Sadly, pain killer addiction has now become all too common. It’s a very serious addiction that should not be overlooked just because painkilling drugs are legal to take and are prescribed by your doctor. Nine per cent of the population admit to using painkillers illegally.
Painkillers become illegal when your doctor stops prescribing them and you obtain the drug elsewhere, such as from dealers on the streets. This sort of behaviour helps confirm that there is a problem of pain killer addiction. You may be a normal, everyday person who was unfortunate enough to get osteoarthritis and end up at your doctors, where most likely, he prescribed a painkiller to ease the pain.
Your doctor has your best interests in mind but he may not be an expert at pain management. Your doctor will mainly focus on eliminating your pain and might not give enough consideration to the dependency, which could result as a result of his painkiller prescription.
You can become addicted when painkillers are used for a long time and your body becomes tolerant to that medication. This means that higher and higher doses must be taken to obtain the same initial effect because your body has adjusted to operating normally with that particular level of painkiller.
So if your painkillers are reduced or stopped, withdrawal symptoms can occur. If you are addicted you do fall into a different category than someone addicted to opiates, such as heroin, because you became addicted to painkillers through no fault of your own. You began taking painkillers to relieve your pain, whereas a heroin addict made a conscious decision to use the drug for recreation purposes. Painkiller addiction to Oxycontin is very similar to that of heroin addiction and is now sometimes referred to as ‘prescription heroin’.
Many drug rehabilitation centres treat pain killer addiction in much the same way as any other drug addiction. There is nothing wrong with temporarily taking painkilling drugs prescribed by your doctor for your osteoarthritis pain relief, but the problem arises when you find yourself taking exceedingly higher doses…and if you take them continuously you can become dependent on them. This is where painkiller addiction can start because your body becomes used to relying on the painkillers to ease the pain and discomfort.
Then what happens is that the drugs given to help you through your period of pain become the thing that actually causes further pain, discomfort and ultimately painkiller addiction. Rather than the painkillers easing your osteoarthritis pain, as they did previously, your body now experiences heightened levels of pain. And the longer you take painkillers, the more your levels of pain increase.
In addition, the pain from your osteoarthritis is now accompanied by even more pain and discomfort from the symptoms of withdrawal caused by the painkiller addiction.
Cold turkey is a slang expression describing the actions of someone who gives up an addiction suddenly, rather than doing so gradually or by using replacement medication. It is known as ‘cold turkey’ because a major symptom is cold sweats and goose bumps on the skin.
Symptoms of drug withdrawal are very unpleasant, involving insomnia, diarrhoea, vomiting, restlessness, pain in the muscles and involuntary leg movements. The problem is that your body becomes dependent on the effects of the painkiller in the same way that it would with any other drug.
In some communities painkiller addiction has overtaken that of cocaine and marijuana. Addiction to painkillers is both a biological and psychological condition. To satisfy their craving for a painkiller an addict exhibits compulsive behaviour despite there being negative consequences associated with taking the drug.
If you develop a painkiller addiction it’s because you develop a tolerance to the drug so that higher doses are needed to have the same effects. So when the painkillers are removed, painful withdrawal symptoms occur. If you’ve become addicted to painkillers you can be treated and the key to successful detoxification is to manage the withdrawal symptoms without reverting back to the drugs.
Severe withdrawal symptoms can occur if you suddenly stop taking painkillers and to help manage that possibility there are a number of effective treatment options to treat painkiller addiction. Prolonged use of painkillers will eventually change your brain in a fundamental and long lasting way and that’s why early treatment is essential. It also explains why you cannot just quit on your own.
So you need to take action now because the longer you wait to get treatment the worse it will get. Although detoxification is not a treatment for painkiller addiction you would normally be detoxified before any treatment approach is started. This can help relieve withdrawal symptoms while you are adjusting to being drug free. Once you’ve completed detoxification you can then work with your treatment provider to determine which course of treatment best suits your needs. There are a number of effective options to treat painkiller addiction including medications, holistic techniques and behavioural counselling.