Prescription Pill Addiction: Signs You’ve Crossed the Line with Your Medication

pill addiction

130 people die every day as a result of opioid addiction.

This staggering statistic of pain killer abuse cost the United States approximately $78.5 billion altogether. This includes treatment, hospital bills, and stays and criminal prosecution.

If you’ve been prescribed pain killers for an injury or for recovery following a surgery, you may worry you’ll cross the line into pill addiction.

While most people who take their pain killers for a genuine purpose can do so responsibly, there are some signs to look out for if you think you’re heading into dangerous territory.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the signs and symptoms that can help you recognize when you’ve crossed the line to pill addiction. There is help available, and you don’t need to struggle with a pill addiction.

Read on for some of the top signs and symptoms that you’ve become addicted to your pain pills.

Be Aware of What You’re Taking Before It Becomes a Problem

Chances are if you take an opioid pain killer, your doctor will discuss this with you. The pharmacy may also have other precautions in place to ensure you’re not abusing the medication. This may mean they’ll ask you for ID or do a search to make sure you haven’t purchased the medication somewhere else.

You should be aware of the different types of pain killers to understand if you have a problem. Opioids, as opposed to NSAIDs, are the pills you need to watch out for.

NSAIDs (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) are pills that can be purchased over the counter, like Ibuprofen or Tylenol. They typically help reduce inflammation in the body, therefore helping reduce pain.

Opioids, however, work with the brain’s chemistry to change the way your brain responds to pain. They can work quickly, or release over a long period of time to keep you comfortable if your doctor expects you’ll be in a great deal of pain.

Examples of opioids include fentanyl, codeine, tramadol, oxycodone, and morphine. They are meant to be taken for a short period of time only and are not typically prescribed for long-term use.

The exception may be if you have cancer or another type of terminal illness that causes extreme pain. In these instances, your doctor may decide that the benefits of keeping you comfortable are worth more than the risk of you becoming dependant on the drugs.

Knowing what types of pills you’re taking will help you stay abreast of when you believe that you’re possibly sliding into addiction.

Know If You’re Part of a Group Who is At Risk For Developing a Pill Addiction

As we stated previously, most people are able to take their pain pills without becoming addicted to them. However, there are some people who are more at risk of becoming addicted to pain pills than others.

According to research, those who have fibromyalgia, anxiety or depression, are obese or suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to develop an addiction.

If you have a family history of substance abuse, you’ve been a chain smoker in the past (or still are) or you have a history of very severe anxiety or depression, you may find yourself more at risk for developing an addiction.

If you’re in any of these groups, speak to your doctor first before taking the medication.

You Have a History of Substance Abuse

Many people who have a history of substance abuse elect not to take any medication that can alter their state of mind. This may mean that if they’re in an accident or have surgery, they’ll decide to take a pain killer that is non-addictive. This can be more painful in the short-term, but it can also mean that they won’t develop an issue of becoming addicted to the pain pills.

If you’re having an especially painful surgery or you’ve been in an extremely painful accident, speak to your doctor. Ideally, you should discuss this before the surgery to ensure that you don’t slip up into old habits.

In some cases, you may be able to take the medication without issue, but many people with substance abuse issues may find themselves making excuses. You may decide that you can take the pill if you don’t need “just this once” to help numb something emotional rather than physical.

If you find yourself doing this, and you have a substance abuse history, you may need to speak with a doctor or another type of healthcare professional.

You’re Taking Your Medication When You Don’t Need It

Your doctor may have prescribed you the medicine for a certain amount of time. Or, he or she may have told you to take the pills any time you have a severe pain episode.

If you find yourself taking the pills because you’re bored, or because you’re in a mild amount of pain, this could be a sign that you’re abusing your medication. You should only take your medicine as directed.

You Take Your Medication to Get You Through the Day

Right after an accident or surgery, you may take the pain killers to get through the day. That’s normal, as your doctor likely expects you’re in an extreme amount of pain.

Once the pain has subsided, however, you’ll be expected to wean yourself off the medication. Some people become addicted to how medicine makes them feel, not how it takes away their pain.

They may use it to numb emotional pain, to calm them down if they’re suffering anxiety or to help them get through painful memories or parts of their day.

