According to the CDC, 5% of the American population reports using opiate painkillers recreationally or for self-medication purposes. Addictions to drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone, kill 45 people each day; overdosing is the usual immediate cause. Yet, even at these epidemic levels, the dangers of painkiller addiction do not get the kind of public attention that addictions involving “hard” drugs do. Even today, when people receive prescriptions from their doctors for painful conditions, the possibility of addiction doesn’t immediately come up. This is unfortunate. There are important things you should know about painkillers.
Addiction can sneak up on you
Different opiate painkillers are safe for different usage periods. Physical dependence on OxyContin, for instance, can begin with a 30 mg/day prescription that runs a mere 10 days of use. Any prescription for opiate painkillers should involve a discussion with the doctor about the possibility of addiction, and a plan to prevent such an eventuality.
You need to know how to recognize an addiction if it happens
You can begin to suspect that a painkiller routine is beginning to turn into dependence when you see a few signs: withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, a headache when you stop taking them, a feeling that you need more medications because your old dose no longer does it for your pain, are all common. If you sense that these complications are beginning to turn up, you should quit immediately.
The risk of addiction isn’t the same in every person
If someone you know used prescription painkillers for weeks without ill effect, it doesn’t mean that it will be the same with you (assuming that you can believe them when they say that they aren’t dependent). Addiction is both caused by the presence of pre-existing mental conditions, and is a mental disorder on its own.
Some people tend to possess undiagnosed depression or other mental conditions that place them at a high level of risk for addictive behavior. There is also the possibility of a genetic predisposition to addiction (perhaps a family history of addiction).
It can be hard to know if you do suffer from a vulnerability. Some doctors today have actually begun screening patients for mental health and other risk factors prior to prescribing medications.
There is a risk to others in your family
It isn’t uncommon for people to stumble into a dependency through easy access to these medications at home. If you have a prescription, and if you don’t keep your medications under lock and key, it could be easy for someone in the family to experiment with them, and become addicted. It’s important to secure these drugs. When you’re finished with your prescription and have pills left over, you want to flush them down the toilet. Leaving them around could be a risk.
You can’t mix painkillers with alcohol
If you usually love a glass of wine or another drink at night, you need to rethink your routine. It isn’t safe at all to pop an opioid painkiller around the same time that you drink your alcoholic beverage. In combination, these drugs can turn very powerful.
Extended-release pills aren’t much safer
Drugs such as OxyContin and hydrocodone come in extended-release versions that release gradually over a period of time. Since these drugs act in a gradual fashion, they are less capable of delivering a quick high. Studies have indicated, however, that even when released gradually into the bloodstream, opiate medications still do cause painkiller addiction. It’s important to not let extended-release versions lull you into lowering your guard.
If you find yourself in trouble, find help
If you find that you are beginning to suffer withdrawal symptoms, you need to not go into denial like many people do. Instead, you need to act to protect yourself. There is no shame in addiction – it is a well understood psychological and psychiatric phenomenon. You only need treatment. When you accept it, you simply get better.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.