How to Tell if Someone is Addicted to Painkillers

Studies show that nearly 40 million American adults experience acute levels of pain. That accounts for more than 17% of the country’s total population.

Are you included in that number? What about someone you love?

If so, you might know that while prescription pain medication can provide much-needed relief in many cases, many kinds can also be highly addictive. This is the case whether you’re using them to treat an actual pain disease or are looking to experience the feelings of numbness and euphoria they provide.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reveals that around 54 million Americans have used narcotic painkillers for nonmedical reasons at least one time in their lives. In many cases, it only takes one time of using to catalyze dependency, leading down a dangerous and deadly road.

Sometimes, painkiller addiction symptoms are easy to detect. In other cases, they’re not as obvious. Today, we’re breaking down a few ways you can tell if you or someone you know needs to seek treatment for a painkiller addiction. Knowing the signs is the first step. Learning how to respond to them is the next.

Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!

How Do Prescription Painkillers Work?

To understand why they’re so addictive, it’s helpful to learn a little about how prescription painkillers work in your body. Traditionally, when we perceive that we’re in pain, it’s because our nervous system is sending signals to our brain that we are hurt.

When someone uses painkillers, the medication blocks their nervous system from sending those signals. Instead, the drugs stimulate the portion of the brain associated with feeling pleasure. As such, not only do users feel immediate relief from physical aches and pains, but they’re often sent into a state of euphoria, as well.

In their most powerful form, prescription painkillers are called opioids. As the name implies, this class of drugs is made from compounds designed to act like opium.

Some of the most common kinds of opioid painkillers are oxycodone, morphine, methadone, hydrocodone, and meperidine. These painkillers can be sold under a range of trade names. They are also available in a myriad of forms, from tablets to pills to syrups.

When one becomes overly dependent on these painkillers, an addiction can form. The symptoms can range from minor to fatal and the scale can escalate quickly. Fortunately, there is a range of treatment options, from detoxification to inpatient rehab to help addicts get back on track.

What Are Some Painkiller Addiction Symptoms?

Remember that sense of euphoria that painkillers create? This feeling can be addictive, especially for people who are chasing relief from either physical or emotional stress.

If you’re unsure whether or not you’ve stepped over the line and have entered into painkiller addiction territory, you may not know where to turn. Or, maybe you’re starting to see a change in someone you love and are wondering if he or she might be misusing a painkiller prescription.

Either way, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look at a few common signs that someone is fighting an addiction to pain pills.

1. Constantly Discussing Medication

It’s one thing to be concerned about taking your painkiller medication on a routine basis. Many prescriptions require that you take the pill at the same time each day to achieve the maximum effect.

Yet, do you notice that your loved one seems especially preoccupied with his or her medication? Do conversations center around how much medication they have and when their next dose should occur? Maybe you’ve found yourself obsessing over these details.

If so, this could be a sign of a painkiller addiction. Remembering to take pain-regulating medication should be only a small part of your day. The idea shouldn’t consume you, and if it does, it’s time to seek help.

2. Social Disengagement

One of the tell-tale signs that someone is addicted to painkillers is that they slowly lose interest in the things that used to be major parts of their life. Has your loved one stopped hanging in the usual social circles? Have work and social commitments fallen by the wayside?

Think of the hobbies they used to enjoy and the topics they used to talk about for hours on end. Do those same things bring them alive today, or are they going through the motions, never fully present in any conversation?

If the latter is true, it might be time to schedule an intervention. Disengagement is one of the first signs of an opioid addiction.

3. Less Alert Than Usual

It’s a scientific fact that we cannot function when don’t get enough sleep. As such, waking up tired in the morning can translate to getting a slow start to the day, having a sluggish time at work, and experiencing exhaustion by dinnertime.

Imagine feeling that way most of the time. Those who cannot stop taking prescription painkillers know that state of mind all too well. Why? One of the top painkiller addiction signs is drowsiness.

Yet, this kind of drowsiness isn’t the type you can cure by sleeping in the next day. Rather, it leads to a slew of cognitive and physical disadvantages that can leave you feeling like you’re permanently in a cloud.

One of the offshoots of this tiredness is memory loss. Does your loved one have a hard time remembering where they put their keys? Is he or she failing to show up on time for appointments or get-togethers? This might be a sign of forgetfulness associated with painkiller-induced drowsiness.

Moreover, the addict might also exhibit signs of concentration loss. If your loved one has a difficult time maintaining eye contact while you’re conversing or appears to be thinking about something else the entire time, it could be that their sense of focus is off.

