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Am I addicted to painkillers?

It isn’t just illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin that are highly addictive. Some prescription drugs, such as codeine, can also lead to a physical dependency. Your addiction may have already become a problem, therefore drug rehab could be an option for you.  In this blog Port of Call explains the symptoms of a painkiller addiction, to help you to detect the warning signs.

Even certain pills prescribed by your doctor or pharmacy aren’t any less addictive than illegal substances. As prescription numbers rise, so too do cases of prescription drug addiction. Dependency on these types of substances can present its own unique challenges.

Painkiller addiction helpA physical dependence on prescription drugs, such as an addiction to painkillers, can arise from regular and prolonged use. Psychological dependence can also form, particularly when the drug is used as a coping strategy for anxiety. Excessive and continued use of a drug can sometimes increase anxiety, causing a vicious cycle of addiction.

Commonly abused prescription drugs that are prescribed for pain relief include opiates like methadone, tramadol, morphine, oxycodone (sold as OxyContin) and codeine.

The addictive effects of codeine

Codeine is an opiate used to treat mild to moderate pain that doesn’t respond to simple painkillers. It is available from doctors as a prescription only medicine or directly from a pharmacy combined in lower doses with aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol. Prolonged use can lead to ‘cravings’ and eventually addiction. Tolerance can also build, leading users to take more to get the same effects or to avoid an unpleasant withdrawal.

Codeine promotes feelings of warmth and well-being, calm, relaxation and sleepiness. It can also lower blood pressure and suppress normal breathing, increasing the risk of respiratory arrest. Higher than recommended doses of codeine in a tablet combined with another type of painkiller (commonly paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen), increases the risk of experiencing the side-effects of these other drugs. While they may seem harmless in normal doses, they can also lead to serious problems in overdose.

Painkiller addiction symptoms

If you are experiencing an addiction to painkillers you may observe one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • You need to take more of the drug to achieve the desired effect.
  • You ask for repeat prescriptions before they are due.
  • You have difficulty moderating or stopping.
  • You feel guilty about your drug use.
  • You have experienced problems with work, money or legal issues due to your drug use.
  • Your are secretive about your drug use.
  • You have arguments or disagreements with your family about your drug use.
  • You use other medications to alleviate the side effects of prescription drugs.
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping/reducing the drug.
  • You continue to take the drug despite actual or likely negative consequences.

Make us your first Port of Call. If you, or a loved one, are dealing with painkiller addiction we can help you to access the right addiction help at the right time. Take the first step today by speaking to one of our advisers for free on 08000029010. We can guide you through the options available to you and find the right rehab for you.

About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is our admissions team leader. Over the last 5 years he has spoken with more than 10,000 people via our helpline and has organised over 1,000 detox and rehabilitation placements.

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