The rise of painkiller addiction in America is one of the biggest concerns for the country today. Unlike many other drugs, painkillers can and should be used in a medical capacity, but they can also have addictive and destructive properties. Education and treatment are the keys to preventing painkiller addiction and helping those struggling with addiction get the help they need.
The Medical Uses for Painkillers
Although drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine are also dangerous and addictive, they differ from painkillers in one major way—reputation. Having painkillers in a bathroom cabinet isn’t a sign of a problem to many people, because these medications have perfectly legitimate uses. Doctors may prescribe painkillers to their patients who have been involved in accidents or who are undergoing recovery from surgery. In specific doses over short time periods, painkillers can be an effective way of limiting pain for many patients.
The Addiction Properties of Painkillers
While painkillers may have a legitimate medical purpose, they are still highly addictive. Many painkillers contain opiates, which are the same primary ingredients found in drugs like heroin. After taking painkillers for a few days or weeks, some patients may not be able to live without them. Even stopping for a day or two can cause incredible discomfort and a renewal of pain, which means that patients continue to crave and take the painkillers long after they should have ceased consumption.
What it Means to be Addicted to Opiate Painkillers
Sometimes, an opioid painkiller can deliver a short high to patients who are prescribed the medication. This will probably be a time when there’s no pain present at all, and there may be a sense of euphoria or contentment that is unusual following an accident or a surgery. As a result, the brain and body begin to crave the ingredients found in the painkillers, and the opiates in particular. After a while, the painkillers aren’t taken just to dull the pain, but also to make it possible to function without withdrawal symptoms.
Individuals who try to wean themselves from opiate painkillers may feel weak, lethargic or unhappy. It can lead to depression, and trying to quit cold turkey can wreak havoc on the body and the mind. After making such an attempt, many individuals addicted to painkillers don’t attempt to skip a dose again, instead resigning themselves to the fact that this is a necessary medication. Worse still, individuals may need to increase the dosage in order to feel the same impact, which only strengthens the severity of the addiction over time.
Reasons Behind the Rise of Painkiller Addictions
There are many reasons behind the rise of painkiller addictions across the globe, including:
- The ease of obtaining a prescription
- Availability of these medications on the market
- A lack of education about the danger and potency of painkillers
Many addiction specialists believe that physicians are writing too many prescriptions for opiate painkillers when other, less addictive medications might be just as effective. By limiting the number of prescriptions that are written, it may be harder to obtain these drugs and harder to take enough to lead to an addiction.
The widespread availability of painkillers also spurs the rising addiction rates. Unlike illegal or illicit substances, painkillers are rarely hidden away. Instead, they are placed in purses and bathroom cabinets, and extra doses are saved rather than thrown away or properly disposed of. All of this means that it can be easy to obtain painkillers, even if they weren’t specifically prescribed to you.
Another issue that is contributing to rising addiction numbers is the idea that prescription painkillers aren’t something that patients need to worry about. While children and teens learn in school that certain drugs are incredibly addictive and can lead to major health concerns, they aren’t necessarily learning the same thing about prescription medications. Better education and awareness about the risks and addictive properties of painkillers may help reduce overdoses and addiction numbers around the world.
The Strength of an Opioid Addiction
Being addicted to painkillers is already a tremendous challenge that requires proper treatment. However, some individuals who are addicted to opiates eventually run out of the prescription medications. When this happens, it’s natural to seek out any available source of opiates that can prevent withdrawal from occurring and limit discomfort. Unfortunately, many of the people who are addicted to opiate painkillers will go on to use heroin.
Heroin is opiate-based, just like many prescription painkillers, and it’s often more readily available and much cheaper than medication painkillers. Sadly, heroin is often more concentrated, which increases the severity of the addiction while also increasing the likelihood of an overdose.
The Challenges of an Opiate Withdrawal
It’s vital to remember that an addiction to painkillers, heroin or any other opiate isn’t just a matter of self control or willpower. It’s an illness, and it requires medical intervention just like any other disease. Some individuals who struggle with this addiction want to break free, but managing the incredible challenge of an opiate withdrawal is often too much to bear alone.
Trying to withdraw from opiate painkillers can result in far more than just discomfort. Pain, aches, depression and extreme dehydration are all common, and there are also risks for less common but still problematic health issues to arise. For this reason, seeking to withdraw without professional health is usually ineffective and potentially dangerous.
Treating a Painkiller Addiction
Since a solo withdrawal is rarely successful when battling a painkiller addiction, it’s important to seek out proper medical treatment. A detox and then a subsequent rehab program can use pharmacological treatment to wean patients from their opiate dependence, which reduces the symptoms and pain of withdrawal. Proper treatment can also get to the heart of the addiction and prevent the development of new addictions moving forward.
Painkiller addiction is a serious and growing problem in America and beyond. Availability, lack of awareness and incredibly addictive properties are contributing to the increased reliance on painkillers by millions, and professional detox and rehab is often the only way to combat this strong and devastating addiction.