Published On: March 31, 2016|Categories: Clinician’s Corner|

For some people, debilitating pain is almost commonplace. Prescription painkillers may initially provide relief from physical pain, but continued use over time will often result in a dangerous drug dependency. . However, becoming addicted to painkillers doesn’t have to become a way of life.

If your loved one has been routinely taking opioid pain medication for a long period of time, it’s important to understand ways in which you can support them. Learn the effects of painkiller addiction and how you can begin to increase the chances of your loved one staying addiction free.

First, it is important to know the difference between addiction and dependency when discussing the ramifications of pain medication. Dependency is a physical condition that occurs when a user develops a tolerance to a particular medication over time. Addiction is when users depart from medical instruction and increase their dosage or seek alternate routes of obtaining pain medications. This can include illegally purchasing the painkillers, shopping for doctors willing to prescribe additional prescriptions (often without the doctors’ knowledge), or engaging in other unethical or illegal activities with the end goal of procuring additional medication.

At any dosage level, and for all types of painkillers, the potential for addiction is an ever-present threat.

As you support your loved one during this time, it is essential to keep these two points in mind to help decrease the risk of addiction to whatever painkillers have been prescribed, especially if addiction runs in your family:

  1. Ensure your loved one only takes the prescribed amount. The purpose of this medicine is to reduce pain, but taking a medicine in higher doses than prescribed increases the likelihood of developing an addiction and increases the body’s tolerance at a faster rate, leading to consistently higher increases in dosage.
  2. Ensure your loved one only takes painkillers over the allotted time prescribed by the doctor. While long-term use of painkillers does not guarantee development of an addiction, if these medications are not monitored, your loved one can develop dependency issues.

While painkillers are prescribed by doctors to treat many types of pain from inflammation and moderate pain to intense pain following serious operations, it is necessary to recognize the differences in types and doses of pain medication. There are three types of painkillers: basic over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like aspirin, paracetamol (used to lower the body’s temperature), and opioids.. Opioids or opiates are the most common prescription drugs associated with addiction because of their strong addictive nature. This includes drugs like morphine or Oxycodone.

Mismanaged, opioids can create strong addictions because they change the chemistry of the brain. The number of nerve receptors for the drug increases, while the body’s ability to create natural painkillers becomes limited. However, even strong painkillers don’t have to lead to addiction. They must be used as recommended.

Withdrawal symptoms from painkillers may include nausea, vomiting, insomnia, muscle pains, and more, but these symptoms can also be common side effects of the medications themselves. Withdrawal can occur from no longer taking a drug after developing natural tolerance and dependency. To ensure your loved one successfully manages a healthy lifestyle after taking pain medication and doesn’t relapse into addiction-like doses that can occur from quitting “cold turkey,” consult the prescribing doctor all closely follow instructions when discontinuing the medication. Her or she may recommend slowly reducing doses and the frequency with which the medication is taken.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 48 million people over the age of 12 have taken prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons during their lifetime. That’s about 20 percent if the U.S. population. Pain medicine is essential to mitigating moderate and chronic pain; however, these drugs carry with them the risk of causing an addiction if mismanaged and taken unchecked.

Pain management is not easy, but for the sake of your loved ones, be alert to the type and dosage of drug they are taking to ensure their painkillers remain a support and not a cause of addiction. Contact High Focus Centers today to learn about our outpatient services that can help your loved one overcome addiction.

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