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Painkillers are drugs prescribed by a physician or surgeon to treat chronic pain, post-surgical pain, or several other conditions. Also referred to as narcotics or prescription opioids, the rising numbers of prescriptions for painkillers over the last decade have led to the “opioid crisis” in the United States. Misuse and abuse of painkillers is a significant public health problem in almost every state. Data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed nearly two million Americans misused prescription painkillers for the first time within the past year. This means almost 5,500 people each day began using these powerful drugs for purposes other than those for which they are intended.

Although highly beneficial when used as directed, painkillers are also highly addictive. Once someone develops a dependency or an addiction to painkillers, it is often necessary to seek professional addiction treatment to overcome their addiction. 

What Are Painkillers? 

Painkillers are prescription opioids. Although other drugs such as heroin are classified as opioids, painkillers are those drugs that are only available by prescription or in the hospital setting. Common examples include Oxycodone, codeine, morphine, and Vicodin. Although these medications help treat various conditions when used as prescribed, they are, unfortunately, frequently misused and abused. 

Opioids work by changing how the nerve cells in the brain function. When someone takes an opioid, it binds to opioid receptors on the brain and throughout the body, limiting the ability of the brain to receive and process pain messages. Opioids can produce feelings of euphoria and significantly reduce or eliminate pain. When taken for a short time, opioids are generally safe. However, when misused, they can lead to addiction, overdose, and death. 

Why Are Painkillers Addictive? 

Painkillers are addictive because of the way they work in the body. Opioid painkillers trigger the release of endorphins. These are sometimes referred to as the “feel good” transmitters in the brain. They are responsible for inhibiting the perception of pain and boosting feelings of pleasure. When someone takes painkillers, they “feel good” until the effects of the drugs wear off. Because many painkillers are short-acting or don’t last long, users find themselves quickly wanting and needing to use more often and at larger doses than prescribed to achieve the same feelings they felt early on. This is the first step in addiction, and without addiction treatment, it can lead to overdose and death. 

Signs of a Painkiller Addiction

Painkiller addiction looks different from person to person. The severity of symptoms will depend on various factors, including the severity of their addiction, genetics, the duration of their addiction, and others. Although several differences may occur, there are also common signs that are seen in many cases. Some examples include: 

  • Psychological symptoms include new or worsening mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, mood swings, and psychosis.  
  • Physical symptoms vary widely but often include stomach issues, pinpoint pupils, slurred speech, sedation, slowed breathing, increased risk for cardiovascular emergencies, increased tolerance, seizures, coma, and death.
  • Mood changes may include alternating states of depression and euphoria (happiness).
  • Behavioral changes include doctor shopping, stealing (money or prescription drugs), social isolation, and lying about substance use. 

How To Get Help With a Painkiller Addiction

If you or a loved one struggles with a painkiller addiction, it is essential to seek help right away. Painkiller addiction is a complex and potentially dangerous challenge to overcome. Treatment requires carefully monitored detox and an individually designed, comprehensive addiction treatment plan designed to address painkiller addiction. The process of detoxing from painkillers can be life-threatening. For this reason, it is crucial to detox and gets treatment in a setting where medical supervision is available. During medically supervised detox, a team of medical staff will continually monitor your vital signs to ensure safety. In some cases, medications can be administered to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

If you are ready to overcome painkiller addiction, contact us at Concise Recovery today to learn more about how our programs can help you achieve and maintain lasting recovery.