your medication, which requires a higher dosage to help your body receive the same medical effect.

When you are addicted to pain pills, it is more than just building a physical tolerance to a drug. An addiction encompasses both physical and emotional addictions. This means that the pain pills are affecting who you are and they are beginning to take over your life.

An addiction to pain pills also means that the medication is starting to cause uncontrolled behaviors and problems in your daily life such as at work, at school or at home. Continuing to take pain pills despite these issues is where you start to cross the line into an addiction.

Symptoms of Pain Pill Addiction

Symptoms of a pain pill addiction include physical symptoms, behavioral, symptoms and psychological symptoms. If you have gone too far and are experiencing a pain pill addiction, you can expect the following symptoms.

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Sedation
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Itchy, flushed skin
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Death

People experience pain pill addiction symptoms based on their genetic makeup, how long they have been addicted to pain pills and the severity of their addiction.

Warning Signs That You are Developing a Pain Pill Addiction

Pain pill addiction does not come out of left field. If you pay attention, you can catch these addiction signs before it is too late. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following warning signs, it is crucial that you see a doctor or rehab center to control your addiction before it is too late.

1. You’re Becoming Dependent on Pain Pills

While becoming dependent on pain pills doesn’t necessarily mean that you are addicted to pain pills, it is something that you should be conscious of. Becoming dependent on pain pills shows that you have been taking a lot of the medication and that your body is starting to need more and more to develop the same effect.

Once you cross that line and start taking more pain pills, you are becoming susceptible to a painkiller addiction and putting your body in a vulnerable situation. If you realize that you are becoming dependent on your pain pill prescription, take a step back and tell your doctor about your concerns. It might be time to focus on weaning yourself off of the drug or simply taking a break to focus on your health.

2. You Start to Take a Different Amount Than What Your Doctor Prescribed

Maybe you think that your doctor simply doesn’t understand your level of pain, and you think it is in your best interest to take more than what they prescribed you. Your doctor prescribed a specific amount of medication for a very specific reason, and that is to ensure that it relieves pain while preventing you from overwhelming your body and becoming addicted.

If you start to take a smaller dose so you can take more later on or stretch out the time between your dosage so you can take another pill before bed, you are taking your first steps toward an addiction. By trying to control your medications, it is showing that you are, in fact, not in control of yourself anymore. Your doctor knows best, and it is important to take your prescription exactly as it says.

3. You Find Yourself Thinking About Your Medication a Lot

If you find that you are often thinking about your pain pills throughout your day, you could be in danger of a painkiller addiction. You don’t have to necessarily be thinking about how bad you need your pain pills. Instead, this sign includes wondering about when you get to take your pain pills next, wondering if your dosage needs to be increased or constantly worrying about running out of your pain pills.

If you are counting down the seconds until you get to take your pain pills next, this can also be a sign that you are becoming addicted to your pain medication.

4. You Notice Changes in Your Behavior

Like we mentioned earlier, pain pills affect the reward area of your brain and cause a euphoric high. It is a bad sign if you notice that you are experiencing mood swings or even find yourself taking the drug specifically to put yourself in a better mood. It is also a bad sign if you notice you are in an unpleasant mood when you are not taking the drug as opposed to feeling like your normal self.

This is something that is often spotted by the other people around you because they are the ones who are seeing the changes from an outside perspective. If someone mentions to you that you might be having mood swings or they are noticing changes in your behavior, chances are they are just trying to help you.

5. You Notice Changes in Your Character

It is one thing for your mood to change frequently and for you to feel a euphoric rush when you take your pain pills and a sense of depression when you don’t take your pain pills. However, it is a whole new world when you start to notice changes in your character.

Do you find yourself asking other people to borrow money to pay for your habit? Have you started stealing from work because you don’t have enough money for your next refill? Do you find yourself stealing drugs from others or even just thinking about it? These are all huge red flags that need to be addressed and fixed.

6. You’re Defensive If Someone Talks to You About Your Pain Pills

If someone asks you about your prescription or your mood changes, you become angry and/or defensive. It is likely that if you are already experiencing mood swings because of your pain pills, but becoming angry or irrational when someone confronts you about your drugs is another red flag. If you perceive your drugs as a sensitive topic, maybe it is time that you seek help.

