Signs & Withdrawal Symptoms of Painkiller Addiction

Sections: Stages of Addiction | The Signs | Withdrawal Symptoms | How You Can Help | Self-Screening Questions | Getting Treatment

Painkillers, though often necessary for the treatment of severe pain after accidents or surgeries, are common substances of abuse. Opioid painkillers like Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin tend to be some of the most addictive drugs, which is why they are typically prescribed for only a short time and are considered controlled substances. In 2016, more than 42,000 Americans were killed by an opioid overdose, and approximately 40% of them were prescription-related.


Stages of Painkiller Addiction

People commonly become addicted to painkillers when they purchase them illegally to get high or to self-medicate their physical and emotional pain. For some people, however, it begins with a legitimate prescription medication. When the prescription runs out and the person is still dealing with severe pain, however, he or she may turn to illegal means or start seeing several doctors to get more of the drug. Eventually, the person needs the medication not just for pain, but also for normal daily function.

A person who is developing a dependency on painkillers may exhibit the following early signs of addiction:

  • Changes in personality
  • Numerous doctor appointments
  • Growing obsession with obtaining medication
  • Taking pills for longer than prescribed
  • Increased medication dosage


Look Out for Signs of Painkiller Addiction

As an addiction to painkillers progresses, the symptoms generally become more intense and noticeable to others. If you suspect that a person may be at risk of developing a painkiller addiction, you may want to keep an eye out for these red flags.

Physical Signs of Painkiller Addiction May Include: Behavioral Signs of Painkiller Addiction May Include:
» Intoxicated appearance
» Slow, uncoordinated movements
» Slurring of speech
» Blacking out
» Drastic mood shifts
» Memory problems, forgetfulness
» Defensiveness, excuses for continued use
» Financial troubles
» Skipping work, missing appointments
» Withdrawing from friends and family
» Seeing multiple doctors (“doctor shopping”)
» Refusal to let a trusted person talk tot he doctor directly

Painkiller Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person has become physically dependent upon painkillers, having them withheld can cause excruciating withdrawal symptoms. The longer a person has been taking the drug and the higher the dose, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms can be. In some cases, they can even be life-threatening. Depending on the situation and drug type, symptoms like those listed below may last for hours—or even days.

  • Headaches
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Irritability, aggression
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Returning physical pain
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills, goosebumps


Identifying Signs and Offering Help for a Painkiller Addiction

Of course, being able to recognize painkiller addiction signs as early as possible increases the chance of getting help before irreparable physical or mental harm is done. If you are concerned about a person’s behaviors with a certain pain medication or have a suspicion that he or she may be using painkillers without a prescription, watch for the physical and behavioral red flags discussed here.

Remember that it isn’t your fault if a loved one develops a painkiller addiction and you don’t recognize the signs right away. Even the most honest and open people become masters at hiding things when they are controlled by addiction. All you can do is watch for the signs and bring up your concerns honestly if and when you notice them. Let the person know that he or she has your full support and love, and offer up information and resources for recovery. If the person agrees to seek treatment, you can introduce him or her to the residential program at Yellowstone Recovery.


Self-Screening Questions

Sometimes a person can be in such deep denial that it is difficult to see the addiction for what it really is. In the case of prescription painkillers, especially, people sometimes argue that they’re only following their doctor’s orders. If you’re having a hard time convincing the person that they have a problem—or if you’re not sure yourself whether it really is an addiction, go through the following questions with your loved one:

  1. Have you taken painkillers in the last month?
  2. Have you switched doctors after your previous doctor denied a refill?
  3. Do you start to feel ill or uncomfortable when you haven’t taken painkillers?
  4. Do you find yourself thinking about painkillers often throughout the day (taking them, finding money to buy them, worrying whether you have enough)?
  5. Have you canceled plans, missed work, or forgotten to do something important because you were buying, using, or thinking about obtaining more painkillers?
  6. Have you purchased any painkillers illegally, or have you done anything illegal to obtain them (e.g., stealing money, lying about serious issues, committing a violent act)?
  7. Do you find yourself getting hurt or falling down due to the effects of painkillers?

An answer of “yes” to even a couple of these questions may indicate a legitimate painkiller addiction. Hopefully, the answers to these questions will provide the critical information you and your loved one need to identify any existing addiction and move forward into a discussion about treatment.

Helping a Loved One Get Professional Treatment

If you’re ready to help a close friend or family member break free from the struggle of painkiller addiction, turn to Yellowstone Recovery for comfortable, compassionate care. Clients admitted to our residential treatment program first go through a safe, carefully controlled detox process. During this time, medical professionals monitor clients’ vital signs and provide any assistance they can to reduce the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.

Once the physical dependency element has been broken, clients can move into the primary phase of residential treatment. Through group and individual therapy sessions with trained counselors, individuals can begin healing painful issues and learn new coping skills and ways of thinking for successful ongoing recovery. Once treatment is complete, clients have the opportunity to move into sober living as they transition back into regular life.

Call us today at (888) 418-4188 to learn more or discuss how you can help your loved one get into treatment.


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