Prescription Painkiller Abuse Signs, Symptoms & Effects

Delta Specialty Hospital helps individuals struggling with alcohol or drug addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Memphis, TN, Delta is the preferred provider of substance abuse recovery.

Understanding Prescription Painkillers

Learn about prescription painkillers and substance abuse

OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, Opine, and hydrocodone are all examples of prescription painkillers that people all across the nation consume each day as a means of alleviating mild, moderate, severe, or chronic pain.

When taken as directed, you may experience the relief you need to go about your day with little to no disruption. However, if you consume these medications, which are classified as opioids, outside of your doctor’s recommendations, you are making yourself vulnerable to grappling with an addiction. Additionally, if you are taking a prescription painkiller as a means of trying to get high, you are also at risk of becoming chemically dependent on these drugs.

Battling an addiction to prescription painkillers is a challenging problem to have. When not able to abuse your painkiller of choice, you will likely suffer from uncomfortable and/or crippling withdrawal symptoms that can drive you back to abusing these painkillers again. You may even feel compelled to engage in other forms of substance abuse in order to achieve a more powerful high once your body has become tolerant of a particular amount of a painkiller. Given these detrimental issues that you can face, it is a good idea to seek treatment to overcome this form of substance abuse. With proper care, you can reclaim your life from a prescription painkiller addiction once and for all.


Prescription painkiller addiction statistics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, has reported that prescription painkiller abuse and addiction is an ever-rising problem in the United States. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the number of prescriptions written for opioid-based medications has increased fourfold. With this rise, the rate of painkiller-related overdoses increased just as much. Given this fact, the need for easily accessible and effective treatment is mounting, and the number of individuals requiring services to overcome addiction is still growing.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Prescription painkiller addiction and co-occurring disorders

If you or an important person in your life seeks treatment to overcome an addiction to prescription painkillers, it is likely that another mental illness or addiction will be diagnosed at the same time. The reason for this is because prescription painkiller addiction is known to exist at the same time as the following diagnosable conditions:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Major depressive disorder

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors of prescription painkiller addiction

Some individuals find themselves addicted to a prescription painkiller because they began consuming too much of a medication and now can’t stop. Others, however, intentionally use these medications as a means of getting high and are now grappling with a powerful addiction as a result. To understand why and how some people develop this sort of chemical dependency problem and others don’t, consider the following:

Genetic: Substance abuse and addiction are known to run in families. Therefore if you have a family history of substance abuse, especially the abuse of prescription painkillers, you have a greater risk of also struggling with similar challenges.

Environmental: There are several environmental influences that can make you more vulnerable to battling an addiction to prescription painkillers. Firstly, having access to these substances can increase the chances of being surrounded by others who engage in this form of substance abuse. Additionally, if you don’t have the proper skills for coping with stress in place, you (or your loved one) may be compelled to misuse opioid medications as a means of dealing with emotional pain. Lastly, if you do not have ample support from loved ones and endure some sort of trauma, you may be at an increased risk of suffering from a prescription painkiller addiction.

Risk Factors:

  • Prior substance abuse
  • Poor coping skills
  • Family history of substance use disorders
  • Exposure to ongoing stress
  • Experiencing trauma
  • Experiencing severe acute or chronic pain
  • Ease of access to prescription pain medications

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of prescription painkiller addiction

If you suspect that someone close to you may have a problem with prescription painkillers, it could be helpful to note the presence of the following signs and symptoms. If present, then it is wise to speak to him or her about his or her substance abuse problem and assist this individual in seeking treatment:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Visiting multiple doctors to get prescriptions for painkillers
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Slurring speech
  • Diminished participation in significant activities
  • Deception regarding whereabouts and/or activities
  • Borrowing or stealing medication that has been prescribed to someone else

Physical symptoms:

  • Pupil dilation
  • Itchiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Constipation

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Poor decision-making skills
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Drastic changes in mood
  • Depression


Effects of prescription painkiller addiction

Because prescription painkillers are extremely dangerous substances, it is possible to battle a number of consequences as a result of abusing them. The following effects are likely to transpire if you or your loved one doesn’t seek care to recover from a prescription painkiller addiction:

  • Suicide attempt(s)
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Polysubstance abuse
  • Onset of mental health concerns
  • Legal problems, including arrest and incarceration
  • Job loss
  • Isolation
  • Impaired or destroyed interpersonal relationships
  • Homelessness
  • Financial distress
  • Family discord, including separation and divorce
  • Development of physical health problems
  • Chronic unemployment

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms of prescription painkiller addiction

Effects of prescription painkiller withdrawal: Since certain prescription painkillers are highly addictive in nature, you or your loved one may suffer from withdrawal when not under the influence of these substances. The following symptoms are those that infer one is going through prescription painkiller withdrawal:

  • Watery eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors and twitches
  • Runny nose
  • Powerful cravings
  • Pain in bones and muscles
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Inability to sleep
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Fever
  • Dysphoria
  • Diarrhea

Effects of prescription painkiller overdose: If a loved one in your life has ingested a prescription painkiller, and is now displaying the following symptoms, he or she may have overdosed. In the event any of these effects appear, you should seek emergency treatment on behalf of this person:

  • Slow or otherwise irregular pulse
  • Seizure
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Extreme disorientation
  • Breathing problems

My addiction to prescription drugs was very out of hand before going to Delta Specialty Hospital. I am so grateful to all of the staff that has helped me through my recovery.

– Former Patient
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