7. You Visit More Than One Doctor for Pain Pills

Do you find yourself “doctor shopping” or visiting more than one doctor just to get another prescription when your original doctor cut you off? Do you find yourself searching for doctors who are known to prescribe more pain pills than they should, otherwise known as “pill mills”?

If you are going out of your way to obtain more pain pills through a second doctor, it is not just a concern but also a risk. Remember earlier when we said that doctors prescribe medications specifically to reflect your pain level and vulnerability to become addicted? If you are taking a prescription from two different doctors at a time, they are unable to track your drug intake.

8. You Start Getting Pain Pills from Other Sources

You’ve tried everything to get more pain pills, even going to other doctors, but you just can’t get your hands on any more pills. This is when people start trying everything they can think of to get their fix.

Do you ask your friends for their pain pills? Maybe you are searching to buy them over the internet? Did you steal a doctor’s prescription pad to illegally write your own prescriptions? Do you steal pills out of other’s medicine cabinets or from a sick relative? Do you intentionally hurt yourself so you have to go to the hospital for another prescription?

9. Pain Pills are the Most Important Things in Your Life

Because pain pills are so highly addictive, it can be easy to forget your main responsibilities in life such as work, school, family, friends and your pets.

Do you find that your hobbies don’t necessarily matter to you anymore because you are so engulfed in your pain pills? Is your spouse complaining that you aren’t always attentive? Is your boss noticing that you aren’t giving your best work? If you find yourself focusing on pain pills as opposed to your responsibilities, you can be headed down a dark path.

What to Expect From a Pain Pill Addiction

These are all very serious signs of addiction, and if you find yourself or anyone you know going this far out of their way to receive pain pills, it is time to take the next step toward treating an addiction.

It is important to realize the long-term effects of a pain pill addiction. The following symptoms can take place if you do not receive help for your addiction:

  • Liver/kidney failure or disease
  • Weakened immunity
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Drastic behavior changes
  • Frequent anger or rage
  • Paranoia
  • Low self-esteem
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Damaged relationships
  • Death via overdose or toxicity

Once you realize that you have an addiction, you can take your first steps toward an effective recovery. The withdrawal process for a pain pill addiction is quite intense if you just quit taking your pain pills. This is also known as going “cold turkey”.

The withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Hot and cold sweats
  • Low energy
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation

However, it is recommended that you participate in a drug detox treatment under your doctor’s supervision because there is a risk of death during detox due to the number of toxins in your body.

One way to do this is by participating in replacement therapy. This involves replacing your pain pills with Methadone or Suboxone under a doctor’s care. These drugs do not provide a euphoric high, so they are essentially teaching your body to live without the high while preventing the withdrawal symptoms that can persist if you go cold turkey.

However, replacement therapy is often perceived as contradicting because you are addressing your drug addiction with other drugs. Some people even stay on the replacement drugs for years.

Other forms of drug treatment can include:

  • Outpatient rehab
  • Inpatient rehab
  • Counseling
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Physical fitness
  • Alternative therapy (yoga and meditation)

The key is to find what works for you.

Treating a Pain Pill Addiction

Pain pill addiction is a very serious disease, and choosing the correct treatment plan is imperative in helping you achieve a sober lifestyle. Recovering from a pain pill addiction may sound intimidating, but it is important to realize that you are taking steps to develop a sober mind. It is also important to remember that you are not alone.

Here at Addiction Treatment Services, we want to help you better understand your dilemma and provide you with expert direction in your search for the most effective rehab center to fit your specific needs.

Don’t wait for you or your loved one’s pain pill addiction to get worse. Please feel free to reach out to us today if you have any questions about treatment, addiction or scheduling an intervention.

addiction to pain pills

When You’ve Crossed the Line: Painkiller Addiction and Its Warning Signs

54 million people say that they’ve taken prescription medication for recreational use when it was not prescribed to them by a medical professional.

If you’re currently taking medications for non-medical reasons, then you need to know that it’s an incredibly slippery slope from “occasional” recreational use to a full-blown addiction.

