Withdrawal Starts with Addiction
Not all pain pills are addictive, of course. The pain medications one can find over the counter, for example, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, are relatively safe and non-habit forming. The types of pain medication that require a prescription, however, can often become addictive.
Opioids: The Biggest Culprit
Ever since the opioid crisis began in the late 1990s, opioid addiction in the United States has skyrocketed. Reassured by pharmaceutical companies that opioids were not addictive, doctors prescribed large amounts of opioid pills to patients that complained of pain. As it turns out, the doctors were severely misled, and this misinformation came at the expense of the millions of Americans who found themselves with an opioid addiction. To this day, the United States government is trying to deal with the consequences of the opioid crisis.
Over 2 million people in the United States have an addiction to opioid pills.
Opioid pills carry the risk of dependence, which means that people who take the medication can eventually start to rely on the relief that the pills provide. Opioid pain pills work by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors. They send a message to the brain to release dopamine, one of the brain’s main “feel-good” chemicals. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being in humans. Opioid pain pills release far more dopamine than humans are meant to experience, and during this chemical release, people experience a sense of euphoria, or a “high.”
This high is the reason why some people are drawn to pain pills without having received a prescription. Some people buy stolen pain pills from drug dealers. Others steal pain pills from a relative’s medicine cabinet. This is often the case with teenagers who become addicted to the drugs. Some others get illicit pain medication from friends. No matter how one finds pain medication, unless it’s via a prescription from a medical professional, these pills pose a significant danger to one’s health and wellness. Even with a legitimate prescription, one should be careful with pain pills. If one develops an addiction, one will have to deal with the pain of withdrawal symptoms.
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Physical Withdrawal Symptoms
Physical withdrawal symptoms can be quite distressing. They include, but are not limited to the following:
- Stomach Problems such as pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Eye-Related Problems like teary eyes and dilated or constricted pupils
- Appetite Loss
- Chills or Sweating
- Nasal Issues such as runniness or stuffiness.
“While they aren’t medically dangerous, these symptoms can be painful and hard to live with. The unpleasantness leads to continued drug use.”
Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms
In addition to the physical symptoms of withdrawal, those who are recovering from pain pill addiction may also experience a range of psychological symptoms, which include:
As noted by WebMd, both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms are difficult for those who experience them. Without the support of a treatment program, those who go through withdrawal will continue to use drugs to avoid further distress.
Medication and ‘Tapering Off’
Under medical supervision, an individual who is addicted to pain medication might find relief from withdrawal symptoms by undergoing the process of “tapering off.” In this case, a doctor in a federally-approved treatment program may prescribe increasingly smaller amounts of medication until the individual no longer has a physical addiction. Note that the individual will still need to continue treatment to address the underlying cause of the addiction. Nevertheless, the tapering process can provide significant relief for withdrawal symptoms and make the recovery process less distressing. Sometimes a doctor will prescribe a different medication to replace the original addiction-causing pills. In this case, the doctor will prescribe one of three types of medicines:
- Agonists, which are full-strength opioids
- Partial Agonists, which are weaker opioids
- Antagonists, which blog opioid receptors
In any case, the doctor should taper off the medication until the patient no longer needs it.
How to Find Help
If your fear of withdrawal is keeping you from addressing your addiction to pain medication, understand that you do have options. With the right care and support, you can overcome physical withdrawal and begin to address the root cause of the addiction.