After undergoing surgery, giving birth, or dealing with any event that has a traumatic impact on the body, doctors may prescribe opioid medication. These can help patients deal with pain during the healing process. These prescription drugs don’t cure pain. Instead, they only mask it. Ideally, healing progresses well, and the patient no longer needs the medications. However, there are times when some patients will continue to take painkillers. They no longer need them for relief, but develop a painkiller addiction.

Not a Moral Failure

Today, society frequently puts the abuse of narcotics, medications and alcohol on the same level as a moral failure. In truth, painkiller addiction is not at all about morality or even willpower. Clinicians at the Cleveland Clinic consider this line of thinking a myth. The experts argue that even an upstanding citizen, who uses pain medication for legitimate reasons, can fall victim to addiction.

The Progressive Nature of Painkiller Addiction

frustrated woman has a painkiller addictionOne of the reasons that painkiller abuse is so difficult to predict is because not everyone knows if they have addictive tendencies. Not every patient who receives a medication via a prescription will become addicted. You may be able to deduct from your family history or personal drug usage whether you’re more likely to develop an addiction. However, even those without any personal or family history of substance abuse can still fall victim to a painkiller addiction.

Usually, the process is gradual.

  • From short-term to long-term use. Your doctor prescribes opioid pain medications for short-term use only. When you go back for a refill or two, you may be heading into dangerous territory.
  • Increased dosage. As with any other type of substance, your body eventually builds up a tolerance. For example, several months post-surgery, you may have to increase your daily dose from two pills to four pills. Your body is signaling that it’s no longer able to mask the pain as well on the original dose. You continue to increase the dose – daily if needed.
  • Shift in reasoning. In the past, you took pain medication to relieve a persistent ache. Today, you reach for the painkiller because it relaxes you and gives you a sense of mild euphoria. You feel good and want this feeling to continue. You may no longer be too picky about the medications you take and may even solicit friends or family members for leftover pain drugs.

There’s another step in this process that’s worth mentioning. For a large number of pill addicts, the next drug of choice is heroin. Also an opioid, it’s frequently less expensive than prescriptions pills and sometimes easier to get. When a physician refuses to write another prescription, and there aren’t any other options, some head in the direction of heroin use.

Getting Help Today is Possible

A high-quality rehab center not only guides you on the path to healing, but also equips you with the tools you need to maintain sobriety after the program. You’ll learn stress management tips and tricks, how to incorporate exercise and mental health activities to feel good, and find alternative ways to deal with any physical pain so that it doesn’t result in a return to opioid medications.

A painkiller addiction doesn’t have to be a day-to-day struggle that defines you. In fact, you don’t have to give the drugs another day to exercise their power over you. Whether you or someone you love needs treatment, 1st Step Behavioral Health can help. Call (855) 425-4846 to learn more.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.