With the Opioid Crisis dominating headlines in the United States and abroad, the fact of the matter is that addiction to pain pills is more common than ever before. Chances are that someone you know, or perhaps even you, may have already developed a pain pill addiction.

But what are the most common painkiller addiction signs? When should you consider staging an intervention for a friend, or even seeking professional addiction treatment yourself?

Keep on reading this post to find out.

In it, we’ll cover some of the most prominent symptoms of pain pill addiction.

The Basics of an Addiction to Pain Pills

Before we begin to discuss the most common pain pill addiction symptoms, let’s talk about how this addiction begins in the first place.

As of now, an addiction to opioids is the number-one cause of accidental death in the United States. So what exactly makes these medications so addictive, and how do things spiral out of control so quickly?

Opioids are designed to trigger a huge release of endorphins in your body. These are the neurotransmitters that are akin to a runner’s high, or even an overwhelming sense of euphoria.

Endorphins actually work to deaden your body’s response to pain, sending your sense of pleasure into serious overdrive. You might feel magically healed from chronic pain, or even like you can “conquer the world.”

But, what about when the high of opioids starts to end?

You’ll notice that your craving to feel that high again is incredibly intense, sometimes feeling almost compulsive.

This is when the real science of addiction comes into play. Many people aren’t aware that, over time, taking opioids actually causes your body’s natural production of endorphins to slow to a crawl.

So, this means that, in addition to coming to depend on painkillers to perform a function you used to be able to on your own, you’ll also need to take a much higher dosage than you once did. In other words, your tolerance for opioids goes through the roof.

Before you know it, you’re doing pretty much anything you can do get your hands on prescription painkillers, and you’ve started to lose any sense of control over your actions.

Who Is at Risk for Pain Pill Addiction?

The fact of the matter is that an addiction to pain pills can happen to anyone at any time.

Especially as a whopping 2.1 million people are currently addicted to opiates, the truth is that some of the more “standard” rules and even stereotypes about addiction don’t apply here.

That said, there are a few factors that put some people at a higher risk for developing an addiction to pain pills than others.

This can include a family history of drug or alcohol abuse, as many medical professionals now believe that there is a genetic element of addiction. Those with moderate to severe psychological issues are also at a somewhat higher risk of developing an addiction.

In some cases, current stressors, like a loss of a job or a change in your family situation (such as death or divorce) can lead to an addiction.

It’s also true that the environment and people you choose to surround yourself with can often put you at a higher risk for pain pill addiction.

Interestingly, there’s a bit of a gendered element to addiction.

Studies have shown that women are prescribed prescription pain medication more frequently than men are. They’re also much more likely to be given higher dosages than men. Additionally, women stay on prescription pain medication for a much longer duration than men do.

Now that you know the nature of addiction, and even a few things that can influence your risk level, let’s take a closer look at some common pain pill addiction symptoms.

The Top Pill Addiction Signs to Watch out For

You’ve noticed that someone you care about just hasn’t been acting like themselves lately, and you’re concerned that they might have a pain pill addiction.

Perhaps you’ve even realized that you just don’t feel like the person you used to be — and you’re wondering if your opioid use is to blame.

The truth is that some people are much more skilled at hiding the painkiller addiction symptoms than others are. Some of the symptoms on this list may be obvious, while others will require a keener eye to detect.

Still, it helps to know some of the things you need to watch out for.

1. You’re Your Own Doctor

Let’s start with one of the most obvious signs of an addiction to pain pills.

If you’ve started to procure your pills from anyone other than a medical professional, you need to come to terms with the fact that you’ve likely lost control over things.

Perhaps you buy your drugs out on the street or ask friends and family members if they have any extra medication that you can use.

In some cases, you may even have started engaging in “doctor shopping.” This is the process of seeing several different doctors at once so that you can get access to lots of the medication.

Perhaps you’re being prescribed these pain pills, but you’re playing fast and loose with how often you take them and your dosages. Maybe you’ve found a way to stay on your painkiller medications for much longer than your doctor initially recommended.

The moment you realize that you’ve become your own doctor and that you’re doing whatever it takes to get your pills, it’s time to think seriously about addiction.

