Almost all of us have experience with painkillers. Headaches, overdoing it at the gym, or a minor injury can lead to us reaching for over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. When larger issues like broken bones, surgery, or chronic pain conditions occur, the OTC meds may no longer be enough and a prescription painkiller is needed.
Most people will use prescription medications to get themselves through a particularly painful injury or condition and naturally taper off use as the pain fades. In some cases, however, an individual may find themselves taking the meds for far longer than they should. Slipping into a dependency or addiction on prescription painkillers can be surprisingly easy, especially if you are not on the lookout for red flags. Awareness is incredibly important so you can get the help you need to recover.
Is it Dependency or Addiction?
Drug dependency and drug addiction are two different things, and it’s important to know which one you are experiencing. Dependency means you have built up a tolerance to the drug and need higher doses to get the same effect. If you stop taking the drug, you will experience heightened levels of pain and other withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, low energy, or flu-like symptoms.
A drug addiction goes beyond the physical symptoms. Even if you are experiencing problems at work or home due to your drug use, you may not be able to stop because you’ve developed an emotional as well as physical connection to the drug. In many cases, addicts have both a dependency and an addiction and each needs to be treated in its own specific way to achieve recovery.
Signs You May Be Addicted
Many people deny that they have a problem with prescription medications. They may not just deny the issue to their friends, family, and co-workers, but they may also deny it to themselves. Justification and denial are classic signs of addiction, and it often takes someone other than the addict to identify a problem. Being aware of your own behaviors and thoughts, though, can lead to your own identification of a problem. If you experience any of the following, it may be time to get help.
You constantly think about your medications
Do you find yourself preoccupied with thoughts of your next dose of medication? Do you constantly worry that you will run out of the painkiller and how that might affect you? If you think about your medication frequently throughout the day and get anxious when you think about your supply running low, you may need to evaluate your dependency.
You take more than prescribed
All prescription medications have a specific amount that should not be exceeded. If you take more than what your doctor has prescribed or taken it more often than you should, this could indicate both a physical dependency and an emotional addiction. Prescription drugs should only be taken in accordance with doctor’s orders and violation of these orders is a red flag.
You get your prescription from more than one source
Your primary doctor or specialist should be the only one prescribing painkillers for your condition. If you start shopping around for a second doctor to write prescriptions, order painkillers online, or look to illegal sources for your medication, you should seek help.
The pain is gone but you still take meds
Prescription painkillers are never meant to be taken for a long period of time. Due to their negative effects on the liver, kidneys, and other parts of your system, they should only be taken for a brief period while you recover from an injury or illness. If you believe you are still in too much pain to discontinue use, it’s important to talk to your doctor about other strategies.
You experience changes in mood or sleep patterns
Prescription painkillers have multiple side effects that can include drowsiness, nausea, and constipation. These are usually normal and not severe enough to cause concern. However, if you have major changes in your personality that include increased anger, irritability, or suicidal thoughts, you should take this as a warning. Disruptions in your sleep that impact how well you function are also a sign you may have a problem.
How to Get Help with Your Addiction Recovery
If you believe you may have an addiction to painkillers, it’s imperative to seek the help of a professional immediately. Addictions become more difficult to recover from the longer they progress and early intervention is one of the best chances for recovery. Here are a few ways you can get the help you need.
Contact an addiction specialist Addiction specialists have experience with all types of painkiller dependencies and will be able to answer any questions you have. This is a confusing and frightening time for you and a specialist can help walk you through the next steps to recovery.
Seek addiction counseling Addiction counseling can come in many different forms from group therapy to one-on-one therapy to counseling involving family members who can support you. If your addiction is more emotional than physical, counseling may be the best first step in your treatment program.
Once you have met with an addiction specialist or counselor, they may suggest you incorporate one or both of the following to supplement your therapy.
Medication It may seem counterproductive to use medication to recover from an addiction to medication, but sometimes it is the best choice if a physical dependency is involved. When you visit with an addiction specialist, they may recommend that you get outpatient or inpatient medication therapy to assist with your recovery. This helps ease the painful withdrawal symptoms and can block the pleasurable feelings that opioids induce and can be powerful allies in your journey to recovery.
Check in to an addiction recovery center In some cases, addicts need to be completely removed from their environment to begin their recovery. Checking in to an addiction recovery center allows them to receive 24/7 support from professionals. It also removes everyday temptations that could impede their recovery efforts.
If you believe you have a problem with prescription painkillers, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. When you reach out to an addiction professional, you can get expert advice on how to start on the road to recovery and regain your life. If you have any questions or would like to speak with a specialist, please contact us.