Painkiller abuse has escalated in the US to such a degree that it is now being classified as an epidemic. Many people are becoming addicted to opiate-based painkillers without realizing, mainly because they are being prescribed these meds by their physicians. The grim reality is that opiate-related overdoses claim the lives of more than 60,000 Americans every year and so this is clearly an issue that is important to everyone.
Opiate-based painkillers use a synthetic version of the illegal drug heroin to manage pain. Heroin is an extract of the poppy plant that has been used for centuries as a type of anesthetic but has also been abused since it was originally introduced. This is because of the way opiates work to block pain sensations by changing the brain’s chemistry and flooding it with “feel-good” dopamine.
The reason opiates are so highly-addictive is because tolerance develops very quickly when they are used regularly. When prescribed for severe or chronic pain, individuals can take opiate meds for a number of weeks which is sufficient time for the body to become tolerant. Tolerance is when the body has become used to experiencing the sensations created by opiates, leading to cravings for progressively higher doses to achieve the desired effects. For people managing pain, this can lead to prescription drug abuse.
When someone is becoming addicted to painkillers, they will exhibit the following withdrawal symptoms when they stop using:
- Reduced self-esteem and confidence
- Feelings of intense paranoia
- Shakes and tremors
- Muscle and bone pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Depression and anxiety
- Fits and seizures
When someone has recognized they experience withdrawal when they stop using opiates, they are recommended to seek urgent addiction treatment in order to prevent serious complications and reduce the risk of overdose.
Prescription drug abuse is extremely dangerous and the symptoms for painkiller withdrawal can be life-threatening. It is absolutely crucial people seek treatment as soon as they become aware of a problem with opiate meds because of the high-risk of fatal overdose. If you have concerns for yourself or a loved one, contact CASA Recovery as soon as possible to find out how to cope with withdrawal from drug addiction and go on to live a substance-free life after rehab.