There is a growing epidemic in the United States. Yet, few people realize the extent of the problem. Prescription painkiller abuse is skyrocketing, but many people are not even aware of it. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that more people died from drug overdose in 2014 than in any other year on record, and the majority of drug overdose deaths (more than 3 out of 5) involved an opioid painkiller. Seventy-eight Americans die each day from an opioid overdose. Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled.
It’s an unfortunate reality that many individuals who are under the care of a physician don’t realize the very real risks of prescription painkillers in terms of abuse and addiction.
What Exactly Is Prescription Painkiller Abuse?
Prescription painkiller abuse involves utilizing a medication in a way not intended by the prescribing physician. Problematic use of prescription drugs includes everything from taking a medication that hasn’t been prescribed to, to taking much more than prescribed to snorting or injecting ground-up pills to get high. The problem can quickly become ongoing and compulsive, despite profoundly negative consequences.
Warning Signs of Painkiller Abuse
Because of the speed in which individuals become addicted to prescription painkillers, it’s wise to know the warning signs of abuse. The following are a few red flags to watch out for:
Personality Changes – Often, one of the earliest signs that there is a problem is an unexplained change in personality that can include mood swings, irritability and anger.
Social Withdrawal or Isolation – Someone who is struggling with a painkiller dependency will frequently withdraw from engaging with loved ones, friends or coworkers.
Forgetfulness – Drug abuse wreaks havoc on the brain causing forgetfulness, confusion and a general lack of clarity. This can present itself in a number of ways from forgetting events to losing track of time.
Physical Symptoms – Unusual complaints of health problems can signal prescription painkiller abuse. These include constipation, nausea, fatigue, breathing difficulties and sleep disturbances.
Ongoing Use – Painkillers are typically prescribed for a defined amount of time while recovering from an injury or following surgery. It’s suspicious when an individual continues to take the medications after the medical condition has resolved itself.
Physician Shopping – A prescribing physician who suspects drug abuse will generally immediately stop prescribing the medication in question. When this happens, an addicted individual will seek out alternative healthcare providers who are willing to fill prescriptions. In some cases, they will attempt to get prescriptions from multiple physicians simultaneously to feed their habit.
Don’t Ignore a Prescription Drug Problem
Painkiller addiction can be incredibly difficult to treat. Often, there is a painful withdrawal period and powerful cravings that need to be overcome before recovery and healing can begin. Medical detox and professional treatment for prescription drug abuse are the best options for long-term recovery.
With each day, an addiction can get worse. This is why it’s important to be proactive and to ask for help.