Painkillers are one of the most addictive substances prescribed; most people who are taking these medications are completely unaware of how addicting they are. Oftentimes, people who have an addiction to painkillers developed one unintentionally.
Painkillers are normally prescribed after surgery, for serious muscle pain, or pain related to diseases. One should keep in mind that not all painkillers are addicting. Most of the habit forming medications are an opiate or opioid; an example of these would be Vicodin or OxyContin.
There are many factors that can have a part in addiction to painkillers. Listed below are some of these factors to take into consideration.
Painkillers Effectively Numb Pain
These medications can be overused simply because of how effective they are. There are no special requirements needed. One must simply swallow a tablet or drink some liquid and in a short time, the pain they were experiencing is gone. To many people, especially those in pain, this is just what they are after.
Unfortunately, because painkillers work so well, they are the first choice for managing pain. There are other options such as drug-free pain management clinics, natural medicine, and therapy that can help with pain, but these may require a lot of time and effort. They may also not eliminate the pain as much as the person would like.
Drug-free, Pain Management Clinics May Not be an Option
It has become the ‘norm’ for physicians to hand out painkillers to their patients instead of referring them to drug free, pain management clinics. Even when a person is interested in these clinics and may want to give them a go, they may have a hard time doing so. This may be because they cannot get a referral, cannot find one in their area, or are unable to afford them. Because these alternatives are inaccessible, they have little or no choice and must opt for painkillers.
Painkillers can Block Emotional Pain
Emotions can be easily left behind when taking painkillers, a person may have a sense of ‘nothing really matters’. People taking these medications often state that they begin to feel a distance from their emotions and any pain that may be attached to them. Many people using these medications have some kind of emotional pain from an accident or illness. Instead of seeking counseling or professional help, they not only take the painkiller to eliminate their pain, but to also block their emotional pain.
Painkillers can Cause Pleasure and Relaxation
Painkillers tend to cause a euphoric like feeling; this is especially common in opiates and opioids. The feeling is similar to that of a person being successful with something they have been trying to achieve, yet there is no effort needed when taking a painkiller. Most people who are taking these medications have emotional pain and are going through a lot. They may begin to seek repeated pleasurable experiences by abusing the medication. It is common for people with physical pain to be very uptight and tense; therefore, they increase their own pain. Painkillers can help to induce relaxation and relief from tension. Instead of practicing techniques like yoga or meditation to help with this tension, people become reliant on painkillers.
Using to Abusing to Dependence to Addiction
So there are many reasons as to why a person may want to take painkillers, but how exactly does a person develop and addiction and why is it so destructive?
Tolerance Builds Quickly
Anyone who is taking painkillers on a regular basis will develop a tolerance. They will find that they have to increase their dosage in order to get the same desired effect. Developing a tolerance is the first sign that an addiction is forming.
Over-Use Can Cause More Pain
Many people taking painkillers complain that they need stronger medications or need more of them because their pain is becoming worse. This can actually be because of the heavy use of the medication. When a person begins to over-use their medication, they may begin to not pay attention to their own body. They may overwork a muscle, develop poor posture because a lack of sensation, or weaken areas because of a lack of exercise. All of these bad habits can come from abusing painkillers and can worsen pain.
When a person develops dependency or an addiction to painkillers, they will go through some sort of withdrawal when the medication wears off. Many times, the withdrawal symptoms can be worse than the original pain the person was trying to escape from. Severe headaches, anxiety, anger, nervousness, muscle pain and cramping, nausea, and vomiting are only some of the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Once a person takes more of the medication, their symptoms disappear. In fear of withdrawal, people who have an addiction will regularly take more painkillers rather than stopping. Some are not even aware that their withdrawal symptoms are a result of an addiction.
Painkillers to Illicit Drug Use
Oftentimes, when a person has a severe addiction to painkillers they begin to have difficulty obtaining the amount of medication needed for them to feel satisfied. They may begin to be labeled as a drug seeker, they may feel harshly judged, and in some cases, their insurance discontinues covering the cost of the medication. When this happens, it is not uncommon for a person to turn to dangerous and illegal drugs like heroin.