Painkiller addiction or narcotic abuse statistics are truly alarming. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 36 million people globally are battling painkiller medication addiction. So, the question is “what causes addiction to pain medication?” Well, this might not be the easiest question to answer.
Medical experts suggest that the longer a patient is actively using potent painkillers, the higher are their chances of being addicted to prescription medication. Opioid pain relievers are the most frequently abused type of prescription medication.
Opioid addiction in the US and Canada is increasing. A person who is addicted to painkillers that bear similar qualities to opiate or opioid drugs has a number of choices. People are most likely to be addicted to:
Understanding Why Painkillers Become So Addictive?
Analgesics or painkillers produce euphoria, which is a short-lived phase, and they are also addictive. Long-term use of painkillers leads to physical dependence and patients can experience withdrawal symptoms once they abruptly stop taking the drug. It is important to understand that painkillers only mask the pain. That’s right. They don’t cure the condition even if a person is taking higher doses.
Narcotic painkillers are made from opium, which comes from the poppy plant. Codeine and morphine are the only two natural opioid painkillers and you would come across a number of synthetic modifications of morphine, which produces other opioid drugs.
One of the most common reasons people go to the doctor is to seek relief from pain. When people continue to use painkillers orally at prescribed doses, they are less likely to develop an addiction. However, if painkillers provide a euphoric or intoxicating effect when injected or even taken orally, people with no history of addiction can also become used to it.
Signs and Symptoms of Pain Medication Addiction
Painkiller addiction is said to occur when someone starts using prescription medication beyond the doctor’s recommendation. This often is backed by the intention to get high or relieve anxiety. People who are addicted to painkillers have:
- A strong desire to use opioid drugs or other painkillers
- The inability to reduce or stop taking pain medication
- The trouble with social interaction – they may socially withdraw themselves or become isolated
- Withdrawal symptoms if they try to control or stop the use of painkillers. These withdrawal symptoms can include depression, sleep disturbances, muscle pain, upset stomach, and social isolation.
Painkiller Addiction: Who Could Be At Risk?
The pathway to painkiller addiction is not always illegal. A person may have had an injury or surgery recently and they got a prescription. Problems start when people like the drug and keep on using it to get the same euphoric effect. Some patients even go from doctor to doctor to try and get more of the medication, if their primary healthcare provider says no.
Medical experts also think that people who are addicted to painkillers start young. Some addicts are guilty of using opioid painkillers for nonmedical uses.
Risk factors for painkiller abuse include:
- History of addiction to other substances, such as tobacco or alcohol
- Family history of drug abuse
- Young age – teens and adults in their early 20s are most likely to get addicted to painkillers
- Pre-existing psychiatric conditions
- Peer or social pressure
- Easy access to prescription medication, such as medicine cabinets at home
- Lack of knowledge related to the side effect of painkillers and other prescription medication
What’s important to note here is that prescription drug abuse, particularly painkiller addiction, is becoming a serious problem among seniors and older adults. Experts suggest that taking multiple drugs can put older adults at risk of becoming addicted to painkillers and they then start misusing them.
Will I be Addicted to Higher Doses of Painkillers?
Not everyone gets addicted to pain drugs. More importantly, you can reduce the risk of addiction by using prescription drugs responsibly. Don’t increase your dose without consulting your healthcare provider or go to different doctors without telling the drugs you already use.
You should never use painkillers as party drugs because they are addictive by nature. If you experience pain, talk to your doctor about it. Don’t share prescription analgesics and don’t leave painkillers unattended in a place where people can easily help themselves. Last, it’s always best to educate oneself about addiction to prevent problems in the first place.