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.

prescription drug abuse

Direct from the Doctor: 5 Types of Prescription Drugs Commonly Abused

More than 21.5 million people suffer from some sort of substance abuse disorder. And while most of us might immediately think of “drug addiction” as being synonymous with addiction to alcohol or illicit substances like heroin or cocaine, the fact is that millions of people abuse drugs that are legal with a doctor’s prescription.

People can begin using these drugs innocently and for their intended purpose: painkillers after having surgery, anti-anxiety medications for a panic disorder, a stimulant to help with studying, etc. However, these medications with practical purposes can easily be misused and abused to get high.

These can even lead people to use illegal drugs: one study found that 86% of intravenous drug users surveyed had used prescription pain relievers before resorting to heroin use.

But, not all prescription drugs lead to addiction. Which types of prescription drugs, then, are most commonly abused? Which prescriptions should you be wary of if you or a loved one has a history of substance abuse?

Keep reading to learn about five of the most common prescription medications that are misused and abused.

1. Opioid Pain Relievers

Opioid pain relievers are number one on this list for a reason. The opioid addiction epidemic in the United States has reached an all-time high: 115 people die from opioid overdoses every single day.

While these overdoses aren’t necessarily from prescription opiates, many could be. As we said earlier, a majority of intravenous drug users who abuse opioids like heroin began their opioid use with a prescription for opioid pain relievers.

“Opioid pain relievers” refer to a few different types of medications. The most common include:

  • Oxycontin
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin
  • Dilaudid
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Demerol

These are all legally obtainable with a doctor’s prescription.

Common Uses for Opioids

These types of opioids are a type of narcotic pain reliever. They’re often prescribed to patients in intense pain like those who have just had surgery or who suffer from chronic pain conditions.

How Opioids Work

As we just explained, opioids are a type of narcotic. They work by attaching to pain receptors in the brain. This induces your body to send out pain-relieving chemicals, slow down your breathing, and release chemicals that make you feel relaxed and calm.

Specifically, they induce the release of massive amounts of dopamine and other endorphins, which are known as “pleasure” or “feel good” chemicals. They’re naturally released when we do things that feel good: eat cake, complete a hard task, kiss our significant other, etc.

Opioids trigger the unnatural release of dopamine and other endorphins, which makes us feel good while also dulling pain and helping us relax.

Opioid Abuse

There are a few reasons why opioids often lead to addiction, abuse, and misuse.

First of all, opioids make you feel good. If you’re in immense amounts of pain, they can dull that pain and make you feel better. This can lead to overuse and misuse in order to dull any type of pain at any time.

Chronic pain and intense pain are also huge motivators. Imagine being in horrible pain 24/7 and only getting relief from these drugs. Is it a shock that people like that become addicted in order to finally get some relief?

Opioids also trigger the release of dopamine and endorphins that, as we went over earlier, make you feel good. People come to like the “dopamine high” they get when they take opioid pain medications, which can lead to addiction.

Another issue with opioid pain relievers is that over time, you’ll notice a couple long-term effects that can help lead to addiction and overuse:

  1. Increased tolerance
  2. Decreased natural endorphin production

As you take opioids, you will build up a tolerance to them. This means that you will need to take higher and higher doses of the medication in order to feel the effects.

This can lead to overuse of the medication, as well as resorting to crushing, snorting, or injecting it against the directions of the prescription.

This effect is compounded with the fact that as you take opioids, your natural endorphin production and release will decline. This means you’ll feel sad, depressed, and feel more intense pain more easily since your body won’t be producing the chemicals that make you feel good naturally.

This will push users to use more of the opioids in order to get that “high” or even to feel normal.

Opioid Withdrawal

Feeling high, dulling pain, an increased tolerance, and the highly addictive nature of opioid pain medications are some of the main reasons for opioid addiction. However, the intensity of the withdrawal can also be a factor that prevents people from getting clean and stopping opioid abuse.

You’ll experience withdrawal symptoms even after minimal use of opioids. The more frequent or large the doses you take, the more intense the withdrawal will be. If not done properly, opioid withdrawal can be painful, dangerous, and lethal.

2. Xanax

Xanax is a type of medication classified as “benzodiazepines” or “benzos.” Other commonly abused benzodiazepines include:

  • Ativan
  • Valium
  • Klonopin

These are all commonly abused types of prescription drugs, but Xanax is the most common and the most well-known of these medications.

Common Uses for Xanax

Xanax is an oral medication used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, panic disorders, and anxiety disorders. While it is effective in treating anxiety symptoms and these disorders, it’s a highly addictive medication that is usually prescribed for only short periods of time.

How Xanax Works

Xanax and other benzos work by interacting with a neurotransmitter in our brains called “GABA.” GABA is naturally produced by our brain and is responsible for helping us feel calm and relaxed.

However, those with anxiety disorders or panic disorders often have issues regulating GABA, which results in heightened anxiety and issues with calming down during anxiety or panic attacks.

That’s where Xanax and other benzos come in. When you take Xanax, the drug will bind to receptors in the brain that will stimulate an increased release of GABA. This will produce the following effects:

  • Reduction in anxious thoughts/panic attacks
  • Feelings of calmness and relaxation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Slowed brain/nervous system

While these effects can be helpful for those suffering from anxiety disorders, it can also be easily abused and become dangerous if not used as directed.

