Painkillers are a great invention of mankind because they help get rid of acute pain, including that occurring during surgical interventions. It would be impossible to carry out many important operations without anesthesia and painkillers. You could not even pull out a tooth painlessly and without severe torment if painkillers were not available. But these medicines also have side effects and other disadvantages.
Some people, especially those who suffer from chronic pain, develop addiction to painkillers because they take them very often and immensely (in high doses). Sometimes even people who do not abuse these medications (intentionally or unintentionally) may encounter this problem.
Signs of Painkiller Dependence
Although the main goal of painkillers is to relieve a person from pain, these medications can cause a feeling of euphoria to which addiction is developed. As a result, a patient desires to receive it again and again.
Dependence can progress slowly, so patient painkiller taker may not notice its development. Typically, symptoms include apathy for the surrounding, fatigue, lethargy, and loss of interest in normal daily activities. If a person abuses painkillers, he or she may also experience overdose symptoms, namely space disorientation, vomiting, nausea, drop in blood pressure, and sharply negative or suicidal thoughts. Using too high dosage can even be fatal. This makes it necessary to consult a doctor as soon as possible and start treatment for addiction. Close relatives should carefully monitor a patient who has signs of dependence on painkillers and suspicious behavior:
- ordering large quantities of medicines online
- theft of painkillers from relatives, friends, other people
- causing damage to oneself to enter the hospital and receive a new prescription
- illegal prescribing (faking) recipes
- purchasing drugs from illegal street vendors
- getting angry with other people who indicate his / her abuse
- sudden mood swings
- constant obsession with the use of drugs
Both non-prescription and prescription painkillers may be abused. According to F.V. Abbott and M.I. Fraser (1998), more than 4 grams of acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) or acetaminophen over a long period of time may be considered abuse. As stated by D.A. Fishbain et al (2008), percentage of addiction development in chronic pain patients using RX opioids is relatively low, but they often tend to have aberrant drug-related behavior.
Read our article about Headaches
The treatment plan depends on the type of addiction. If a person is addicted to opioid (narcotic) painkillers, he / she may be faced with both physiological and psychological dependence. The rehabilitation process can be lengthy and undergoing treatment in specialized rehab centers is often the best option.
Non-narcotic analgesics usually cause psychological dependence, which is theoretically less serious than physiological one, but it is often the trickiest thing.
Aftercare plays a significant role after successful treatment. Painkiller addicts may join local or online groups, which allow for creating environment of understanding and help prevent relapse of the disorder.
How to Prevent the Development of Painkiller Addiction?
Always take medicine as instructed. If it is indicated that, for example, roughly speaking the maximum duration of treatment is five days, you should not take the medication for 10 days.
Also, do not exceed the recommended dosage. Remember that painkillers provide only a symptomatic effect. They do not eliminate the cause of the pain. To combat the primary source of the problem, you need to take other drugs and or resort to other actions.
And remember: in spite of the fact that many painkillers are dispensed without a prescription, it is always better to consult a doctor if you are planning a medium or long-term treatment.
Always try to get the right diagnosis to identify the true cause of the pain. If you need painkillers on an ongoing basis, consult your doctor regularly, maybe he or she will advise you to change your medication.
If you suspect you are addicted to painkillers, see your doctor as soon as possible, this will speed up the achievement of sobriety.
I’m an Oncologist and Hematology Specialist primary located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. I have over 55 years of experience in the medical field and more than 20 years of practice. I’m skilled at the treatment & diagnosis of a large array of ailments & diseases in adults.
- American Board of Internal Medicine Certification in Internal Medicine
- American Board of Hematology Certification in Hematology
- American Board of Medical Oncology Certification in Medical Oncology