4. Slowed Reflexes

Most non-addicts can whip their heads around quickly when they hear their name called from across the room. They can leap to their feet when it’s time to go somewhere. They know how to respond when there’s danger around.

However, addicts may experience slowed reflexes, meaning that it takes them longer than usual to react in certain situations.

There’s a reason prescription painkillers come with a warning that those taking them should not drive a car or operate any form of heavy machinery. When we’re slow to gauge how we should act, move, or think, it can put us in great danger.

5. Cutting Back on Personal Hygiene

Have you noticed that your loved one has let his beard go? Has she failed to comb or wash her hair in weeks? Have you been picking up on excessive body odor when you’re together? Though these aren’t always pain pill addiction symptoms, addicts often throw personal hygiene by the wayside in their attempt to search down more medication.

In short, they’re consumed by getting as much of the drug as possible, and anything that doesn’t actively support that goal comes in second. As people sink further into addiction cycles, keeping up with showering, shaving, and cleansing is often too much to handle, so those tasks are shelved for the short-term.

6. Failed Attempts to Quit

When our predetermined medication schedule is up, it’s time to throw the pill bottle away, with no refills unless deemed necessary by a medical professional. Yet, addicts can’t complete this step. They may try multiple times to quit, only to find they’re unable to follow through with even their best intentions.

If you or your loved one cannot cut down on the use of these medications, this could signal an addiction. This is also true if you’re constantly trying to score more of the medication from others, or going around your doctor’s orders. If you’ve ever tried to taper off the medication in the past only to find you’re back to your old ways by the end of the week, you could be setting yourself up for a long road toward recovery.

7. Doctor Shopping

Have you heard your loved one complain that one doctor isn’t giving them the treatment they’re looking for? Have you watched as they’ve hopped from one medical office to the next, looking for someone who will give them a higher dosage or more of the painkiller than they actually require?

If so, this practice is known as doctor shopping. In short, if a doctor won’t prescribe you any more medication out of concern, those who are doctor shopping will search until they find another one who will give you the prescription. This does more than damage your body. It could hurt your pocketbook, as well.

In some instances, there are doctors who overprescribe their pills to turn a profit. Known as “pill mills,” these professionals will often price-gauge customers, especially addicts, knowing they’ll pay any price it takes to get their hands on the drugs they need.

8. Defensiveness

No one loves talking about their addiction, especially if the person initiating the conversation is someone they love and trust. Thus, don’t be surprised if you’re met with intense denials and defensiveness the first time you bring up the issue.

Before you do so, however, listen to how defensive the person already is. Are any inquiries about pain medication quickly shot down? If you’re met with immediate pushback or irritation when you so much as gently ask how they’re feeling, consider this jumpiness and anxiety as one of the painkiller addiction signs.

It might take a little time to coax the addict into talking about the issue, but you shouldn’t have to be worried about having your head bitten off at the first mention of a problem.

9. Deception to Obtain

Even the most wholesome person could stoop to stealing if an opioid addiction becomes strong enough. When doctor shopping runs its course, an addict often has no other choice but to seek access to the drug by other means.

This might mean stealing or using someone else’s prescription medication in its place. In some cases, it might also mean switching from traditional painkillers to harder drugs, including heroin. If you find that the person is acting jumpy, anxious or otherwise uncomfortable in public, it might be that this ongoing path of dishonesty is taking its toll.

10. Taking a Higher Dosage

The more we take a medication, the more our bodies get used to it. As such, we’re forced to take more to continue feeling the same way we did at first.

If you’re reaching for a higher dose of painkiller medication every time you can, you’ve likely reached a point where your original prescription isn’t working anymore. Your body has grown accustomed to having those chemicals and has adapted accordingly. That’s why it might take four pills when it once took two to curb the pain.

Though it’s natural to develop an intolerance to certain medications, if your loved one is constantly upping their prescription, it’s time to give it a second look.

Kicking Your Painkiller Addiction Today

Though it may start out innocently enough, misusing prescription painkillers can wreak havoc on your physical capabilities, mental wellbeing, and financial security.

If you’re struggling with these painkiller addiction symptoms or know someone who is, you know that this can be a confusing and overwhelming time. It’s difficult to discern who to trust and where to turn in these situations.

That’s where we come in.

Our team of experts will listen to your concerns and help you develop a proactive plan of treatment. Then, we’ll put you in touch with treatment and intervention service providers that can give you the help you need. The best part? We’ll work with you every step of the way to make sure we match you with providers that are within your insurance coverage.

Overcoming painkiller addiction can be a long road. Yet, it’s one that no one has to walk alone. Contact us today and let’s take the first step toward recovery together.