Painkillers Addiction Signs and Symptoms

About Painkiller Addiction

Learn More About Painkiller Addiction

For people who suffer from chronic pain, taking prescription pain medication can be life-changing, as these medications can allow them to resume healthy functioning without being hindered by their condition. When a physician makes a recommendation for a painkiller regimen, warnings about the addictive nature of these medications are frequently provided and patients are often advised to closely follow their physician’s instructions for how and when to take them. However, if these warning are not heeded, abuse and addiction can result.

Many of the prescription pain medications that exist today contain oxycodone or hydrocodone. These active ingredients make these medications habit-forming and also make overcoming this type of chemical dependency so difficult. In the event that a person abuses painkillers, it is likely that he or she will experience painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms once these substances are no longer in his or her system. These withdrawal symptoms are often painful enough to keep a person trapped in the vicious cycle of addiction. Furthermore, if an individual is battling a mental health condition at the same time, it could be even more cumbersome to defeat a painkiller addiction if the necessary skills for coping are not present.

Luckily, there are viable treatment options that have helped countless people overcome an addiction to prescription pain medications. By engaging in treatment for this form of chemical dependency, an individual can acquire the skills needed for lasting recovery and can receive care for any existing mental illness that may have contributed to the development of an addiction to painkillers.


Painkiller Addiction Statistics

Recent reports show that prescription painkillers are the second most abused substances among young people. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, it is estimated that 46 people in the United States lose their lives each day as a result of overdosing on prescription pain medications. Additionally, it has been reported that in recent years, overdoses as a result of misusing painkillers have exceeded those caused by illicit drugs such as heroin or cocaine. Furthermore, emergency room visits by individuals who have abused prescription pain medications has increased 183 percent in the last seven years.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Painkiller Addiction

The root causes of addiction can be quite complex, as many variables often play a role in the development of a chemical dependency problem. However, experts in the fields of addiction and mental health believe that the following are among the most culpable factors that contribute to the development of an addiction to substances such as painkillers:

Genetic: There is a substantial amount of research that has proven a link between genetics and addiction. The conclusive findings that resulted from this research stem from tracing family history of addiction among individuals who share similar genes and by identifying specific genes that are believed to make a person more vulnerable to abusing substances. This research is applicable to those who abuse prescription pain medications, as these individuals could also have a family history of addiction and possess genes that can make them more susceptible to substance abuse as well.

Environmental: It is very possible that a person’s environment can influence whether or not prescription pain medications will be abused. For example, if an individual is able to acquire painkillers with ease, there is a high likelihood that they will be abused. Additionally, if an individual resides or works in a high stress environment, there is a greater chance that these types of medications will be abused as well. This risk can be further increased if an individual is struggling with the symptoms of a mental illness and lacks the skills for coping with such turmoil appropriately. Lastly, if a person is employed in a position in which injury is probable, there is a risk for prescription painkiller abuse if that individual should get hurt while working.    

Risk Factors:

  • Having easy access to prescription pain medications
  • Family history of substance abuse and/or addiction
  • Personal history of substance abuse and/or addiction
  • Possessing a preexisting mental health condition or conditions, either diagnosed or undiagnosed
  • Having a history of suffering from chronic pain as a result of a medical condition or injury

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Painkiller Addiction

Because those who abuse prescription pain medications often go to great lengths to conceal their use of such substances, it may not always be apparent to friends and loved ones that a person they care about is battling a chemical dependency concern of this kind. However, there are several behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial signs and symptoms that can aid in identifying a painkiller abuse problem. The following are among those various signs and symptoms:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Fluctuating energy levels
  • Abusing increased amounts of prescription pain medications
  • Putting in a great deal of effort in acquiring more painkillers
  • Frequent lying
  • Hindered work performance
  • No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Continuing to abuse painkillers despite adverse consequences that have occurred
  • Possessing multiple prescriptions for pain medications
  • “Doctor shopping”
  • Poor impulse control
  • Isolating oneself from peers and loved ones

Physical symptoms:

  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Development of tolerance for the painkiller(s) being abused
  • Onset of withdrawal symptoms when not able to consume the substance being abused
  • Constricted pupils
  • Seizures
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Itchy and/or flushed skin
  • Problems breathing
  • Heart problems
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Memory disturbances
  • Compromised ability to make good decisions

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Elevated anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Increased agitation
  • Drastic mood changes
  • Feelings of depression


Effects of Painkiller Addiction

Failing to seek treatment for an addiction to prescription pain medications can result in several devastating effects for an individual. For this reason it is imperative that effective care is sought in order to minimize the risk of the following from occurring:

  • Development of physical health problems
  • Onset of seizures
  • Interaction with the legal system, which could lead to incarceration
  • Financial problems
  • Decrease in quantity and quality of interpersonal relationships
  • Divorce or demise of meaningful relationships
  • Isolation from friends and loved ones
  • Difficulty refraining from abusing painkillers
  • Job loss
  • Homelessness
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Ideations of suicide
  • Overdose
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Painkiller Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders

It is very common for a person to suffer from a co-occurring mental health condition or conditions while also grappling with an addiction to prescription painkillers. The following disorders are those that are frequently diagnosed in people who seek treatment for an addiction to painkillers:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Another substance use disorder


Effects of Painkiller Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of prescription painkiller withdrawal: When an individual abuses painkillers for a long period of time and abruptly ceases use of these types of medications, uncomfortable and sometimes painful withdrawal symptoms are likely to manifest. Depending on the medication that is being abused, along with the amount and longevity of the abuse, the following are among the symptoms of withdrawal that can be experienced by someone who stops abusing painkillers:

  • Diminished appetite
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Strong cravings for continued painkiller use
  • Cold flashes
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Muscle pain
  • Bone pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Involuntary leg movements
  • Change in the size of one’s pupils
  • Nausea

Effects of prescription painkiller overdose: The longer a person abuses prescription pain medications, the higher that person’s tolerance will become for increased amounts of the given medication. When this occurs, an individual will require larger quantities of his or her painkiller of choice in order to achieve the desired high, ultimately making the risk for overdose exponentially greater. Should an overdose occur, it is crucial that emergency medical attention be sought in order to avoid a grave outcome. If you notice that a friend or loved one is experiencing the following effects after consuming prescription pain medications, it is best to reach out to emergency personnel:

  • Decreased ability to breath
  • Constricted pupils
  • Coma
  • Becoming disorientated
  • Drowsiness
  • Experiencing hallucinations
  • Damage to vital organs
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Onset of tremors
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