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.