You may not fit the stereotype of the “typical addict,” but if you’re using prescription painkillers beyond the scope of your doctor’s recommendations, you may need to take a second look. Prescription drug addiction can sneak up on anyone – soccer moms, high-profile executives and even grandma or grandpa – often without their knowledge. Here are five surefire signs your painkiller use has become a problem:
#1 You’re worried you may be losing control.
Do you keep a small supply of pain medication on you at all times “just in case”? Do you sneak or hide pills? If you’ve tried to cut back or stop using medication for a time but keep returning to prior levels of use, you may have lost control. This is particularly true if you continue using painkillers despite negative consequences in your life. Addicted individuals may find themselves making urgent calls or unscheduled visits to their doctor or visiting multiple doctors to receive more than one prescription. Some may even find themselves buying pills on the street, forging prescriptions or stealing pills prescribed for others. If insurance no longer covers the cost, some people begin using cheaper, more easily accessible drugs like heroin. For those who have had problems with drugs or alcohol in the past, this loss of control may be eerily familiar. If you have a history of drug abuse, you’re more likely to become addicted to pain medication as well.
#2 You don’t feel like yourself anymore.
Dependency on painkillers can change your appearance, habits and lifestyle. You may feel a shift in your mood, energy level or ability to concentrate, and may become agitated or hostile, particularly when you don’t have access to your medication. Sleeping and eating patterns may become irregular, causing fatigue and weight gain/loss. Over time, drugs may begin to take precedence over basic grooming and hygiene, resulting in changes to your physical appearance. Social circles may change as well, as your interests become more focused on drug use than connecting with family or friends.
#3 You get defensive if people question you about your medication use.
It may be difficult to recognize changes in yourself, but family, friends and coworkers may start to mention their concerns. When they make comments or ask questions, do you get annoyed or defensive? Rather than deal with other people’s commentary, have you started keeping your feelings and behaviors secret or avoiding people? Keeping secrets is a hallmark of addiction.
#4 You don’t feel good without the medication.
If you’ve become physically dependent on painkillers, you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you skip a dose or the medication wears off. Symptoms may include joint and muscle pain, vomiting, headaches, anxiety, sweating, and insomnia. The pain of withdrawal, which can feel similar to the pain you were originally medicating, often leads to the use of more painkillers. In some cases, people will regularly manage withdrawal symptoms by taking more painkillers, often without realizing that these symptoms are the result of the medication itself.
#5 Your family, career and/or schoolwork are beginning to suffer.
You may notice, or others may tell you, that you’re no longer meeting your responsibilities of daily life. Your attendance or grades at school may suffer, a coworker or boss may complain about your performance, or family members may argue that you’re missing important events or neglecting your spouse or children. You may also struggle with financial or legal problems associated with your painkiller use. Every year, more than 2 million Americans begin abusing prescription opiates. Take an honest look in the mirror – are you one of them? If you recognize the signs of painkiller addiction in yourself or a loved one, talk to your doctor or a drug treatment center right away. Painkiller addiction is treatable, but only if you reach out for help.
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