Unreality TV reported on the 8th April that the character Sharon Rickman’s drug addiction to pain killers will re-emerge later in the month. Sharon’s addiction to pain killers was first revealed in September 2012.

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It’s pertinent to consider how the Eastender’s story-line mirrors society today. Nuffield Health found in a recent survey that a third of UK pain sufferers worry about dependency on pain killers. In January 2013 The Daily Mail reported that more than a million people in the UK are now addicted to pain killers.

How are painkillers addictive?

Codeine based painkillers which are sold either over the counter, without prescription or prescribed by a gp have the potential to become addictive. For this reason codeine based painkillers sold in chemist now carry the warning that read “Can cause prescription drug addiction. For three days use only.” Higher strength opioid based painkillers are often prescribed by gp’s.

For some people painkillers will become addictive. Like heroin they are opioid based and work on the same brain receptors. Using these drugs for a period of time will cause a physical dependency which means an individual would experience withdrawal symptoms if they were to stop taking them.

Although pain killers work quickly and effectively on physical pain tolerance with extended use build up quickly. This means that regular users need to take more and more to have the same effects , tolerance is also a warming sign to look out for that you are becoming psychological and physical dependent.

Other warning signs that someone may have a pain killer drug addiction include:

  • neglecting responsibilities
  • lack of self care and personal hygiene
  • secretive and defensive behaviour
  • social withdrawal
  • changes in personality,
  • on-going use of the drug

 

What are the consequences of pain killer addiction?

Some of the effects of painkiller addiction include:

  • Overdose from taking too many pills which can cause fatality
  • brain damage and cognitive impairment
  • muscular pain
  • sleeping problems
  • bowel problems
  • anxiety
  • psychological problems
  • vomiting
  • respiratory problems

 

What can help someone suffering from pain killer addiction?

Someone with pain killer addiction will need a treatment programme which deals with the physical and psychological aspects of the illness of addiction. This will usually mean attending a residential rehabilitation facility for addiction treatment.

The addict will need medically managed detoxification to withdraw from pain killers. They will also need to attend an addictions (usually 12-Step based) treatment programme within the residential facility, this will mean therapeutically learning to cope with the illness of addiction and starting their process of recovery.