Help for Painkiller Addicts
Painkillers are routinely prescribed in the United States for the management of pain, but not all of them are addictive. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed for the treatment of mild to moderate pain; however, when the pain becomes more acute, your doctor may prescribe an opiate painkiller. Unfortunately, these have drugs a high potential for abuse and addiction.
Prescription drugs are generally prescribed in a manner that decreases the likelihood of addiction. For example, many opiate painkillers like oxycodone (OxyContin) and codeine are only intended to be used on a short-term basis and as directed. When these drugs are misused, the risk for dependence and addiction is significantly increased.
Additionally, some people who take the drugs exactly as prescribed may find that they are becoming dependent on them and may begin abusing them as their bodies become tolerant and they need more and more to achieve the same effects.
If you or someone you love is addicted to painkillers, you can find help. Numerous treatment options are available, including:
- Medically supervised detox.
- Inpatient drug rehab.
- Outpatient treatment programs.
How to Approach a Loved One About Painkiller Addiction
If someone you care about has a painkiller abuse problem, you may want to talk with them about seeking treatment. As someone who cares about them and who they care about, reaching out could help save their life.
When approaching someone who is dealing with addiction, show compassion and avoid blame or judgment. While you can express disapproval for the substance use, continue expressing support for the person and encourage them to find treatment.
It is possible to overcome addiction — in fact, it happens every day. Although it may seem overwhelming now, your loved one can quit and lead a healthy, drug-free life. Below are various strategies you can use to influence your friend or family to seek help:
- Encourage them to see a doctor for an evaluation. Most people trust the advice of professionals.
- Reassure them that medical treatment is confidential and their privacy is protected by law.
- Listen to their fears and concerns. Validate their feelings and offer to write down any questions they have about treatment. Your loved one can refer to this list when talking to potential treatment centers.
- Remind them that every person is different and reacts to treatment differently. One approach may work for one person and not for another. They can try different treatments until they find one that works for them.
If you are having trouble communicating with the addicted individual, you may consider using the Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) approach. The CRAFT model involves working with a trained professional to learn how to talk to someone about treatment. CRAFT teaches family and friends about how to move forward with recovery without destroying relationships or pushing people away. One study found that in almost 7 out of 10 cases, CRAFT successfully helped family and friends engage their loved one into treatment.
Painkiller Addiction Treatment
Painkiller addiction treatment consists of several stages. The first stage is withdrawal and detox. Opiate withdrawal generally consists of intense flu-like symptoms and is generally harmless, except during pregnancy.
Even if the symptoms of withdrawal are not dangerous, withdrawing under medical supervision can help manage your withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse. Medications may be used to manage your withdrawal. For example, methadone and Suboxone are options for opiate withdrawal.
Once detox is complete, addiction treatment will begin in earnest. Effective treatment is individualized to meet your needs. Sitting down with a member of the medical team for an evaluation before starting treatment can help you create a plan that is appropriate for you. Since every person is different and responds to treatment in various ways, it is important that your treatment addresses all of your needs (medical, psychological, social, etc.).
Counseling and therapy are critical stages of treatment, and they should never be overlooked. They help you to:
- Identify why you’ve taken drugs.
- Define the triggers of your drug abuse.
- Learn skills and practices to reduce the likelihood of future drug abuse.
The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Over 4 million people in the US reported misusing prescription pain relievers in SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
You can find the treatment you need. Recovery from prescription drug abuse is possible.
Could a treatment center be better than a hospital?
A 2017 study compared death rates for painkiller addicts who got their care from a hospital setting or a primary doctor to those who got care in those same settings but did not suffer from addiction. Opioid addicts were 10 times more likely to die in these settings, and addicts who did not get treated in addiction clinics were twice as likely to die than those who did. This suggests that addiction specialists are a vital part of care for people with substance use disorders. While hospitals can certainly provide excellent medical care, they may not help identify and address the root causes of opioid addiction, which is essential to recovery.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017). Opioid Abusers at Higher Death Risk When Addiction Specialists Not Part of Care. Medline Plus.
Are Painkillers Addictive?
Over-the-counter NSAIDs are not classified as addictive, but opioid medications have a known potential for abuse and addiction. Their euphoric and numbing effects are sought after by both those with legitimate prescriptions and those looking to get a “high” recreationally.
Painkillers are responsible for an alarming number of deaths in the United States. In fact, the CDC reports that 22,767 deaths involved prescription drug overdoses in 2013. More than 16,000 of these involved opioid painkillers.
With this in mind, it’s clear that these drugs can have a strong addictive hold on users, and that help is crucial for anyone abusing these drugs.
What Are the Signs of Addiction?
There are numerous signs of addiction, but as with all drugs, the effects of painkiller use narrow down to a central definition: You are unable to control your drug use, even when it is harming you.
Addiction is characterized by compulsive use despite the knowledge that it’s affecting your life in a myriad of negative ways.
To learn the specific physical signs and symptoms of abuse of various prescription medications, visit our Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse page.
Am I Addicted to Painkillers?
You may be addicted to painkillers if you are experiencing:
- Troubled relationships with your friends and family.
- Unsuccessful attempts to stop using.
- Withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use.
- Financial problems from spending an exorbitant amount of money on obtaining drugs.
- Legal penalties for illegally buying or using the drug, or driving under the influence of drugs.
- “Doctor shopping” (visiting multiple doctors/hospitals to access numerous prescriptions).