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Painkillers Addiction: Oxycodone, OxyContin, Fentanyl, Codeine

Painkillers Addiction: Oxycodone, OxyContin, Fentanyl, Codeine

Prescription Painkiller Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Effects

Painkillers are a routine and legitimate part of medical treatment and are prescribed by doctors for short-lived (acute) pain such as headache, period pains or stomach cramps.

But painkillers are also essential for people suffering from severe and long term (chronic) pain from migraines, rheumatism, back pain and after an injury. It is hard to imagine the health service functioning without them.

Painkillers and Addiction

The problem with painkillers is that some of them can be addictive: it is estimated that painkiller addiction affects at least 100,000 people in the UK.  

Although the over-the-counter variety such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen are not addictive, some of the more powerful ones that contain codeine and require a doctor’s prescription can be, if taken on a long-term basis.

People who are addicted to painkillers do not fit the typical profile of a drug addict and many are perhaps unaware that they are psychologically dependent on the drugs.

Others go to illegal suppliers (drug dealers) to buy opiate-based painkillers (such as Vicodin, Hydrocodone, Morphine and OxyContin) as mood-altering drugs.

Other common types of opioid (morphine-based) painkillers include:

  • Oxycodone/OxyContin,
  • Hydromorphone
  • Dihydrocodeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Demerol
  • Tramadol
  • Percodan or Percocet
  • Dilaudid

How do Painkillers Work?

There are many painkillers and opioids on the market but if we take Oxycodone as an example we can get an insight into how they work: Painkiller addiction

“Oxycodone is a strong narcotic pain-reliever and cough suppressant similar to morphine, codeine, and hydrocodone. The precise mechanism of action is not known but may involve stimulation of opioid receptors in the brain.” Source: Medicinet.

Risks and Side Effects of Painkillers

All painkillers come with risks and side effects (aspirin, for example, if taken to excess can cause major stomach and kidney problems) and doctors generally inform patients of these.

The major risk, however, is an addiction to the powerful opiate-based painkillers.

Painkiller addiction warning signs and symptoms:

  • Continuing to use painkillers after pain has subsided
  • Lying about or exaggerating pain to receive medication
  • Hiding packaging or pill bottles
  • Acquiring painkillers illegally
  • Stealing or borrowing painkillers
  • Constantly thinking about getting or taking painkillers
  • Isolating yourself from family and friends

Becoming addicted to opioids and other painkillers can cause a number of physical symptoms:

  • Sweating 
  • Pupils become pinpoint or dilated
  • Co-ordination problems
  • Insomnia
  • Lethargic feelings/too much sleep
  • Itchiness
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Lack of concentration

Psychosocial symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia

Physical effects of painkiller addiction

Are there more dangerous effects of prescription drug addiction?

While painkillers are usually obtained on a prescription basis, those addicted to painkillers may be obtaining extra drug doses online.

The danger with this is that they are uncertain of the exact substance or dose in the tablets they are ordering. This can have a serious impact on your health.

Here are some of the serious effects of painkiller addiction:

  1. Liver and kidney damage
  2. Seizures
  3. Higher dosage due to increased tolerance
  4. Respiratory depression
  5. Dangerous drop in heart rate and blood pressure

These symptoms can sometimes cause the addict to stop breathing or go into a coma.

Detoxing from painkiller addiction also has very high risks and requires constant clinical monitoring due to a higher risk of seizure and anxiety. Read more about inpatient detox.

What steps can I take to recover from painkiller addiction?

If you are concerned about your own addiction, or the addiction of a friend or family member, then it is important to contact your local GP.

Our support team are also available 24-hours. Contact us.

Seeking medical support and considering rehab treatment options is an important first step to regaining control of your happiness and health. Learn more about the treatments available here.

The recovery process usually includes:

  1. Free assessment
  2. Detoxification
  3. Residential rehab treatment
  4. Daycare/outpatient aftercare plan

Keeping it in Perspective

Prescription drug addiction kills up to 350 people a year in the UK. 

Although there is some abuse of painkillers, and there are risks of addiction, the vast majority of painkiller-users do not develop addictions.

GPs, in particular, are well aware of the risks of painkillers so the first course of action, if there are any concerns, is to speak to your local GP.

There is also encouraging evidence to show that when painkillers are used properly – under close medical supervision – there is far less risk of addiction.

The Executive Rehab Guide support team are on call 24/7 to help you.

Call us today: 0808 1150 446

Fill in our online form here.

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