Prescription pain medications are becoming popular and mainstream as a multitude of celebrities are beginning to appear on news networks for their various drug addictions. In addition to celebrities, many common citizens are crippled by an addiction to prescription painkillers. Despite the fact prescription drug addiction is as common as the flu, there are several misunderstandings concerning patients dealing with genuine pain. Many doctors are reluctant to prescribe narcotic painkillers fearing that the patients will have irreversible addictions to the drugs. There is a very thin line between responsible pain management and prescription painkiller addiction.
What is Drug Addiction?
One of the most common reasons for a visit to the physician’s office is for pain relief. Several drugs are available on the market to aid in this pain relief. One of the most common solutions for pain relief is opioid or narcotic drugs. These pain relievers are synthesized from opium derived from a poppy plant. Both morphine and codeine are natural byproducts of opium. Modifications can be made to morphine to produce other narcotics such as Heroin, Percocet (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodone), Demerol (pethidine), Dilaudid (hydromorphone), Duragesic (fentanyl), and Methadone. When narcotics such as these are used solely for the management of pain, patients are unlikely to become addicted to them. However, many patients abuse these medications and get addicted.
Opioids expose patients to a very intoxicating and euphoric high when taken orally or injected in high doses. In addition to this, opioids are powerful anxiety relievers, making it both therapeutic as well as recreational when abused. All of the aforementioned facts contribute to the reason why narcotic painkillers are some of the most widely abused drugs in the United States.
Although terms like “drug addiction,” “opioid abuse,” “drug abuse,” and “drug dependence” are used interchangeably, experts have succinctly defined it as the deliberate use of a drug or medicine for a purpose outside of the doctor’s prescription. The human body develops a tolerance to a drug once higher doses are required to achieve the same effect. Once the body develops a tolerance, drug dependence begins. When the body doesn’t have access to these drugs, physiological side effects occur such as sweating, diarrhea, and restlessness. In addition to the physiological aspects of addiction, psychological aspects include habitual craving and unsafe drug seeking.
Withdrawing from a narcotic painkiller addiction is very difficult. After developing physical dependence, opioid abusers often take more of the same drug to achieve the same effect. Once the supply of narcotics is cut off and the patient no longer has access, it is very likely that they will experience debilitating withdrawal symptoms. Common withdrawal symptoms include irritability, increased anxiety, rapid breathing, intense cravings for the drug, uncontrollable yawning, runny nose, salivation, muscle aches, goose-flesh, nasal congestion, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, enlarged pupils, tremors, abdominal cramping, and loss of appetite. Although these symptoms are not life-threatening, they are agonizing to go through and make the drug seeker only increase their efforts in obtaining their drug of choice. The severity of these withdrawal symptoms depends on how long and how much of the drug the user typically abuses.
Finding the Right Balance
In most cases, patients who follow the doctor’s instructions will not become dependent on their prescription painkillers. Because the abuse potential is so high, however, it is important to request narcotics only if the pain you are suffering is unbearable. Patients often request opioid painkillers even if the injury they sustained is minor and passes with time. To avoid addiction, one must remove all temptation to abuse drugs, which includes avoiding prescription strength painkillers. Before making an appointment with the doctor, try over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil). These analgesics are still very powerful and don’t have the abuse potential of Vicodin or Percocet.
Inpatient Treatment for Addiction
If you are already going through drug dependency, several resources are available to help you combat your illness. Visit a drug rehabilitation center with the support of family and friends. Detoxing on your own is not recommended, as relapse is very common. Once admitted to a rehab center, you will have the assistance from staff members to combat crippling withdrawal symptoms. There is help for everyone facing a drug problem.