Second only to marijuana, prescription drugs are some of the most commonly abused substances in the world today. Nearly 50 percent of prescription drug abuse is attributable to painkillers. Painkillers are widely prescribed and cover a variety of medications, such as Oxycodone (Percodan, Percocet, Endocet, OxyContin), Hydrocodone (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin), Meperidine (Demerol), Hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and Propoxyphene (Darvon).
Typically found in tablet form, these drugs may also come in capsules or liquid, all of which can be administered in numerous ways. Though prescription medications are generally viewed as a safer alternative to street drugs, this isn’t the case. When used as directed, prescription painkillers typically aren’t a problem. However, when used improperly or by someone other than to whom they’re prescribed, painkillers often lead to drug abuse.
Prescription medication, especially painkillers, can be just as addictive as illegal drugs – and because of the ease of accessibility, possibly even more dangerous. Teenagers and young adults state it’s easier to gain possession of prescription medication than nearly any other substance of abuse. Likely due to the fact that these substances are so easily found, painkiller addiction isn’t uncommon in society today. While it’s never the intent of an individual to develop an addiction, the choice is all too often taken away from the user. Prescription pain medications can cause addiction with even short-term use.
The Process of Painkiller Addiction
The process of developing an addiction to painkillers varies from person to person and has several contributing factors. While the exact cause of addiction is unknown, it’s believed factors such as genetics, brain chemistry, environment and psychological elements all play a role. The way an individual is raised to view drugs also plays a large part in her feelings on drugs later in life. Combined with the common belief that medication given by a physician is always safe, all of these aspects can lead to addiction.
Painkillers are prescribed, quite obviously, to assist in the treatment of pain. However, these drugs work by stimulating certain areas of the brain responsible for feelings of pleasure. Stimulation of these areas leads to the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which creates feelings of happiness and euphoria. Because these feelings are so highly desirable, the body begins to crave more of the drug.
Opiate painkillers are also sometimes used as a form of self-medication for other issues. Depression, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are common co-occurring conditions found with painkiller abuse. Suffering from one of these disorders can be difficult to deal with, so people sometimes self-medicate to ease the symptoms. This is quite dangerous, however, and can lead to even more difficulties in the long run. Whether it stretches over a period of time, or occurs shortly after the first use, painkiller addiction is a process – and one that should be taken very seriously.
How Painkiller Addiction Impacts the User’s Life
When used improperly, prescription painkillers can create an endless number of difficulties. Some of the most common problems are found within the symptoms of painkiller abuse. Such symptoms may include:
-Continued used of the drug after the pain is gone
-Lying, hiding things or stealing to obtain more painkillers
-Changes in behavior, hygiene, eating or sleeping habits
-Joint and muscle pain, headaches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia and anxiety
-Drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired memory and concentration
An addiction to painkillers can have several negative effects on the individual’s life. Though some of the effects may be short-term, there are long-term and perhaps even lifelong effects caused by an addiction to painkillers. Some of these effects may include:
Physical Effects/Health Risks:
-Digestive system problems
-Weakened immune system
-Impaired mental functions/abilities
-Disease or even failure of the heart, liver and kidney
-Changes in behavior and/or severe mood swings
-Changes in character traits or personality
-Disorientation and/or confused/distorted sense of reality
-Feelings or actions of extreme anger, rage, irritability, aggression or hostility
-More intense or more common feelings of depression or anxiety
-Paranoia and/or increased feelings of fear
-Decreased interest/participation in activities or hobbies that were once enjoyed
-Isolation from friends and family
-Decreased work performance/attendance, perhaps even leading to loss of employment
-Damaged or destroyed intimate relationships
-Damaged or broken family
-Tolerance, or the continuous need for greater amounts of the drug to achieve the same desired effect, can easily lead to accidental overdose.
-Physically uncomfortable and possibly even painful withdrawal symptoms experienced when trying to reduce or stop usage may include fever, chills, anxiety, depression, mood swings, headaches, flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat and/or respiration, insomnia, paranoia, tremors and seizures. (These symptoms can be dangerous, so it’s typically recommended to see a medical professional or treatment center for the detoxification process).
Seek Help for Painkiller Addiction Today
The impact painkiller addiction has on the individual, as well as her loved ones, is unbelievable. The thought that a medication intended to improve the quality of life can so easily destroy it is frightening. Being aware of the use of painkillers by a loved one can help family members lead the individual to treatment if necessary. The sooner an addiction is confronted and treatment begins, the better the chances of a successful recovery. Though professionals state that addictions to painkillers are among the most difficult to treat, they’ll also be the first to say that success is a great possibility.