If you suffer from chronic pain, the risks of not managing it properly can include anxiety, depression, and increased likelihood of suicide. You could even suffer from hormonal complications as a result of uncontrolled pain. But if you’re using prescription painkillers to manage your pain, you may be worried about becoming addicted to the drugs.
That’s not unusual — lots of people who use prescription drugs to control chronic pain worry about becoming addicted to the medication. It’s normal for people with chronic pain to develop a tolerance to their prescription painkillers, meaning they need to take higher and higher doses of the drugs to feel the same pain-relieving effects.
They may even become physically dependent on the drugs, meaning they experience physical withdrawal symptoms when they don’t take their medication. But even that doesn’t mean they’re addicted; addiction can only be said to occur when pain patients start taking their drugs for reasons other than their intended purpose, and continue abusing the drugs even after it starts causing problems for them at work, school, or home.
Understanding the Difference Between Physical Dependence and Addiction
It may sound strange, but it’s possible to be physically dependent on a prescription painkiller without being addicted. Opiate painkillers typically create physical dependence in the people who use them. If you’re using painkillers to manage chronic pain and you experience physical withdrawal symptoms when you don’t take your drugs on time, you already know all about physical dependence.
Physical dependence occurs because the body gets used to functioning with the drugs. Tolerance, which causes patients to need higher doses of medication over time, is related to physical dependence. Both are unfortunate side effects of using prescription painkillers to manage chronic pain. But while it might be unpleasant, physical dependence alone doesn’t mean it’s time to check yourself into an addiction rehab.
Addiction is more than just a physical phenomenon; it has a strong psychological component, too. When you’re addicted to a substance, you use it in order to cope with stress, negative emotions, traumatic memories, and other difficult circumstances. You continue to use the substance, even when the use damages your relationships or impacts your career. Addiction means you no longer have control over your use of the drug, so you keep on using it compulsively, even when that use is causing troubling consequences in your life. It’s possible to develop tolerance for a drug and become physically dependent on it without being addicted, and it’s possible to become addicted without developing a physical dependence or tolerance.
Warning Signs of Addiction
Are you worried that your use of prescription painkillers is a sign of addiction? If any of the following warning signs sounds like you, it could be time to check into a rehab centre in Florida for professional addiction help:
- You’re obsessed with your medication. If all you can think about is taking your next dose, you might be addicted. Of course, if you’re in severe pain, looking forward to your next dose is a normal reaction to that pain.
- You take higher doses than prescribed. You might stretch out the time between doses or take a few smaller doses so that you can “save up” for a higher dose later on.
- You take the medication for reasons other than the prescribed ones. If you’re taking your medication in order to cope with stress or to “get high,” that’s a big warning sign of addiction.
- You’re getting prescriptions from multiple doctors or other sources. Getting multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors, buying drugs off the street, stealing medication, or hurting yourself so you can get an additional prescription from an ER doctor are all signs of addiction.
- You feel defensive if someone expresses concern over your use of medication. If you meet loved ones’ concerns with irritation, it’s a sign you’re losing control over your use of prescription painkillers.
- You’re experiencing personality changes. You may be neglecting responsibilities, including personal hygiene or childcare, feeling moody, eating more or less than normal, or sleeping more or less than normal.
If you think you’re experiencing signs of painkiller addiction, don’t be embarrassed. It’s easier than you might think to misuse these drugs, even when you have the best of intentions. The first step is being honest with yourself, your family, and your doctor, so you can get help.
Many people who use prescription painkillers to manage chronic pain worry about getting addicted. While painkiller addiction among those with chronic pain is rare, it’s still important to know the warning signs. The sooner you can nip addiction in the bud, the smoother your road to recovery will be.