Chat with us, powered by LiveChat
Select Page

PAIN PILL ADDICTION

Prescription painkillers can be life-saving when used correctly, but users run the constant threat of falling into the trap of pain pill addiction. When used properly under a doctor’s supervision, opiate-based painkillers have restored functioning in those who suffer from chronic, debilitating pain and have played a vital role in palliative care for those with terminal illnesses. Unfortunately, prescription pain pills and other “street” opiates also have serious side-effects that include respiratory depression and low blood pressure in addition to the potential for dependence, addiction and possible overdose.

The Different Paths to Pain Pill Addiction

There are two main paths to pain pill addiction: recreational and medical. The first is when one begins to use pain pills or other opiates for recreational purposes by obtaining them from a friend, relative, or by purchasing them illegally. Unfortunately, this desire for a quick high can rapidly descend into a serious problem due to the addictive nature of these drugs. The other path to pain pill addiction can occur when the medication is prescribed for legitimate acute or chronic pain. This legitimate medical usage can become a slippery slope toward addiction.

Most Commonly Abused Pain Pills

Sometimes, a user will simply take the prescribed medication for so long that they inadvertently become dependent on it, requiring larger and larger doses to achieve the same level of relief. For other individuals who are prescribed pain medication, they will begin to enjoy the euphoric feelings that these medications can produce, causing them to take the pain pills for recreational rather than medical purposes. However, whichever path leads to pain pill addiction, the results are often the same: a life-long struggle that can destroy the lives of both the user and those around them.

Risk Factors for Pain Pill Addiction

Most people who use opiates for legitimate pain do not go on to develop a pain pill addiction. However, those who are predisposed to addiction, have mental health or emotional problems, or have a history of addiction can easily become dependent on opiate pain pills. When one becomes addicted or develops a substance use disorder, the pain pills are used in ways other than prescribed, such as: taking more pain pills at a time than recommended, taking pain pills more frequently than prescribed, or introducing them into the body in ways other than prescribed. These different forms of ingestion often include crushing pain pills to deliver the drug more rapidly or to remove chemical safeguards in the pills that prevent misuse. This can create a higher level of euphoria that leads more rapidly to a full-blown opiate addiction or, in the worst case scenario, an accidental overdose or even death.

infographic using a board game illustration to explain pain pill addiction

Symptoms of Pain Pill Addiction

  • Financial, legal, work and school problems
  • Appearing drowsy
  • Small pupils
  • Frequent nodding off
  • Seeing multiple doctors
  • Frequently complaining of pain and the need for more pain pills
  • Weight loss
  • Poor hygiene
  • Stealing or borrowing pain pills from other people
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as diarrhea, muscle cramping, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and agitation when pain killers aren’t available
  • Frequently running out of painkillers before a refill is due
  • Using pain pills in ways other than prescribed
  • Financial, legal, work and school problems
  • Appearing drowsy
  • Small pupils
  • Frequent nodding off
  • Seeing multiple doctors
  • Frequently complaining of pain and the need for more pain pills
  • Weight loss
  • Poor hygiene
  • Stealing or borrowing pain pills from other people
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as diarrhea, muscle cramping, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and agitation when pain killers aren’t available
  • Frequently running out of pain killers before a refill
    is due
  • Using pain pills in ways other than prescribed

How Pain Pill Abuse Becomes Addiction

Even a relatively short term abuse of pain pills can cause an individual to become physically dependent on them. Physical dependence to opiates is a physiologic state in which tolerance develops and higher doses of pain pills are required to achieve the same pain-relieving effects. After tolerance has developed, an abrupt cessation of the use of prescription painkillers will lead to opiate withdrawal syndrome. Once pain pill addiction sets in, the addict will do everything they can to ensure their supply of opiates.

