The growing rate of deaths caused by painkiller addiction in the US has caused a great deal of concern in recent years. Some addictions begin when doctors prescribe strong painkillers after surgery or to combat pain caused by illness, and others result from an addiction to seemingly innocuous over the counter remedies.
Although opiate-based painkillers cause physical addiction, many people become psychologically addicted to ordinary paracetamol. The attendant health risks are enormous. The withdrawal symptoms are painful, but painkiller dependence and addiction is not something you can risk trying to live with. Like other forms of substance abuse, it can easily spiral out of control, and it could ultimately kill you.
Signs that your painkiller habit is dangerous
One or more of these signs and symptoms is enough to indicate that you have a problem.
- You think about your next dose often. If you are actually in pain, that’s understandable, but if not, you should be asking yourself why you’re watching the clock and looking forward to your next dose.
- You don’t follow the doctor’s directions. If your doctor says you should take one tablet and you’re taking more than that, or if you take your tablets more often than is recommended, you may need help for painkiller dependency or addiction.
- You hide your painkillers. You don’t do this because you want to be sure the kids don’t get them, you do it because you don’t want anyone to know how many you use – or that you’re using them at all.
- You go to several doctors for the same prescription and change doctors regularly. To get prescription painkillers, you need to go to a doctor. But you need more pills than your doctor prescribes, so you visit more than one doctor and get a prescription from each one. When a doctor becomes reluctant to prescribe more pills, you move on and find a new doctor who doesn’t know your history.
- You keep changing pharmacies. You know that a pharmacist might question why you need so many painkillers over an extended period, so you go to several different pharmacies and you make sure that you don’t visit any one too often.
- You resort to using questionable sources of painkillers. Getting prescription drugs online is all too easy. You know you’re not using a reputable source, but you go ahead anyway. This approach is extremely dangerous because you could get sub-standard medications or even some unknown substance that mimics the way your painkillers work.
- You’ve been using painkillers for longer than you should. You may have started using painkillers to manage pain, but after you should have healed, you keep on using them.
- If somebody asks about your pill popping, you get defensive. You feel as if you are under attack when people ask why you take so many tablets. You want them to back off and leave you alone, so you respond angrily.
- It hurts when you don’t take your meds. A few hours after your last dose of painkillers, you start to feel aches and pains. You get a headache. The pain increases until you take another tablet. That’s ok if you’re recovering from surgery, but it’s a bad sign if there’s no real reason for your pain.
- You have been hospitalized as a result of your habit. Many painkiller addicts end up in hospital because they overdose or because their extended painkiller abuse has damaged organs in their bodies.
- You’re having trouble coping with life. If your habit is directly affecting your ability to get by at work and at home, your addiction is very advanced. Most painkiller addicts are able to keep up a good façade but if even this is becoming tricky, you need to get help fast.
Quitting painkillers on your own is very difficult and can even be dangerous if you try to go ‘cold turkey’. It may also prove impossible for you to maintain your resolve, especially when painful withdrawal symptoms set in.
The best solution is to consult your doctor about your habit and ask for his or her help. If you have been addicted to opiate- based painkillers such as OxyContin, in-patient treatment at a good rehabilitation center may be necessary.
Don’t be despondent if in-patient treatment is recommended. Many centers are set in beautiful buildings and grounds and have excellent facilities. It’s a bit like going to a health spa but with much greater health benefits! Don’t hesitate. Go for it. It might save your life.