Pain Killers Symptoms and Warning Signs

Painkillers are most people’s go-to drug when they feel discomfort from relatively benign things like headaches, toothache, or PMS. However, over-the-counter medications are quite often not strong enough and for those suffering from chronic severe pain, more powerful drugs are often required to help alleviate the pain. Nevertheless, strong painkillers are available on prescription only and for the most part, should only be used on a temporary basis due to their potential addictiveness and propensity for being harmful when abused.

It is not uncommon for some individuals to develop a physical dependence on medication that was intended to relieve pain associated with genuine medical conditions. If you have found that you are relying on your painkillers to function and are struggling to cope without them, it could be that you have developed an addiction and subsequently need help to break free from these drugs.

That being said, not everyone who develops an addiction to painkillers has been taking the medication for genuine reasons. There are some people who deliberately abuse these drugs to achieve a high. Painkillers can alter mood and many individuals abuse them to help them forget about life’s trials and tribulations for a while. The trouble is that many of these drug types are highly addictive; moreover, when combined with other drugs or alcohol, they can be extremely dangerous.

Get Confidential Help Now

Call our admissions line 24 hours a day to get help.

Types of Painkillers

The following are examples of the types of painkillers that are commonly prescribed to treat chronic or severe pain:

  • Tramadol
  • Vicodin
  • Oxycodone
  • Codeine
  • Amitriptyline
  • Gabapentin
  • Morphine
  • Dihydrocodeine

Recognising the Common Warning Signs of Painkiller Abuse

Painkillers prescribed by a doctor are accompanied by dosage instructions, so it is important to follow these carefully. For example, you wouldn’t want to take more of your medication than advised by your doctor, accidentally or not, as this would be classified as abuse.

As touched upon above, prescription medication such as painkillers not only numb the pain you may be experiencing from

legitimate medical conditions, but they can also affect your mood. These drugs can often create a sense of wellbeing and euphoria, potentially making them habit forming.

When taking prescription painkillers, it is easy to quickly build up a tolerance to them; this basically means that you are not achieving the desired feelings. This is very often the catalyst for painkiller abuse. If you think that your medication is no longer providing the relief you require, it could be the case that you are tempted to take more of it. Nevertheless, this can be dangerous.

Another sign of painkiller abuse is becoming preoccupied with the substance. If your thoughts are filled with things such as when your next dose of medication is, it is likely that you have a problem. You might feel that you cannot function without your medication and the thought of not having it may fill you with dread. You might begin to exhibit drug-seeking behaviours such as visiting more than one doctor to get more of your medication, and you may become irritable or anxious at the thought of not having your medication.

The Dangers of Painkiller Abuse

Abusing painkillers can have many negative consequences for both your health and lifestyle. If you become dependent on this type of medication, you could suffer both mental and physical health problems while your relationships with those around you will inevitably suffer as well.

Becoming dependent on prescription painkillers means you are likely to continue using this medication even if it is having negative consequences for you and your loved ones. Your ability to make good judgements will diminish due to the effects the chemicals are having on various parts of your brain.

You could become more at risk of serious health complications if you continue abusing your painkillers, particularly if you mix these drugs with other substances such as alcohol. Nonetheless, it is not only your physical health that is at risk. The longer you abuse the medication, the higher the likelihood that you will suffer mental health problems such as anxiety disorder or depression.

Although painkiller abuse is a common problem in this country, most people who abuse their medication do not realise the damage it is causing. It is difficult to notice things when your mind is clouded by the chemicals you are taking, but your family will undoubtedly notice the changes in your behaviour. This will inevitably affect your relationships with those who mean the most to you.

Substance abuse, including painkiller abuse, is responsible for poor health, family problems, money troubles, homelessness, and in extreme cases, premature death. It is important, therefore, that you get help as soon as possible to prevent your life from spiralling out of control.

Get Confidential Help Now

Call our admissions line 24 hours a day to get help.

Recognising a Painkiller Addiction

Although abuse of painkillers very often leads to a crippling addiction, it can be tough to spot the signs. If you have developed an addiction to your medication, you are likely to spend a lot of time thinking about it. This is one of the first signs of addiction. Preoccupation with the substance you are taking is a sure sign that you have a problem with it.

Another sign is that you may feel as though you cannot function without your medication and you will take it even if it is causing problems in other areas of your life. If you notice that your medication is causing problems, you might try to cut back or quit. If this subsequently proves difficult, it could be due to the fact that you have a physical addiction, making it difficult to fight the urge to use the medication.

You could also find that, when your prescription medication is running low, you become anxious or irritable. This may then cause you to start looking for your medication elsewhere. You might order medication online, for example, which can be extremely dangerous as there is just no way to tell if you are buying genuine products.

You might begin raiding other people’s medicine cabinets or stealing prescription drugs from relatives or friends. If you cannot source the drugs you need in this way, you might even begin buying street alternatives. If you get desperate enough, you may try to find ways to get yourself admitted to the hospital so that you can be prescribed the painkillers you crave.

If some of the above-mentioned signs or behaviours are familiar to you, it is time to seek help. You will need professional help to address your addiction, and a programme of detox and rehabilitation may be required to help you regain control of your life once more.

