If you suffer from chronic pain, the odds are good that you have been prescribed painkillers from your doctor to help manage the pain. The problem with these drugs, however, is that while they help with temporary pain management, they are also highly addictive. Opioid pain medications are addictive to the point that a percentage of patients who become addicted to painkillers later move on to heroin to satisfy their addiction.
Keep reading to learn how to recognize and get treatment for an addiction to prescription painkillers.
How Common Is Addiction in Chronic Pain Sufferers?
A staggering one-third of the American population suffers from chronic pain. A significant number of these chronic pain patients become addicted to the painkillers they are prescribed to manage their pain.
It is difficult to gauge the extent of painkiller addiction in people with chronic pain. Estimates of the rate of painkiller addiction in pain patients vary widely, from 3% to as high as 40%, according to NIDA.
Some risk factors for painkiller addiction in people with chronic pain include:
- Development of tolerance (when you need more of the drug to achieve the same effects).
- Hyperalgesia (increased pain sensitivity).
- Previous addiction problems (alcoholism, drug addiction, etc.).
Signs You May Be Addicted to Painkillers
Here are some of the major warning signs you may be addicted to painkillers:
- Taking the drug not just to treat physical pain, but because you like the way it makes you feel.
- Having physical cravings for the drug.
- You are preoccupied with your painkillers and think about them frequently.
- Taking more medication than the doctor prescribed.
- Trying to stretch out your medication so that it lasts longer or so that you can take more pills at one time.
- You go to more than one doctor so you can get more of the same prescription (a.k.a. “doctor shopping”).
- You get painkillers from non-doctor-prescribed sources — for example, buying them online or taking them from family members.
- The drug has significant effects on your mood or behavior.
- You’ve been taking painkillers for a long time.
These are all signs that your painkiller use has become a dangerous habit. While developing a tolerance/physical dependence does not necessarily mean you are addicted to a drug, you may be addicted if tolerance is accompanied by behaviors like doctor shopping or scheming to get more drugs from friends and family.
Resources and Help for Prescription Drug Addiction
For more insight into whether you are addicted to your painkillers or have only developed a physical tolerance to them, consult a drug counselor who can advise you and help with finding a treatment option that suits your needs.
If you need help for getting treatment for a loved one, then you can speak to a professional and encourage your loved to seek treatment for their addiction.
To talk about the specifics of getting help for a prescription pill addiction, you can contact a professional at a prescription drug treatment center. To find painkiller addiction treatment in your specific region, you can use the SAMHSA Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.
About the Guest Contributor
As Financial Director and co-owner of Alpine Recovery Lodge, Amy Rothermel is very involved in the finances and marketing operations. A graduate of Nevada State with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration, Amy also took Masters level math, finance and economics classes at UCSD.
She is committed to the business end of daily operations and strives to use her knowledge of business processes to encourage the continued growth of Alpine Recovery Lodge. She works with insurance companies to get the most possible coverage available for the residents.