2. Your Physical Appearance Has Changed

Another one of the most common symptoms of pain pill addiction?

A serious change to your physical appearance, or even feeling physically ill almost all of the time when you’re not on your pain pills.

You may notice that you’ve lost some weight, that you’re coughing all of the time, and even that you constantly have a runny nose. You have dark circles and a constantly dazed look on your face because you’re not getting nearly enough sleep.

In some cases, you even feel sick and over-stimulated when you’re exposed to bright lights or loud sounds. You sweat constantly, even when your body is at rest.

You’ve also started to stumble around much more than you have in the past. Your hand-eye coordination is practically non-existent.

You find that you’re always itchy, and even that you have difficulty or pain when using the bathroom.

Your pupils are seriously dilated, and your eyes are constantly red.

In fact, people in your life have started to comment on and ask questions about the change in your appearance. You’ve tried to deny it, but the fact of the matter is that you’ve started to wonder if these changes are happening because of your pain pills.

3. Your Mood and Personality Have Changed

Sometimes, you want to go out with your friends and party all night long, and you relish in being the center of attention.

Other times, you just seem to want to sit in your room and isolate yourself. You don’t much enjoy going out with your old friends anyway, because they always ask you prying questions about your pain pill use and accuse you of getting defensive.

However, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ve noticed that you have been feeling a bit more depressed lately. Your anxiety levels are higher than ever, too. You just don’t like yourself as much as you used to, and you even feel guilty or ashamed of your pain pill use.

You know that it’s something you have to have.

You’re quick to anger, and when you get angry, things become intense very quickly. You’ve yelled at and fought with people you care the most about — and afterward, you feel even worse (until you pop another pill, that is.)

You’re experiencing intense mood swings that are causing people not to want to be around you.

These are all some of the signs of an addiction to painkillers.

4. You Struggle Cognitively

You had laser focus in the past, but ever since you started using pain pills, you realize that things have changed.

You just can’t seem to get focused, and once you finally do, you’re never able to stay focused for long. You jump from one project to the next, and it feels like you never actually get anything done.

Your boss and coworkers have noticed an overall decline in your work performance. In fact, you’ve received one — or more than one — formal warning about your job performance.

You used to love and excel at your job, but now, you wonder if it’s even worth it to go into work every day.

You’ve also realized that your speech has started to slur, or that it sometimes feels like you just can’t get the right words out.

And when it comes to your judgment?

It seems like you’ve been making nothing but bad decisions recently. You’re impulsive, and you often regret the reckless behavior you engaged in while you were high.

Sometimes, you wake up feeling confused or disoriented, with little to no idea where you are or what happened last night. You black out frequently, and can’t ever seem to fill in the gaps in your memory.

5. Your Finances Are a Mess

Another common sign that your use of prescription pain pills has seriously spiraled out of control?

Your addiction is starting to show when it comes to your finances.

The second that you have money, you rush out to spend it securing more pills. You’re ashamed to admit it, but you’ve stolen cash from friends and family in order to fund your addiction.

You’ve even sold items that were precious to you in the past because you need your pills that much.

You aren’t sure how you’re going to afford making your credit card payments or your rent, but the fact is that none of that matters as much to you as paying for your next few pills.

Your family has started to notice that you’ve been stealing from them or has commented on your recklessness with money. Now, they’re even refusing to spend time with you at all, let alone lend you a bit of extra cash when you need it.

6. You’ve Overdosed Before

Finally, it’s safe to say that if you’ve ever overdosed on your pain pills, you likely have an addiction.

No matter what you try to tell yourself, an overdose is not normal. Especially if you’ve had more than one overdose, you need to seek professional treatment as soon as is possible.

Are You Ready to End an Addiction to Pain Pills?

It can be difficult to admit that you recognize a few of the signs of an addiction to pain pills that we’ve covered in this post, whether in yourself or someone you love.

However, when you’re ready to admit that you need help, you’ll be surprised by how much your life can improve. Even if it feels impossible now, you can get your life back.

You just need professional help and the right treatment center to do it.

That’s where we come in.

Spend some time on our website to learn more about how you can get help today.