Commonly Abused Painkillers: Opioid Addiction in Arizona

Prescription Painkiller Abuse

Prescription painkiller abuse is a problem that people across the country battle with every day, and we’ve found that many people underestimate how easily painkiller abuse can lead to life-threatening addiction.

At The River Source, we treat clients struggling with prescription pain pill addiction every day. We’re working to help more people understand how easily painkiller use, even when it’s correctly prescribed, can lead to dependency and addiction.

Pain Pills: More Addictive — and Accessible — Than You May Think

While the last decade has seen legislation limit the cases in which they can be prescribed, prescription pain pills are still surprisingly easy to obtain. According to one report, about 20% of people seeking pain relief from a doctor will receive a prescription for one of a group of painkillers called opioids [1]. These narcotic pills act on opioid receptors in the nervous system to reduce the sensation of pain. A side effect of this is that it triggers a rapid release of dopamine, causing feelings of euphoria in the user.

While a number of things can increase your risk of developing an opioid addiction, the unfortunate truth is that taking your medication as prescribed might be all it takes. According to addiction specialist Dr. Karsten Kueppenbender, from the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, “[Anyone] treated with opioids for 30 days or longer will develop opioid tolerance. This causes them to suffer withdrawal symptoms if the medication is stopped abruptly. Users may also begin to want more of these drugs to achieve the same effect. It can happen to anybody.” [2]

We want to reiterate that last statement: It can happen to anybody. Regardless of any other factors, the CDC found that 50-80% of people who die from a prescription opioid overdose have a history of chronic pain [3], indicating how common this scenario really is. Even without a prescription, opioids can still be easily acquired: the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that in 2013-14, 50% of opioids used for nonmedical reasons were obtained through family and friends [4]. It’s one of the easiest substances to access and become hooked on before you know it.

Commonly Abused Pain Pills

Many prescription drugs —sedatives, stimulants, and painkillers alike — can lead to addiction, but the most commonly abused are opioid pain pills. Among opioids, a few are more frequently misused than others:

  • codeine (cold medicines and cough syrups)
  • diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
  • fentanyl (Duragesic)
  • hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • meperidine (Demerol)
  • methadone
  • morphine
  • oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)

This list is by no means complete, and we encourage you to research any medications you or a loved one may be prescribed.

Painkiller Abuse Can Easily Lead to Overdose

Despite being relatively easy to obtain, many people addicted to opioids lose access to them at some point: their prescriptions run out, their friends or family members stop sharing, or the cost becomes too high. Some of these people turn to harder opiates — including heroin, which is often cheaper and more available than prescription opioids. This trajectory from prescription pain pill abuse to heroin use is all too common: according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, by 2011, 80% of heroin users first abused prescription painkillers [5].

Another concern is that prescription painkiller abuse may lead to a lethal overdose. In 2010, opioids were involved in 60% of drug overdose deaths, and responsible for more deaths than any other drug or class of drugs, legal or otherwise [3]. According to the CDC, as of 2017, opioid addiction kills an average of 130 people per day — about 47,000 per year, more than gun deaths or car accidents [6].

Signs of Pain Pill Addiction

Opioid addiction can be identified through a few physical and behavioral indicators. Physical signs include:

  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased coordination
  • The need to increase opioid dosage for the same pain relief
  • Altered sensitivity to pain with higher doses (hyperalgesia)

Behavioral signs may be more obvious yet:

  • Stealing, forging, or seeing multiple doctors for prescriptions
  • Taking more medication than prescribed
  • Unstable moods and hostility
  • Impacted sleep
  • Poor or impulsive decision-making
  • Very high or very low energy levels

Suffering from Opioid Addiction? Here’s How We Can Help

Many of us at The River Source has stood in our clients’ shoes. We’ve struggled with addiction, and we know that you may not know how things got this way. It’s a slippery slope from pain relief to opioid addiction.

But we’ve reclaimed our lives — which is how we know you can, too. Our individualized care will take you from detox through inpatient and outpatient treatment, combining proven interventions with naturopathic remedies to help you achieve recovery in body, mind, and spirit. Prescription drug addiction can feel completely overwhelming, but you’re not alone, and we can help.

At The River Source, we’ll work with you so you can heal, find balance, and recover from opioid addiction. Call us at (866) 294-9331 or schedule a free consultation online to begin your journey towards complete recovery.


About the Author

Director of Marketing and Admissions

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