Symptoms of Pain Medication Addiction

Understanding Pain Medication Abuse

Learn About Pain Medication Addiction

Prescription pain medication can quickly provide much needed relief and allow those struggling with pain to function on a daily basis. However, many painkillers are also habit-forming and can lead to an addiction in a relatively short period of time. When abused, prescription painkillers can be detrimental to an individual’s health and overall wellbeing.

The good news is that with proper treatment many of these negative consequences can be avoided. If you or a loved one has developed a pain medication abuse problem it is essential to seek professional help as soon as possible. The sooner treatment is obtained, the greater the likelihood that severe consequences can be avoided.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Pain Medication Abuse and Co-Occurring Disorders

Many individuals who abuse or are addicted to pain medication suffer from additional mental health concerns at the same time. Those who abuse or are addicted to prescription painkillers are often battling one or more of the following mental health conditions:

  • Another substance use disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia


Pain Medication Abuse Statistics

In the United States, it is estimated that nearly 3 million people have abused prescription painkillers at least once in the past year. Additionally, research suggests that those who abuse painkillers are nineteen times more likely to abuse heroin at some point. Finally, reports show that the number of people who have died as a result of prescription painkiller abuse has tripled in the last two decades.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Pain Medication Abuse

While trying to identify the cause of addiction researchers have looked to genetic influences as well as environmental factors. Consider the following explanations for the onset of pain medication addiction:

Genetic: Researchers have continued to believe that genetics play a central role in determining whether or not an individual will begin to abuse substances, like prescription pain medications. Multiple years of research, including various family studies, have found that certain genes that make an individual more susceptible to developing a substance abuse problem are passed down from family members.

Environmental: Those who have been exposed to substance abuse at a young age are more likely to begin abusing drugs and/or alcohol at some point in their lives, when compared to others without such exposure. Other environmental factors, such as suffering from an injury, chronic pain condition, or undergoing a medical procedure that results in the prescription of painkillers places an individual at an increased risk for abusing this medication if it is not properly monitored.

Risk Factors:

  • Family or personal history of addiction
  • Preexisting mental health disorder
  • Peer pressure
  • Easy access to pain medication
  • Having a medical condition(s) or injury that causes chronic pain
  • Lack of coping skills or support network

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Pain Medication Abuse

There are several symptoms that an individual who is abusing pain medication may display. Some of the behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial signs and symptoms that suggest a person is abusing prescription painkillers are listed below:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Poor occupational performance
  • Job loss
  • Declined participation in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Social isolation
  • Lying or omitting things
  • Increase in effort to seek out painkillers
  • Frequently sees multiple doctors or has multiple visits to the emergency room
  • Often loses prescriptions
  • Forges prescriptions

Physical symptoms:

  • Changes in energy levels
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Appetite loss
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Itchy and/or flushed skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Constricted pupils
  • Seizures

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Decreased impulse control
  • Problems with memory
  • Unable to make decisions
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Extreme shifts in mood
  • Euphoria
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Depressed feelings
  • Increased anxiety


Effects of Pain Medication Abuse

Failing to seek treatment for the presence of a pain medication addiction can result in a large number of negative consequences that can significantly disturb a person’s day to day life. The following effects can potentially occur if an individual continues to abuse prescription pain medication:

  • Job loss
  • Unemployment
  • Financial difficulties
  • Homelessness
  • Relationship problems
  • Divorce
  • Social isolation
  • Interaction with the legal system
  • Incarceration
  • Self-injury
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Increased health risks
  • Seizures
  • Overdose
  • Death

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Pain Medication Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of prescription painkiller withdrawal: Should an individual suddenly stop taking pain medications that he or she has been using for an extended period of time, it is likely that withdrawal symptoms will appear. Some of the typical withdrawal symptoms associated with pain medications include:

  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Muscle twitches
  • Depression
  • Lack of energy
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Irritability

Effects of prescription painkiller overdose: Taking too much of any type of pain medication will result in an overdose, which can be fatal. Furthermore, should an individual take prescription pain medication in combination with other drugs and/or alcohol his or her risk for overdosing significantly increases. If you or someone you know is experiencing the following symptoms of withdrawal, seek medical attention right away.

  • Dilated pupils
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Drowsiness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Coma
  • Seizures

At one point in my life, I took pain medications to help with my mental state and faked pain to get prescriptions. My addiction incurred too much damage to many aspects of my life. I decided to get help from the caring staff at Starlite Recovery Center. My sobriety is in reach and I am forever grateful to the staff at Starlite.

– Andrew T.