Xanax Abuse

We mentioned earlier that Xanax and other benzos are usually prescribed as a short-term solution. That’s because this medication is extremely addictive, meaning users quickly develop a dependency.

So while many are directed to take low doses for a short amount of time, the relaxing effects and the benefits of the drug often lead to them taking higher doses for longer periods of time against prescription directions (or without a prescription altogether).

This can be dangerous: it can lead to a benzodiazepine addiction and even an overdose. Benzos cause your brain and nervous system to slow down. If you overdose, you could stop breathing or experience organ failure.

Many also abuse Xanax recreationally without ever getting a prescription to feel the calming and relaxing effects similar to drinking alcohol.

Xanax Withdrawal

Like opioid medications, benzodiazepine withdrawal can be intense, which is why many find detoxing and getting clean to be so difficult.

You can experience:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Seizures
  • Delerium
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

 In fact, benzodiazepine withdrawal is more dangerous than opioid withdrawal.

3. Adderall

Adderall is a type of stimulant. Stimulants encompass a wide range of drugs including caffeine and cocaine. However, Adderall is a commonly prescribed stimulant that is, unfortunately, commonly misused.

Common Uses for Adderall

Adderall is a prescription medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It can also be used to treat narcolepsy.

How Adderall Works

As aforementioned, Adderall is a type of stimulant. It works to stimulate the brain, specifically by increasing the amount of two neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and dopamine, in the brain. This leads to the following effects:

  • Increased attention span
  • Alertness
  • Improved focus
  • Improved control of behavioral issues

It can also have certain side effects. These include:

  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Feeling “awake” and lively
  • Inability to sleep/become tired

This medication is an excellent treatment method for ADHD and narcolepsy, but it can be misused by those with and without a prescription.

Adderall Abuse

Perhaps the most common misuse and abuse of this drug is in high schools and on college campuses. Students will take Adderall without a prescription in order to enhance their ability to study for longer periods of time and focus on schoolwork with a higher intensity than they normally would.

Others use Adderall as a party drug: a stimulant that can keep them up all night, give them a “hyper high”. Common signs of those abusing Adderall are:

  • Behaving more excitably than usual
  • Talkative/talking quickly
  • Never tired/not sleeping
  • Loss of appetite

Because Adderall affects neurotransmitters in the brain, abuse and misuse can lead to permanent changes in brain chemistry. It can also lead to heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.

In order to get a stronger high, some people inject or snort the medication, or even just take more than directed by their doctor. This can lead to a potentially lethal overdose.

4. Ambien

Ambien is a brand name sleeping medication classified as a “sedative-hypnotic” medication.

Other sedative-hypnotics drugs similar to Ambien include:

  • Methaqualone
  • Placidyl
  • Noctec
  • Lunesta

Sedative-hypnotics are often types of benzodiazepines (like Xanax we discussed earlier) or barbiturates (the next drug on this list). Ambien, however, is neither a benzodiazepine or a barbiturate drug.

Common Uses for Ambien

As we stated earlier, the main reason for an Ambien prescription is as a sleep aid for those suffering from sleep disorders like insomnia.

How Ambien Works

Ambien works by affecting your brain function. Essentially, it slows down your brain, which helps you relax and fall asleep.

Ambien, when used as directed, will help insomniacs sleep better and through the night. However, there are side effects that you should be aware of. These include:

  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Bizarre and vivid dreams

There are also reports of people doing things while on Ambien that they have no memory of later. People have reported having sex, cooking, driving, online shopping, having conversations/making phone calls, sleepwalking, and sleep driving.

Ambien Abuse

Ambien isn’t as addictive as the other prescription medications on this list, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t abused. People will take Ambien in order to hallucinate, have strange dreams, and feel the “trip” of being on Ambien.

However, this can be dangerous. People who misuse Ambien can seriously injure themselves and others without even realizing it when they “wake up” the next day.

5. Barbiturates

Lastly, we have a class of drugs called barbiturates that include Nembutal, Phenobarbital, and Seconal. These drugs work in a very similar way to both benzodiazepines and sedative-hypnotics: they’re all depressants that having calming effects on the brain.

Common Uses for Barbiturates

Barbituates can be used to treat a number of disorders, including:

  • Stress/anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Seizure disorders

Barbituates can also treat headaches and other pain conditions.

How Barbiturates Work

Like we said earlier, barbiturates work in a very similar way to benzodiazepines. It’s a type of depressant that slows the brain and the nervous system, producing a calming and relaxing effect.

Barbiturate Abuse

The same reasons why people abuse benzos applies here: the calming and relaxing effect of the medication feels nice and produces a sort of calming high. Tolerance and dependency can develop, which can lead to addiction, overuse, and overdose.

Barbiturate Withdrawal

Barbiturate withdrawal is as dangerous as benzodiazepine withdrawal. It can be lethal if done incorrectly, which is why it’s often safest to detox at an addiction treatment facility instead of on your own.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • High fever

You can die from withdrawal, so please do it safely and with medical supervision.

Types of Prescription Drugs Commonly Abused: Wrapping Up

These are just 5 of the hundreds of types of prescription drugs that can be misused and abused to the point of addiction. If you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of addiction to any of these or other prescription drugs, you should get help right away to avoid permanent and dangerous damage.

Contact us for more information. You can also look over our various levels of care to find a treatment program that will work best for your situation.