It’s a slippery slope. You have chronic pain or an injury, and are prescribed by a doctor, pills to make the pain go away. The relief feels amazing. When the actual pain goes away, you can’t help, but desire the high you got from the pills and continue to take them anyway.
This is how pain pill addiction begins for millions of Americans each year. Keep in mind that taking the pain pills as prescribed by your doctor is ok, however when it extends weeks beyond what was recommended, then your body is becoming physically dependent. This is the first step to becoming addicted.
So, where do you draw the line between physical dependence and addiction?
Psychiatrist expert, Dr. Ish Major explains it this way:
“if you are having problems with work and relationships and are feeling the side effects of the medication, you may have a problem. Also, if you feel like you need to take larger amounts than when you first started. Lastly, if you can’t stop on your own, you are looking at an addiction situation.”
Other warning signs of addiction might include:
- You can’t stop thinking about your medication.
- You are doctor shopping. This means you are searching out new doctors who are known for prescribing more medications or you are finding new outlets when your doctor refuses to give you refills.
- You are getting pain medications from other sources, including the internet, stealing prescription pads to write your own script, stealing from friends and family, hurting yourself to get a new prescription or buying them off the streets.
- Feeling angry when someone points out your medication usage.
- You are changing. You feel moodier, you are not taking care of your hygiene, your eating habits have changed, you feel jittery, you are not sleeping much and you are neglected your responsibilities. These are all serious signs that you are in too deep with your painkiller addiction.
You might also be wondering if pain pill addiction is an inherited trait. Dr. Ish says “What’s baked in the bread, was first sifted in the flour,” so essentially the answer is yes. There is approximately a 40% inheritance rate. Keep in mind there are more factors than just inheritance. There’s social, biological and psychological issues that are also wrapped into your situation.
When it comes to a cure, the goal should be therapy, and not more medication. Oftentimes depression leads to pain pill addiction. Therefore if you address the root cause of your depression, you can heal faster.
Other ways to avoid pain pill addiction is to have open and honest conversations about your medications with your health care provider. If you need to be on pain killers for an extended amount of time, have a goal and a plan to wean yourself off of them. You will need help tapering your dose down.
If you feel like you are becoming addicted, tell your doctor. There is no shame in honesty and they are there to help you.
Here are more eye-opening facts on the pain pill addiction epidemic:
- In 2016 alone, health care providers wrote an astonishing 66.5 prescriptions per 100 people. That equates to more than 214 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications.
- Approximately, 1 in 5 people receive prescription opioids long-term for noncancer pain from primary care physicians.
- In 2016, more than 11 million people abused prescription opioids.
- Every day, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids.
- More than 40% of all US opioid overdose deaths in 2016 involved a prescription opioid.
- Sadly, in 2016 drug overdoses claimed the lives of nearly 64,000 Americans.
- The economic burden is only continuing to grow. According to the CDC, they estimate the total economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the US to be $78.5 billion a year. This includes the costs of health care, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
Painkiller addiction is real, it is growing and it is costly both to the economy and the lives of many Americans. When you find the reason you are depressed enough to continue to take painkillers without being in physical pain, then you can start the healing process. Usually it takes a professional to help your mind heal and help manage an addiction to painkillers. It is easy to first gain access to painkillers in many situations, but it can take a whole lot of effort to remove them from your life.