Addition to Pain Medication: Causes, Effects and Treatments

Pain Medication Addictions

Angelia Holland

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People are going to the doctor when they are nothing wrong with them to get a prescription for pain pills. People are getting more and more addicted to prescription pain pills. When doctors do not prescribe them a prescription because they suspect that are abusing the pills, then they will buy them for someone. These pills will not stop when they have an addiction sometime they abuse it so bad that they overdose because they mix pills together and do not know the outcome will be. However, pain pills misuse is a common thing now then it was in the past.

No one decides to get addicted to prescription pain pills. Alienating family and friends, failing at work, and launching a small-time criminal career aren’t what anyone plans on when they swallow their first pain pill.

One in five Americans report misusing a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime, but the overwhelming majority put the pills away with no lasting harm. So how does prescription painkiller abuse progress to full-blown opioid addiction? It typically starts with a visit to the doctor for a backache or to dull pain after surgery, an accident or a sports injury. It ends with addiction.

Misuse of prescription painkillers is on the rise, and experts say increasingly, it’s killing us (Shamus, 2013). Healthcare providers have long wrestled with how best to treat patients who suffer from chronic pain, roughly 116 million in this country.

No special training, skill, effort or techniques are required for pain management when using narcotic painkillers. You simply take a pill and soon afterward, the pain you were feeling is reduced or eliminated. The fact that these painkillers work well with little effort makes them the first choice for pain management for many people. Rather than exploring other ways of managing pain, which take effort and may not eliminate pain to the same extent as the painkillers, people reach for the pill bottle each time pain relief is required. The ease of use and effectiveness it brings may lead some to reach for the drugs more often than is safe or necessary.

While it may not be the first reason that people take such painkillers, most notice that while they are under the influence of these drugs, they are distanced from their emotional pain.

Painful emotions are a part of everyday life for all of us, but often we can manage these feelings on our own or with professional help, such as counseling. However, people in physical pain have often suffered emotional trauma and are more vulnerable to the attractions of a pill that just makes it all go away. Over time, people come to depend on their prescription painkillers to manage their negative emotions.

Painkillers can be pleasurable. Opioids, in particular, have a side effect of euphoria. This is similar to the pleasure felt when you have been successful or after intense physical excitement, but it requires no such effort to attain. As people who are in pain have typically suffered an unpleasant experience that caused the pain, the pleasurable effects of these painkillers can seem like a delightful surprise. Seeking repeated experiences of pleasure through the addictive behavior or substance is one of the hallmarks of addiction.

People with physical pain are often very tense. Because many painkillers, such as Demerol, induce physical relaxation, they can provide welcome relief from tension while under the influence. After a while, people can come to rely on painkillers that have this effect to provide relief from tension and the added pain that tension causes. Tolerance builds up quickly. Opioids can quickly cause tolerance to occur. As a result, people who regularly take these painkillers find that they need to take higher and higher dosages of the drug they are on in order to get the same effect. In addition to physical tolerance, people develop psychological tolerance as they become desensitized to the effects of the drug. Tolerance is one of the key signs that addiction is developing.

Often, people who are becoming addicted to narcotic painkillers believe they need more of the drug because their pain is getting worse. But the worsening is often a result of the painkiller use itself. The ups and downs of a developing addiction because physical behaviors such as overuse of an injured part of the body, poor posture resulting from a lack of sensation when in positions that would otherwise be uncomfortable, and a lack of moderate exercise that would otherwise strengthen the weakened area (Hartney, 2011). Instead of correcting these bad habits, the person will often just take more painkillers, creating a vicious cycle of physical neglect being concealed by the effects of the drugs.

As people become addicted to painkillers, they experience withdrawal when the drug wears off. Withdrawal is very unpleasant, and it often feels like an intensifying of the very symptoms the person was trying to escape through taking the painkillers.

Pain, digestive problems and feelings of being generally unwell are common. As soon as the drug is taken, the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms disappear, and the person feels relieved of pain, relaxed, and free of tension and emotional distress. Over time, the person will choose to manage withdrawal symptoms through regularly taking more painkillers, sometimes without even realizing the withdrawal symptoms are caused by the drug itself (Hartney, 2011).

The physical signs of addiction. Many times, painkiller addicts do not recognize the signs of their addiction until their behavior is pointed out to them. Painkillers can cause slurred speech and depression that they often attribute to other causes. Other physical symptoms of painkiller addiction include the inability to concentrate, lack of coordination and dizziness. Health care providers often recognize the symptoms because of declining blood pressure levels and slow, labored breathing. Narcotic painkillers also produce constipation.

In addition to the obvious physical signs that result in unusual behavior, people who are addicted to painkillers begin to exhibit other behaviors inconsistent with their usual habits. Students often begin to find more reasons to stay home from school and start to receive falling grades. Lethargy and reduced energy levels are very common to painkiller addicts and are especially notable when they were previously considered active and enjoyed physical activities. Appearance becomes less important to addicts, and they may begin to have money troubles that lead them to ask for loans and get behind in their bills.

As a painkiller addict withdraws from the drugs, the signs of addiction become more apparent. The National Institutes of Health reports that withdrawal from opioid painkillers brings on bone aches, chills, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting. Involuntary leg movements, restlessness and muscle pain also may be present. People withdrawing from painkillers should be medically supervised during the first few days of treatment because the symptoms can be life threatening. Withdrawal from sedatives and tranquilizers can cause convulsions.