Painkiller Addiction and the Brain

Painkillers work by binding to the brain’s opiate receptors and blocking the perception of pain. They have a numbing and often sedative effect that is caused by an interference of the signals transmitted from the central nervous system. Since painkillers can depress the central nervous system, they induce a feeling of relaxation while sometimes producing a perception of euphoria. These feelings can activate the brain’s reward system, causing you to want more of the drug.

The brain actually adapts to painkillers quite quickly, resulting in the ensuing tolerance to the effects of the drug. To reiterate what tolerance is, the feelings you get from painkillers will diminish with time as the brain adjusts to the chemicals and starts to produce fewer dopamine or ‘feel-good’ chemicals. This may cause you to increase your consumption of painkillers, in turn making this a contributing factor for addiction.

Learn the Immediate Side Effects of Painkiller Abuse

Painkiller abuse can lead to many immediate side effects, including:

  • slurred speech
  • excessive sweating
  • relaxation
  • irregular heartbeat
  • confusion
  • euphoria
  • constipation
  • dilated or contracted pupils
  • itchiness
  • disorientation
  • poor judgement
  • trouble concentrating
  • depression
  • irritability
  • mood swings

Learn the Long-Term Painkiller Abuse Side Effects

Long-term abuse of painkillers can lead to several more severe problems, including:

  • heart damage
  • increased risk of heart attack
  • muscle spasms
  • sleeping problems
  • confusion
  • depression
  • hallucinations
  • respiratory failure
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease.

Intervention for a Painkiller Addiction

If someone you care about has been prescribed painkillers for a legitimate condition, but you have noticed changes in his or her behaviour, it is important to consider the possibility that he or she has developed an abuse problem.

You might notice that the person is becoming more secretive and is neglecting his or her responsibilities at home, work, or school. You could also find that he or she is unwilling to entertain the idea that painkiller abuse could be an issue. If so, it is important to seek help and to get advice about what can be done in this situation.

An intervention may be the most appropriate course of action to get your loved one to accept that a problem exists. If you want, you can talk to us about how to arrange an intervention; alternatively, we can provide details about professional interventionists who can help.

Detox and Withdrawal from Painkillers

Due to the fact that a physical dependence is possible with painkiller abuse, it is likely that you will experience withdrawal symptoms should you suddenly stop taking your medication. This could be dangerous, so it is important to speak to a medical professional before attempting to quit.

For your safety and comfort, you might be advised to consider a medical detox in a supervised facility. There is no way to predict how your withdrawal from painkillers will go in advance, and the type and severity of symptoms you experience will typically depend on the type of substance being abused.

A medical detox would take place in a supervised facility where the process can be made easier and more comfortable. In such a facility, any discomfort can be managed effectively by trained professionals with experience in the process.

Treatment and Next Steps

A painkiller addiction has the potential to spiral out of control fairly quickly, and there is also a risk that it could lead to other substance use disorders. This is why it is so important to seek out help as soon as possible if you want to get your life back on track again.

Fortunately, help is available for this illness, and once detox has been completed, you can begin a programme of rehabilitation in an inpatient or outpatient facility. The type of programme that you choose will be determined by your individual preferences, the severity of the illness, and your personal circumstances.

If you have a severe illness and are keen to complete a programme of treatment as quickly as possible, for example, you might benefit from a residential programme. This type of programme offers a condensed and intensive approach to treatment and typically takes place in a private clinic. Outpatient programmes, on the other hand, are less intensive and run for a longer period.

You can speak to us about the most appropriate programme for you based on your needs and circumstances.

Questions about Treatment

What’s the shortest stay possible?

If you are being treated in a residential clinic, you will be expected to stay for a minimum of twenty-eight days. Shorter programmes tend to be less effective and the potential for relapse will be higher. However, you should be aware that the length of stay will depend on how severe your addiction is and how complex your requirements are. How you respond to treatment will also play a role.

How successful is rehab?

There are no guarantees with a programme of rehabilitation because of how complex this illness is. Nevertheless, your chances of long-term success will be much higher if you are prepared to fully commit to the programme and take responsibility for your own recovery. You must make changes to your life and be prepared to implement these changes when you return to the normal everyday living.

What will I do when rehab finishes?

It is understandable that you might be worried about what you will do when your rehab programme finishes. What you should know though is that there is plenty of support available for recovering addicts. You are not alone, and you can access help and support from your local recovery community. It is also likely that you will have additional support from your rehab provider for the first year after your programme concludes. This will help with the transition from rehab to normal life.

Is a relapse inevitable?

There are many people who believe that every recovering addict will relapse at least once, but this is not true. The reality is that there are many individuals who overcome painkiller addictions and who have never had a slip-up. It is also true, though, that there are some who do relapse.

Your chances of staying sober permanently will improve greatly if you are aware of what your triggers are and if you have a plan in place to deal with them when they arise. This is something that will be addressed during your rehab programme. If you work hard to maintain your sobriety after rehab and remain vigilant to the threat of relapse at all times, you should be able to stay clean and sober permanently.

Can rehab help my family?

Your family has undoubtedly been affected by your addiction, so you will be pleased to know that family therapy is available. Family therapy takes place either on a one-to-one basis with individual family members and a counsellor or in a group setting. You may or may not be involved in these sessions. The aim of family therapy is to resolve any underlying issues caused by the addiction, or those issues that may have led to the development of the addiction in the first place.

Get Confidential Help Now

Call our admissions line 24 hours a day to get help.