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Dr. Cassidy Blair, Psy.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist | PSY 22022

Dr. Cassidy Blair, Psy.D.

signs of painkiller addiction
The Signs of Painkiller Addiction: 6 Ways to Tell if You Have an Unhealthy Relationship With Pain Pills

According to a survey on substance abuse, 3.8 million people misused prescription painkillers in a single year.

The most addictive type of painkiller medication is man-made opioids. Versions of opioids such as morphine and codeine are natural (instead of chemically altered in a lab). These are referred to as opiates.

Taking opioids or opiates impacts portions of the brain that control our happiness, motivation, and of course, pain. Unfortunately, this influence can also spur an addiction.

Discover the signs of painkiller addiction before these drugs take control of your life. Here are six ways to recognize an addiction.

1. Withdrawal from Relationships

Drug abuse impacts everyone, including friends and family. 

Hiding your prescription pain medication and drug use from those close to you is a sign of pill addiction. This may be because you feel ashamed or embarrassed about your drug use. You may feel guilty as well. 

As a result, people feel the need to withdraw from relationships and isolate themselves. Isolation can cause you to engage in suspicious behavior and become more secretive.

The guilt may also cause you to feel less comfortable in social situations.

As drug abuse alters brain function, the human body begins to prioritize the drug over these relationships. 

Instead of isolating yourself, seek help from family members and friends. They can help you recognize your addiction and find the necessary help you need.

Check out this article to learn more about how addiction can impact our personal relationships.

2. Nonmedical Drug Use

Prescription pain medication is meant to help relieve severe pain, not get you high. 

Using drugs for nonmedical purposes is another sign of painkiller addiction. Not everyone who tries to get high off prescription painkillers is addicted. However, regular misuse of a drug for the purpose of getting high is. 

A painkiller addiction can make it difficult for you to control the impulse to get high. Eventually, your body may develop a tolerance. 

It’s possible to use the drug so often that addicts develop a tolerance and can no longer get high. When they stop taking the drugs, they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. 

Overuse of a drug to the point that you become dependent on it to function is another indicator of painkiller addiction.

This can increase the severity of other symptoms (such as isolation and changes in behavior).

3. Ignoring a Doctor’s Orders

Many people deviate from following a doctor’s specific orders. Some people might borrow painkiller medication from a friend or buy pills online.

Doctors prescribe specific doses for a reason. Their instructions for how often to take prescription pain medication can help you avoid an addiction. 

However, some people choose to use painkillers to self-medicate anxiety or depression. They may also take more than the prescribed dose (more on this below).

These are both signs of painkiller addiction. 

Ignoring a doctor’s orders can put you at risk of painkiller addiction. Instead, keep to the prescribed dosage. You can also discuss additional signs of painkiller addiction with your doctor to avoid developing an addiction before it occurs.

4. Boosting the Dose

As we mentioned before, the instructions on the prescription bottle are there for a reason. This includes the dose you’re meant to take per day.

Boosting the dose to get high is an indicator of drug abuse. It can cause your body to develop a tolerance for the drug, which then leads to popping more pills to feel any effect.

Increasing the dosage to such dangerous levels can impact your body and mind. The worst consequence of all is, of course, death. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people die every day from an opioid overdose.

Pretending to lose your prescription so you can call in for additional refills is another sign of painkiller addiction. Some people even go online to request drugs from foreign countries. 

As your body desires more of the drug, you’ll feel the need to do anything to get your next dose. This change in behavior can lead to dangerous consequences (more on this below).

Increasing a painkiller dose to dangerous levels can also cause a number of physical symptoms, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Issues sleeping
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shivering
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Depression
  • Agitation

As you review these signs of painkiller addiction, take the time to recognize if you’re experiencing physical as well as behavioral changes.

5. Changes in Behavior

Opioid and opiate abuse can impact our mental and physical health. The behavioral changes we mentioned can include:

  • Arguments
  • Fights
  • Accidents
  • Illegal activities
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of focus
  • Taking risks (such as driving under the influence)
  • Paranoia
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Avoiding eye contact

These changes in behavior can impact how you interact with family and friends. It can also cause issues at work and lead to legal trouble. 

Other behavioral changes can include avoiding responsibilities and obligations. Some people begin neglecting work, school, or other regular habits.

An increased tendency to take risks can even cause harm to those around you.

6. Doctor Shopping

People suffering from a painkiller addiction will also begin doctor shopping to get more drugs.

Doctor shopping involves visiting different doctors to fill multiple pill prescriptions. Many people feel the need to begin doctor shopping when they begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

These symptoms can include:

  • Excess sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal pain

To avoid or remedy these symptoms, many opioid drug abusers seek out multiple doctors. Doctor shopping can lead to increased dosages, which can further build your body’s tolerance for opioids and opiates.

Some people even begin seeking out other drugs as an alternative. Often, these alternative substances are even more dangerous than the prescription pain medication they were previously taking.

Drop the Bottle: 6 Signs of Painkiller Addiction

These six signs of painkiller addiction may be hard to swallow. However, it’s important to recognize the symptoms before the addiction is beyond your control. 

Drop the bottle and take control of your painkiller addiction. Request an appointment with us today to get started.

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