5 Signs of Pain Killer Addiction
Abuse, dependence and addiction to painkillers is a huge—and growing—problem in the U.S.
It is estimated that 2.1 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers. The consequences have been devastating and are on the rise. The number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain relievers has soared in the United States, more than quadrupling in the last decade.
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When used properly, prescription opioids can be helpful pain-relief, cough suppression and antidiarrheal medications. The danger, however, is that opioids often give users a powerful high or euphoria their brains can start to crave. Opioid medications carry a high potential for abuse, dependence and addiction.
How do you define those three terms—abuse, dependence and addiction?
- Abuse is when someone is not taking prescription pain medications according to their doctor’s orders, taking more than prescribed or for longer than prescribed.
- Dependence is when the body becomes physically dependent on a chemical to function. When the chemical is taken away, the body’s function is disrupted—producing withdrawal symptoms. People who’ve become dependent but who are not yet addicted are able to stop or taper off their use as directed by their doctor.
- Addiction is when a person continues to use the drug despite harm and consequences. They are unable to stop on their own. They’ve lost power over the medication—it now controls them. People who are addicted are most often also physically dependent and will therefore also experience withdrawal if they stop using.
The good news is that opioid addiction can be effectively treated. The first step to getting someone the help they need is recognizing the problem. Here are 5 signs someone you love might be abusing prescription painkillers:
1. Drowsiness, lack of energy, changes in sleep patterns
One sign a person may be addicted to opioids is that he or she looks tired and is drowsy. An addict may nod off in the middle of conversations, or at the dinner table, or while watching television or a movie. While this can happen to any of us when we’re tired, it can occur throughout the day and become a pattern for someone who is addicted to painkillers. Sleep patterns can change, becoming prolonged or excessive at times, or become difficult if the individual runs out of the medication.
2. Inability to concentrate, lack of motivation
Opioids can diminish concentration and interfere with work or school. It becomes difficult for a maintain academic or work performance. This often results in obvious signs like leaving school or work during the day, excessive absences, missing important meetings or deadlines, and an overall drop-off in performance.
3. Social behavioral changes
Due to intoxication, drowsiness, tiredness and the inability to concentrate, addicts often have increased difficulty maintaining normal friendships and healthy lifestyle habits. Things like sports, exercise, social clubs and hobbies are set aside in favor of becoming more isolated or spending time with friends engaged in similar destructive behaviors. You may also notice a return of old habits—smoking again after a long hiatus, for instance—or things like overspending or even theft, to support the habit.
4. Changes in appearance
It can be difficult to tell when someone is high on opioids, but common physical signs include things like pinpoint pupils, drooping eyes, head nodding and slurred speech. With increased usage, things that were once important like personal hygiene and health habits can start to suffer. An addict may bathe less, give less attention to hair, make-up, clothing, and even lose weight.
5. Increased secrecy
Loved ones abusing prescription painkillers may become more secretive about friends and acquaintances, perhaps even speaking to them in code. This need for secrecy is driven by the fact that while the vast majority of prescription opioids abused in the U.S. originate from legitimate prescriptions, they are sold for cash or traded for other drugs illegally.
If you or someone you know is dependent on prescription painkillers, you are not alone. And you don’t have to go it alone! We understand. And we can help.
People suffering with an addiction to painkillers face barriers which can make treatment seem daunting. Don’t let the stigma or embarrassment associated with addiction, a lack of knowledge or understanding of the kinds of treatment available, or a lack of hope dissuade you from getting help. Addiction doesn’t have to have the last word!
At Honey Lake Clinic, our experienced doctors and staff strongly believe that faith-based treatment, encompassing spiritual, physical and mental health, will help clients and their families bring spiritual power and clearer psychological understanding to their healing and recovery.