Painkillers, also called narcotics or prescription opioids, are medications available by prescription only that are used to help treat pain. They may be prescribed to help manage symptoms related to post-surgical pain, chronic pain conditions, and a range of other conditions. Although beneficial when used as directed, painkillers are highly addictive. Because of their addictive potential, the rate of abuse and misuse of these drugs has increased dramatically in recent years. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost two million Americans over the age of 12 abused prescription painkillers for the first time in the last year.

In many cases, tolerance and dependency on the drugs quickly develop, as the effects of prescription painkillers do not last particularly long. Once dependency develops, addiction is often quick to follow. If you are ready to overcome an addiction to painkillers, the safest and most effective way to start your journey to sobriety is by seeking help from a professional addiction treatment center like Ardmore Recovery.

What are Painkillers?

Painkillers are narcotic drugs that are used to treat pain. Painkillers are considered to be Schedule II drugs. This means, unlike Schedule I drugs like heroin, painkillers do have valid medical use while still acknowledging the high chance for abuse. This classification is the reason painkillers can only be prescribed by a medical professional. Common examples of well-known painkillers include morphine, Vicodin, Oxycodone, and codeine.

Painkillers work by altering how the brain and body communicate. When you feel pain, the nerves in the body send messages to the brain. When painkillers are used, they bind to specific opioid receptors in the brain and throughout the body. The presence of the drug on these receptors limits the ability of the brain to receive or send messages about pain and discomfort. Opioids produce feelings of pleasure and euphoria while significantly reducing or eliminating pain.

Why are Painkillers Addictive?

Painkillers are addictive because of how they work in the central nervous system. Painkillers trigger the brain to release specific chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins, sometimes called “feel good” chemicals are responsible for reducing the ability of the brain and body to perceive pain. They also help enhance feelings of pleasure or ecstasy. 

When you take painkillers, you feel better, at least until the effects of the medication wear off. As the effects of the drug diminish and pain returns, users begin feeling the urge to use the drugs at more frequent intervals and in higher doses to achieve the “high” they remember from early use.

Symptoms of Addiction to Painkillers to be Aware Of

Addiction is a disease that affects everyone differently. Because people experience addiction in unique ways, painkiller addiction symptoms may also look different from person to person. Some of the more common symptoms you may see include anxiety, mood swings, stomach issues, slurred speech, sedation, mood swings, isolation, slowed breathing, and doctor shopping. Some people may experience more severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms, including seizures, coma, and death. It is not uncommon for symptoms of painkiller withdrawal to begin within hours after your last dose. For this reason, it is essential to seek help with painkiller detox.
If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction to painkillers, seeking help from the treatment professionals at Ardmore Recovery provides the safest and most successful way to achieve lasting sobriety. Detoxing from painkillers can be dangerous and, sometimes, life-threatening. Detoxing under professional guidance and supervision ensures your safety as you navigate through the first and most challenging days of your recovery journey. Contact our admissions team today to learn more about how our programs can help you overcome an addiction to painkillers.

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