If you’re using your medication to get through parts of your day you find unpleasant that are unrelated to physical pain, it is likely you may have crossed a line.

Pain killers should only be taken to relieve physical pain and used as a tool to get you back to health. They should not be used as an emotional crutch.

You Take Pills Secretly

If you’re worried that your friends or family will think you have a problem. And you find yourself hiding your medication from them, then it’s likely there is a problem.

If you have to hide the number of pills you take each day because you’re worried that someone else will become suspicious, it is likely they already have something to be suspicious of.

Some people may excessively worry about people taking pain pills because of the opioid epidemic. If the individual you don’t want to take pills in front of always expressed excessive concern, then it is possible this is a situation just between the two of you.

But, if you feel you need to hide the pills from more than one person, especially, then that is a sign that things have become out of control.

You Never Weaned Yourself Off Your Medicine

Your doctor will likely give you an idea of how long you should take the medication. Opioids can be addictive and cause withdrawal symptoms if you do not taper off properly. Most people who do not go through detox will then continue to take the medication to stave off the symptoms.

It is likely your doctor will instruct you on how to do this. If, for example, you’ve had surgery on your leg, your doctor will know how long the pain will be intense for. He or she will then tell you to begin to taper down and switch to NSAIDs, to help control pain.

If you do not taper down, it will be difficult to quit taking the medication, and you may find yourself going through withdrawal once you run out of meds. You may also find yourself going to great lengths to get new medicine to avoid this.

It is crucial you keep an open line of communication with your doctor. If you’re still in extreme pain after he or she says you shouldn’t be any longer, you need to book an appointment to ensure that everything is healing correctly. The solution will be for the doctor to ensure your source of pain is not coming from complications, not to allow you to continue to take the medicine.

With open communication, your doctor may tell you to go ahead and continue to take your opioids, or he or she may give you a different medication to treat whatever issue has arisen.

You Find Yourself Trying to Get the Medicine Prescribed

Drug-seeking behavior, also known as “doctor shopping,” is a key indication that you’ve gone too far with your medicine. You should only take your medicine as instructed by your doctor at the intervals he or she has prescribed.

If he or she declines to prescribe you more and you’ve crossed a line with your medicine, you may then switch to another doctor to see if he or she will give you the medicine. You may even exaggerate symptoms or say the pain is worse than it is to ensure that you’ll get the medicine you want.

You may also purposely injure yourself or make up symptoms in order to get the doctor to prescribe the pain killers.

People Around You Have Expressed Concern

Although when you take opioids, there will likely be one or two people that are concerned due to all of the hype surrounding opioid addictions. However, as long as you take the medication as prescribed by your doctor, you shouldn’t have a problem.

If you have people expressing concern that you are not taking the medication as your doctor intended, this may be a sign you’ve crossed a line. They may think you take too much, that you’ve taken the medication too long or that you’re not acting in the same manner you usually do.

Other people often notice things about us before we do, so it is important to take their concerns seriously.

You Take Medication Not Prescribed to You

If you’ve begun taking medication from other people, or buying it illegally, this is a tell-tale sign that there is something wrong. At this point, it is fairly clear that there is a problem going on that needs to be addressed.

Buying medication from others without a prescription is not only dangerous, but it is illegal. Additionally, you never know what other people may put into the medications. Although some pills look innocent and like the pills you get from your doctor, they may not actually be.

In fact, many people overdose from opioids that have been “cut” with other drugs or had other drugs put inside of them. Many people also die of an overdose because they have taken street drugs that have been cut with fentanyl.

Not only is this illegal, but extremely dangerous. If you don’t know how much of a medication you’re taking, this could cause a serious problem, not to mention puts you at risk of an overdose.

Seeking Help for a Pill Addiction

If you or someone you love has crossed a line with their pill addiction, remember that help is available.

Pill addictions are nothing to play around with and can have very serious, if not dire consequences. As such, it is important that you keep on top of it if you think you may be taking more medication than you should be.

Help is always available to help you overcome your addiction. Contact us today at Coastal Detox to help you overcome your addiction and live a life free of the chains of pain pills.

References:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.