Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between temporary changes in behavior and lasting effects of pain killer abuse. And while self help for opiate addiction is available, it’s a hard row to hoe. Here, we outline the top ten major symptoms of prescription pain killer abuse to help you identify signs of painkiller addiction. Your questions about pain killer abuse or comments about harm reduction in opioid users are welcomed at the end.
If you are taking prescription pain killers, or you have a loved one currently prescribed one of these medications, stay aware of these warning signs of drug abuse and possible pain killer addiction:
1. Taking more medication than prescribed. This is usually the first sign of a problem. If you are unable to stick with the dosing regimen given by your doctor, it’s important to speak with him or her about this. It could be that you are in need of a higher dosing, but it’s also important to speak to your physician about the possibility of developing prescription pain killer dependency.
2. Visiting multiple doctors to obtain more drugs. Known as “doctor shopping”, this behavior is a typical way that people addicted to pain killers get the extra dosing they are craving. If you find that your doctor has cut you off or limited the amount of drugs you are prescribed, and, as a result, you are going to additional doctors with the goal of getting more drugs, you are definitely showing signs of addiction.
3. Going to the streets to get your drug of choice. Prescription pain killers are big business on the streets. Just one oxycodone tablet can sell between $5 to $50 depending on the strength. For those who have fallen into addiction, the cost of purchasing drugs on the street can be financially devastating, not to mention the dangers involved.
4. Changes to personality, behavior, or mood. Drug abuse and pain killer addiction causes a preoccupation with the drug of choice. People who abuse drugs to get high no longer show interest infriendships, love, or fun. None of these things matter as much as they did before. The main goal in life of a pain killer addict gradually becomes the drug before everything else. As a result, the person no longer appears to be the person they were before addiction.
5. Social withdrawal. Once addicted to pain killers, a person may pull away from those they are closest to. The desire to deny the problem is one reason for this. Those who know you best are more aware of the changes happening. They may function as a mirror for you, and it can seem easier to pull yourself away than to face the truth about what’s happening.
6. Negative changes in personal hygiene. Along with pain killer abuse comes lethargy and lack of motivation. Even taking a bath, brushing your teeth, or doing laundry can seem like too much work. Housework may also fall to the wayside as an addiction progresses. If you find that the initial positive feelings pain killers created for you have been replaced with an overall lack of motivation, this is a sign of addiction.
7. Defensiveness when discussing the problem. As family and friends witness the changes happening to their loved one, it is normal for them to want to discuss the issues and attempt to help. If you find your family is bringing up the topic of pain killer abuse, and your reaction is to get defensive, then it’s time for you to reflect. Your defensiveness is likely a form of denial.
8. Preoccupation with the pain killer. Do you find yourself counting your pills several times throughout the day? Planning your week or month around your pain pills — When will you run out? When will you need more? Do you accuse others of stealing pills from your bottle because you feel like they’re disappearing too fast. Are you constantly hiding your pill bottle(s) so that no one can find them? When the drug is taking up your thoughts and focus this is addiction.
8. Continued usage of the pain killer even after medical condition has improved. While some people have chronic pain that may require longtime use of pain medication, most people who are prescribed pain killers are not meant to take these drugs for long periods of time. If you received a root canal three months ago, but you’re still taking pain killers, this is an example of pain killer abuse or addiction.
9. Withdrawal symptoms when stopping the medication. Ironically, one of the most common withdrawal symptoms of opioid pain killer addiction is severe pain. This can make it very difficult for the addicted person to stop the cycle since their only immediate relief from the pain is taking more of the drug. Other symptoms of opioid pain killer withdrawal are nausea, vomiting, cramping, and anxiety. Withdrawal can be dangerous if not medically supervised, so if you struggle with any negative symptoms when you don’t take your medication or miss a dose, contact your doctor immediately for assistance or get to a hospital for help.
10. You recognize any or all of the above signs. Depending on the severity of the pain killer abuse, and how long the problem has been going on, some may recognize all of the signs we’ve discussed here, while others may only recognize only one of the symptoms listed above. It’s important to understand that, regardless of how many of the signs exist, if any of symptoms of prescription pain killer abuse exist, it’s time to get help.
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