Our lives are a collection of experiences. Some days are fulfilling while others are difficult…
- More people die of opioid overdoses than cocaine and heroin abuse.
- In America alone, 128 people die every day of overdosing on prescription painkillers.
- 80% of people who abuse prescription pain relievers end up switching to hard opioids like heroin.
One glaring fact that many people are not aware of is that drugs used for medical purposes can be as dangerous as cocaine or heroin. If taken too frequently and in vast quantities, they can lead to serious health complications, addiction, and even death. Painkillers especially, are ones you need to be wary of.
Painkillers (opiates) are legal and can be bought over the counter, most without the need for a doctor’s note. This makes it easy for people to abuse them without being noticed. Dependency on painkillers is real.
Types of Opiates
Addictive painkillers can be classified into two broad groups: Antagonists and Agonists.
Antagonists are drugs that are less addictive but still posses the potential for abuse. They are usually used in the detoxification process since they mimic the more potent painkillers, but without the harsh side effects. Examples of antagonists include Naltrexone and Naloxone.
Agonists are the highly addictive types of drugs that produce an opiate effect when taken too frequently. They are powerful and examples include Morphine and Fentanyl, two common substances that are found in most pain relievers.
Signs of Painkiller Addiction
On top of numbing pain in the body, painkillers have some unexpected side effects like feelings of euphoria, tranquility, and pleasure. Someone hooked to these will exhibit the following symptoms.
- Switching doctors every time to avoid questions as they try to get prescription painkillers. Laws do not allow doctors to issue painkillers too frequently, so addicts devise workarounds.
- Inability to let go of the drugs. The thing with addiction is that it controls you. People hooked on painkillers are fully aware it is hurting them, but they cannot stop.
- Hoarding, hiding and stealing painkillers from other family members. Secrecy is important for an addict because being found out means an end to their painkiller supply.
- Slurred speech, inability to focus, and general irritation at everything when they run low on painkillers.
- Drowsiness and loss of balance without warning. Poor coordination and reduced motor skills.
- Troubled breathing coupled with nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, and impaired judgment.
So how exactly does one go about dealing with painkiller addiction? Here are some of the methods that can help turn the tides.
Coming Clean and Admitting You Have a Problem
Admitting you have an addiction problem is the first door one walks through on the path to dealing with the issue. The initiative has to come from them. Otherwise, it will feel forced and they may put up resistance.
Many painkiller addicts never realize they are hooked on them. They feel like they are addressing a need in their body, and by the time they realize they are simply feeding a craving, it is too late. The earlier you take a step towards changing yourself, the higher the chances of pulling it off.
Seek Professional Help
Painkiller addiction is as severe as any other opiate dependency, and for it to be treated, it has to go through the same hoops that hard drug abusers go through. Checking yourself into an addiction treatment program is a good start.
Under the care of qualified professionals, you will be taken care of properly with close attention to detail. Vital processes like detoxification can only be handled by doctors who understand what addictions are all about.
Given the nature of painkillers, addicts are always advised to seek professional counsel rather than try to do things on their own.
There are other drugs that counter the effects of the medicines you may be addicted to. These drugs include the following;
- Methadone: An opioid that targets the same areas as the drug you are addicted to, but without the feeling of getting high. With time, methadone eases withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
- Buprenorphine: Works the same way as methadone but for shorter periods and with less intensity. It has the lowest risk of addiction compared to methadone.
- Naltrexone: It completely blocks opiate receptors so you cannot get high anytime you imbibe your favorite painkillers. Naltrexone works best in the later stages of the treatment after the body has undergone proper detoxification.
Counseling and Addiction Therapy
While detoxification cleans the body, therapy helps you clean the mind and alter behaviors to achieve full recovery. Mental health plays a massive role in all forms of substance abuse. If the mind is not in the right place, then the body stands no chance at all, relapsing will always be a foot away.
Counseling helps the addict to starve off triggers that may push them back to old behaviors. Relapse triggers include stress, reminder cues, and your social networks.
There are six therapy treatments that work for painkiller addicts. They are;
- Dual Diagnosis Disorder Treatment
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Contingency Management
- Motivational Interviewing
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
- Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy
Avoid Situations That May Lead to Addiction
Prevention is always better than a cure. Painkiller addiction begins innocently. People start by taking them to deal with pain, and before they know it, they are unable to stop even when the initial pain has completely subsided.
Treat painkillers with the same caution you would treat hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. Only take them when the situation is extreme and requires them. Find other ways of dealing with minor, manageable pain the natural way.
These are activities and exercises that are conducted alongside the primary treatments to help patients reap more from the program. They include the following;
- Yoga: It helps people relax and gives them a positive attitude towards treatment. It is also a way for patients to take a break from long drug-related treatment.
- Exercise: Most facilities have vast swathes of space for jogging and others have gyms. Keeping fit strengthens the body making it more receptive to treatment.
- Meditation: Mental exercises are vital, especially when it comes to counseling and therapy. A healthy mind can comfortably deal with cravings and other forms of triggers.
Word of Caution
Addicts of Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants should not, under any circumstances, attempt to stop taking them on their own. The withdrawal effects of these drugs are extremely severe and can turn fatal very quickly.
People who are addicted to CNS depressants must be medically supervised when undergoing detoxification since the medication administered has to be tapered gradually by a qualified expert.
There is no known counter medication for treating addiction to CNS depressants. They are dangerous drugs to fiddle with and should be avoided by people who don’t need them for any treatment of any kind.
The Bottom Line
Anything taken in excess will always cause complications. The human body has limits in regards to what it can handle. Painkillers are medication meant to relieve the body of pain and discomfort, but there is a line that cannot be crossed when dealing with them.
It is easy to be blindsided by the fact that you are taking medicine. The harm caused may not be instant, but by the time your body, you realize what is happening, it usually too late.
Follow prescriptions and treat painkillers with caution.