Painkillers are some of the most prescribed drugs in this country, because they are designed to enhance the quality of life of people who experience severe pain. Not every painkiller is addictive, but some are. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are commonly prescribed for those with mild to moderate symptoms. If those symptoms become more severe, or if the pain is acute, opiate painkillers may be prescribed instead. Unfortunately, opioid painkillers are addictive, and their potential for abuse is high.
Physicians are aware of the addictive properties of these drugs and will prescribe them in such a way that they reduce the chances of the patient becoming addicted. Usually, the drugs are only prescribed for short periods of time and with strict instructions. If someone does abuse them, however, dependence and addiction are likely to follow. In fact, even those who use the drugs according to their prescription are at risk of dependency, at which point they might also start to abuse them because their bodies have developed a tolerance for the drug.
Help is available for those who are suffering from a painkiller addiction. This includes medically supervised detox, therapy, inpatient drug rehabilitation, outpatient treatment programs, and aftercare. The type of treatment that is required will vary depending on the patient.
Speaking Out About Painkiller Addiction
If you believe that some people are abusing painkillers, then you should speak out to encourage them to undergo treatment. Reaching out to them may just save their lives. Unfortunately, starting that conversation can be difficult. It is vital that you avoid judgment and blame when you do. You can say that you disapprove of their behavior, but make it clear that you still support them and that you want to help them to get help.
Overcoming a painkiller addiction is possible. It is overwhelming, but with the right strategies, relief can be found. There are some ways you can encourage a loved one to become drug free, such as:
- Encouraging them to be evaluated by a doctor, as their advice is often trusted
- Reassuring them about the confidential nature of treatment
- Listening to your loved ones and being emphatic about their concerns and fear. Work with them to come up with questions to ask.
- Reminding them that treatment for them is available, regardless of what their particular needs are, and that you will support them in finding the best treatment.
It can be very difficult to communicate clearly with someone who is addicted, not in the least because they may be very resistant to what you say to them. One approach that has been shown to be very beneficial is the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) approach. Here, you will work with an intervention specialist, learning about how to start the conversation. You will also learn how to push recovery forward in a supportive way, thereby not pushing people away or destroying relationships. In fact, in about 70% of cases where it is used, the CRAFT model was successful in getting an addicted individual into treatment.
Treatment for Painkiller Addictions
There are a number of stages involved in the treatment of painkiller addiction. The first is the detox and withdrawal period. It is normal to experience severe symptoms, which are comparable to that of the flu. These symptoms are uncomfortable, but not dangerous unless someone is pregnant. Although the withdrawal symptoms are not dangerous, they are so severe that medical supervision is recommended for this particular period, as this will prevent them from relapsing. It is possible for physicians to prescribe different medications to manage the withdrawal. Suboxone and methadone, for instance, are often prescribed for people with opiate addictions.
After detox, the real treatment will begin. Treatment must be personalized to the individual in order to be effective. This means that it starts with an evaluation, at which point a treatment plan can be designed. All your needs must be addressed in treatment, which includes your social needs, your psychological needs, and your medical needs.
Two critical forms of treatment are therapy and counseling. This treatment helps you to understand why you turned to drugs. It also helps to identify what the triggers are that led to your drug abuse. Furthermore, this treatment will teach you how to lower the risk of you returning to drugs as a response to triggers. Most importantly, remember that you are not on your own. Some 4 million people in this country misuse prescription painkillers according to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
How Addictive Are Painkillers?
Over the counter painkillers, including NSAIDs, are not addictive. However, if they are opioid-based, then the potential for abuse and addiction is there. They tend to give people a numbing and euphoric effect, and this is what both those who have a legitimate need for prescriptions and those who abuse it recreationally are looking for. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), some 22,767 people died as a result of prescription drug overdose. Over 16,000 of these deaths were related to painkillers. Clearly, therefore, they have a high potential for abuse and addiction, and help is needed.
The Signs of Addiction
There are many different signs that could point to addiction. However, the central issue of all addictions is that, even if you know that a drug is harming you, you are unable to stop using it. An addiction is a compulsion, and one that overrides all common sense, no matter how bad the negative impact is on your life. Different prescription medications have different symptoms and signs of addiction. However, if you experience any of the following, you may indeed need some help:
- Your relationships with friends and family are strained.
- You have tried to stop, but have been incapable of doing so.
- When you don’t use a painkiller, you experience withdrawal symptoms.
- You have financial difficulties because you spend too much money on getting drugs.
- You are in trouble with the law because you used or bought the drug illegally, or were caught driving under their influence.
- You “doctor shop”, which means you visit various doctors in order to get more prescriptions.