10 Signs that You may Have an Addiction to Painkillers
A survey taken in 2009 indicated that more than five million people in the country admitted to abusing pain relief medications. Second only to marijuana use, the Drug Enforcement Agency estimates that now that number has risen to more than seven million citizens. The accidental death rate associated with painkiller use has also risen. Statistics indicate that as of 2012, more than 20,000 people, roughly one every 19 minutes, died from an accidental overdose of pain medication. Individuals abusing pain medication runs the gamut of the population. Abuse occurs in people aged 12 to beyond retirement age.
While many obtain a prescription for a legitimate injury or illness, others take the medication that belongs to a family member. The group of medications directly or indirectly trigger a pleasure response in the brain by increasing the amount of dopamine released. Desiring to repeat the sensation leads to addiction. The symptoms of addiction are many. However, there are some that occur more frequently than others.
When addicted, in time the satisfaction produced by the initial dose lessens, which causes individuals to take the medication more frequently or exhibit the need to increase each dose. When using a prescription, the patient may express the need for a stronger medication. This action is an indication of the body building a tolerance to the drug. While tolerance is not necessarily an indication of addiction, this behavior combined with the need for the medication draws suspicion.
Insisting on Medication Continuation
If taking the prescription for an injury, over time that injury should heal, which means that the patient requires less, not more of the medication. Insisting that the prescription extend beyond a particular time frame often indicates a sign of addiction. At this point, a patient may begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not dosing regularly, which the person confuses with a genuine need for the drug. Patients may openly express anger with a health care provider when the question arises concerning the need for continuing the medication.
An addict’s personality begins changing. Energy levels decline, as the individual prefers partying and then sleeping to other activities. Being high hampers concentration. When confronted about behavioral changes, addicts often exhibit denial, become defensive, moody, and angry. The heightened emotional response typically indicates overcompensation for guilt or secretive activity.
An individual habitually using pain medication for recreation spends less time with family and their usual circle of social contacts. The addict has no interest in participating in activities once thought enjoyable. They may spend more time alone or develop new relationships with people who share the addiction.
Drug Seeking Behavior
Having the drug available becomes the first priority of the addict. Obtaining the medication becomes an obsession. They may make multiple appointments with a number of physicians in order to get the desired prescription. Addicts may travel great distances to find a legal or illegal supplier. An addict may also resort to theft or other criminal activities in an effort to support the habit.
The physical appearance of an addict begins changing. Bathing and grooming stop being priorities and the person may appear unkempt or disheveled. Getting high takes precedence over eating, sleeping, or other activities. Malnutrition occurs, which contributes to weight loss. Frequent illness may occur from a weakened immune system.
Along with social changes, addicted individuals place little importance on attending school or going to work. Early indications of addiction in a student often include a decline in grades. Adults may begin missing appointments or forget to pay bills. However, if short on money, the addict generally prefers to support the habit rather than using the money for rent, utilities, or food.
When chemically dependent, the individual often experiences a heightened sense of stimulation from normal situations. Normal noise levels may seem extraordinarily loud. Lights may appear overly bright. Being overstimulated may cause inappropriate emotional outbursts. Addicts may also begin having auditory and/or visual hallucinations.
The chemical’s effect on the brain combined with erratic eating and sleeping patterns often create a state of being dazed or confused. Addicts may also suffer from memory loss or blackouts and cannot recall events that occurred over a period of several hours or over several days.
Some may desire to stop the addiction. However, aware of the body’s physical dependence, the individual often feels helpless, hopeless, and may express a diminished sense of self-worth.
While pain medications are a blessing in most instances, abusing the meds and falling into addiction becomes a curse. When prescribed pain medication, it remains important to take the formulation only as prescribed. Keep the prescription out of the hands of other family members. When addiction occurs, get help from professionals trained and experienced in dealing with the affliction. For many, seeking professional help and in-house treatment proves a life-changing and life-saving experience.