How People Obtain Pain Pills

  • Exaggerating his/her symptoms to get more pain pills from his/her physician
  • Borrowing pills or money from friends or family
  • Going to multiple doctors in order to obtain more pills
  • Stealing from pharmacies or the medicine cabinets of friends or family
  • Buying or trading for pain pills on the street
  • Switching to other cheaper illicit sources of opiates such as heroin

The National Epidemic of Pain Pill Addiction

Pain pill addiction (and the subsequent illicit opiate addiction it often morphs into) has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. This is evident through many statistics, but perhaps the most alarming is in the data for overdose deaths (which are mainly as a result of opiates). Overdose is now the leading cause of death for those under the age of 50 in the United States, and deaths from heroin overdose alone (the most common “next” drug after pain pill addiction takes root) have surpassed deaths from gun homicides in the U.S.

Government Crackdown on Pain Pill Addiction

In response to the growing epidemic of pain pill addiction, the government has begun to crack down on pain clinics that have earned a reputation as “pill mills” for the ease with which they prescribe opioid pain medication to patients who may or may not need it. This has helped to somewhat stem the tide of new pain pail addiction but has had the unfortunate side effect of pushing many pain pill addicts into using “street drugs” to satisfy their cravings for opiates.

These street drugs often start as simply an illegal supply of the same drugs they were taking via a prescription previously (with the added danger of unregulated contamination by other drugs). Due to the extremely high price of prescription painkillers on the black market, users often quickly switch to other drugs that are cheaper, in particular heroin. In turn, much of today’s supply of heroin is in fact contaminated with the even more dangerous and potent drug fentanyl as dealers seek to maximize profits by using ever cheaper and more potent sources of opioids. This has fueled the current spike in overdose deaths as even “experienced” drug addicts can be unprepared for the potency of a batch of fentanyl-laced heroin.

Diseases Fueled by Pain Pill Addiction

Once pain pill addiction has progressed to the stage where individuals have switched over to cheaper, illicit alternatives such as heroin, they become much more likely to be exposed to a number of different, potentially deadly, diseases as well. To get the most efficient high, heroin users often turn to injection of the drug as their addiction progresses. This potentially exposes them to a number of blood-borne diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV. In addition, addicts often engage in risky sexual behavior as their addiction progresses due to impaired judgement or as a means to acquiring their next “fix” from someone with a supply of opioids. All of these behaviors put addicts at-risk of contracting a potentially fatal illness, particularly when their immune systems have already been compromised by long-term drug abuse.

Pain Pill Addiction Treatment & Recovery

The road to recovery from pain pill addiction is often long and hard, but it is always worth it. However, addicts should not attempt to do it alone. First off, due to the extremely intense and unpleasant nature of the physical withdrawal process from any opioid, “cold-turkey” approaches by addicts on their own are almost always unsuccessful. This type of unsupervised approach can also be medically dangerous, particularly for individuals whose overall health is already compromised by chronic drug abuse. Professionally supervised detox and treatment is the safest and most effective way for those suffering from pain pill addiction to have any chance of regaining control of their lives. In addition to medically monitoring and assisting during the initial detox phase, substance abuse treatment professionals can increase the addict’s odds of long-term success in many ways.

By working with an addiction treatment specialist, individuals can adopt new methods for dealing with physical pain (from physical therapy to exercise and massage), learn a host of new coping strategies for dealing stressors that might trigger a substance abuse relapse, and identify and treat underlying mental illness that can stem from or initiate substance abuse. If you or a loved one is putting their life in danger due to a pain pill addiction, get professional help before it is too late!

Call us here at BWR at 800-683-4457 anytime 24/7 to get the professional help you or your loved one needs. We have extensive experience in helping individuals who suffer from pain pill addiction to regain control of their lives and get a fresh, clean start.

"THE GOLD STANDARD IN CARE"

Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

"THE GOLD STANDARD IN CARE"

Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

CALL NOW TO GET HELP FOR YOURSELF OR A LOVED ONE! 800-683-4457

CALL NOW TO GET HELP FOR YOURSELF OR A LOVED ONE!
800-683-4457

JUST A FEW OF THE MANY PPO HEALTH INSURANCE
COMPANIES WE WORK WITH:

GET HELP NOW!
Your decision to regain your life helps and heals your entire family. Do it for them. Do it for you.

BEHAVIORAL WELLNESS & RECOVERY

1301 Wrights Lane East, Ste. 103
West Chester, PA 19380
Serving Philadelphia, PA, Lancaster, PA and Wilmington, DE