Before taking pain medications, do your research Miotto of WebMD explains:

Weigh Your Risk Factors

A history of addiction to prescription medicine or illicit drugs.

Addiction to alcohol or tobacco.

Family history of addiction.

A history of mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder), anxiety disorders (including PTSD), thought disorders (such as schizophrenia), and personality disorders (such as borderline personality disorder).

Look at Other Options

Physical therapy.

Working with a psychologist to learn how to change your pain-related thoughts and behaviors.

Alternative approaches such as acupuncture and tai chi.

Those methods aren’t just for people who are at high risk for addiction. They’re part of an overall pain management strategy that may include, but is not limited to, medications.

Use the Medication for Its Proper Purpose

If your doctor writes you a prescription that makes your pain more tolerable, and you’re using it as directed, that’s OK. But if you’re using it for some other reason that your doctor doesn’t know about, that’s a red flag. For example, if you hate your job and you’re taking the drug because you find it takes the edge off, that’s a sign that you could develop a problem, says Karen Miotto, MD, an addiction psychiatrist at UCLA.

Here are four warning signs that you may be misusing your prescription painkiller:

You’re not taking the drug as prescribed.
You’re taking the medicine for reasons other than why the doctor prescribed it.
Your use of the drug has made you miss work or school, neglect your children, or suffer other harmful consequences.
You haven’t been honest (with your doctor, loved ones, or yourself) about your use of the drug.

Your doctor should work with you to limit addiction risk. She may ask you about how you’re doing, give you a urine test to check for medication, and ask you to bring in all your medications so she can check how many are left and where the prescriptions came from.

“If you feel like you’re losing control over your pain medicine use, or if you have questions about whether you’re becoming addicted to it, you may want to consult a doctor who specializes in pain medicine. He or she should listen to your concerns without judgment and take a reasoned approach. For instance, if she thinks you need to get off a certain drug, she might look into switching you to another drug with less potential for misuse. If your doctor isn’t comfortable handling your situation, consider getting a second opinion from a psychiatrist or addiction specialist,” Miotto says.

Pain-relieving drugs can lead to problems other than addiction. Keep opiates locked away so kids, teens, and others in your home can’t take them. And be extra-cautious using other prescription and over-the-counter drugs along with opiates. Certain combinations could cause you to become unconscious, stop breathing, and even die (Miotto, 2012).

Thousands of Americans rely on prescription painkillers for the relief of pain and discomfort from ailments such as headaches, menstrual cramps, surgery recovery or lingering pain from an injury. Unfortunately however, for many, this reliance on medication can easily and unknowingly turn into physical dependence.

The scary fact is that the most commonly prescribed drugs including OxyContin, Vicodin, Methadone, Darvocet, Lortab, Lorcet and Percocet, while offering relief from pain, can also cause individuals’ bodies to start “needing” the drugs in order to feel normal, and the result is the new, even more challenging situation of chemical dependency Prescriptions to pain medication can be safe when taken according to the doctor’s instructions and are carefully monitored. However, it is important to recognize that they can also be very dangerous. Remember that dependency is a disease that can exhibit itself to even the most cautious individual. Therefore, anyone who is prescribed pain medications should take extra precautions to avoid the debilitating effects a dependency can have and watch for the warning signs (Bernstein, 2013)

Celeste Vaughan states it correctly when she describes addiction, “When addiction takes control, Satan has a wide-open gate to enter and set up residence in your brain. He is the great justifier of all actions. He will provide you with excuses for the actions above to make you deny your addiction. The thoughts that you used to control now have a new pilot behind the wheel. And a sneaky one at that. If you do consider getting help, he will get inside your head and tell you all kinds of horrible things. Thinks like…No one will understand. Everyone will thing you’re weak. Friends will ever trust you again. Your husband will want a divorce. Your kids will be ashamed of you. And the worst one of all…If God truly loves you, he wouldn’t have let you get into this mess in the first place…….. You are on a journey — possibly the most difficult of your life. Don’t let anyone tell you that addiction is impossible to overcome. I’m proof it’s completely possible. After all, with God, all things are possible.”

The disease of addiction affects over 23 million Americans. It is a disease that has no cure, and that, as a society, we have just begun to understand. Help fight the stigma that an addict faces by learning all you can about this disease and its affects. The physical aspects of opioid dependency improve after detox. But psychological addiction, temptation, and craving can last for years, even a lifetime. The truth is, most people will relapse on their way to full recovery from prescription drug addiction (Johnson, 2012).

Staying on the path to health takes patience, loving relationships, and emotional resilience. People in drug abuse recovery need all the help they can get. Fortunately, tools and resources are available to help someone stay straight, and to pick them up if they stumble.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV)


Clifford M.D., of The Waismann Institute. 10/6/2003. Retrieved from

Hartney, Elizabeth PhD. February 20, 2011. Retrieved from

Johnson, Kimball, MD. August 02, 2012. Maintaining Hope and Health during Drug Abuse Recovery. Retrieved from

Miotto, Karen, MD, professor of psychiatry and bio behavioral sciences, UCLA.. 2012. Pain Medication: Are You Addicted? What to know about becoming addicted to pain medications. Retrieved from

Shamus, Kristen Jordan. October 20, 2013. Pain pills can be prescriptions for addiction, death. Retrieved from

Vaughan, Celeste. November 5, 2012. Biblical Christian help for drug addiction. Retrieved from

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