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.
- Slowed breathing rate
- Slurred speech
- Itchy, flushed skin
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Mood swings
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
- 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
- Muscle aches
- Hot and cold sweats
- Low energy
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
- 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.