Painkiller addiction seems to be an increasing problem in our society, and it’s certainly receiving more media attention than ever before. Many people who have been prescribed painkillers for legitimate purposes have become addicted because of a lack of understanding about the dangers. When they first try to quit painkillers, they find it’s much more difficult than they’d imagined. Prescription painkiller abuse is far too common, and many different types of people become addicted to painkillers, from kids raiding their parents medicine cabinets to junkies to people in business suits who from the outside seem to have everything under control.
The Epidemic of Painkillers
Nearly 15,000 people die every year of overdoses involving prescription painkillers.
In 2010, 1 in 20 people in the US (age 12 or older) reported using prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons in the past year.
Enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month.
Effects of Painkillers on the Brain and Body
There are many different types of painkillers out there, but most are opioids, which means they have the same effects on your body as heroin. Opioids are central nervous system depressants, and they essentially slow down the nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. Opioids decrease pain perception and increase pain tolerance. They can produce feelings of euphoria. When abusing opioids, people experience itching, slurred speech, dilated pupils, slow reaction time, sleepiness, and loss of appetite. There are serious long term effects with painkiller abuse.
Symptoms of Painkiller Withdrawal
Your body can quickly develop a dependence on opioids, and when you try to quit painkillers, you can experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms. Your symptoms will range from mild to severe based on the history of your addiction to opioids. Withdrawal symptoms can include restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, increased appetite, difficulty sleeping, headaches, sweating, or chills. It can take up to 10 days for your body to flush itself of painkillers. When you quit painkillers, withdrawal symptoms can also include depression, anxiety, irritability, nightmares, and cravings. Sometimes these psychological withdrawal symptoms are extremely intense and can last much longer than the physical withdrawal symptoms of quitting painkillers.
How to Quit Painkillers
If you want to quit painkillers, you should never attempt to do it on your own. Quitting cold turkey can be dangerous. You should always consult your doctor before you quit painkillers, and they can help you come up with a plan to end your addiction safely and successfully. In general, it’s best to attend a detox center to quit painkillers. The medical staff can prescribe you medication to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal, as well as monitor your health as you detox. There are medications, such as Suboxone, that can help you quit painkillers by eliminating withdrawal symptoms and blocking the effects of opioids on your body. After you detox, rehab is a great option to help yourself heal after you’ve quit painkillers. Rehab will give you a safe, controlled environment in which you can continue to cope with withdrawal symptoms and learn to adjust to life without painkillers. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you learn new techniques of managing pain and stress.
While it is possible to quit painkillers with the help of outpatient treatment centers, it’s generally not the best method. Clinics may give out Suboxone to those who are trying to quit painkillers, but there is too much potential to misuse the drug without constant medical supervision, and most people need more support in order to transition to an entirely drug-free life that does not include painkillers or Suboxone. If you want to quit painkillers, it is possible. A good support system is crucial. As you try to quit painkillers, you should ask for help when you need it. Friends and family members who do not abuse drugs should be made aware of your attempts to quit painkillers. Support groups, group therapy, counseling, and other types of treatment can help you stay off painkillers for good.