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Painkillers are the common name for prescription pain medication that is usually opiate-based.  While painkiller medication has its medicinal uses for those in recovery from surgery or suffering from pain due to injury, illness, or disease, it also has a very high potential for abuse and addiction.  Not only are painkillers very addictive, but they are a very powerful and potent medications.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Approximately 100 people die per day from drug overdose
  • Approximately three-quarters of prescription drug overdoses occur from painkillers
  • Painkiller overdoses killed 14,800 United States citizens in 2008
  • Alarmingly, more than 12 million Americans used painkillers in 2010 without a prescription or non-medically

These sad numbers speak for themselves. They tell us that too many people are engaging in risky, life-threatening behavior and, unfortunately, many of them have paid the ultimate price by abusing painkillers. So many mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings, and dear friends want to know, what is the allure of painkillers?  Why would a person risk their life to get high on these drugs?

Painkillers – Highs and Lows

Painkillers do supply the user with a powerful euphoria, which is just one reason why they can be so addictive.  Some users state that the painkillers drugs help to relax them while others state that the drugs help to motivate them.  Some users state the powerful medications help them to socialize better because it helps to take away any inhibitions.  Because of these psychological effects, many users become psychologically dependent.  Other effects of the drug include drowsiness, decreased appetite, and some users state that it creates a “warm, fuzzy” type of feeling.

Users rapidly develop a tolerance to painkillers, meaning that they have to use a progressively increasing dose in order to experience the same euphoria.  Subsequently, users also develop a physical dependence to the painkillers.  This means that they will experience withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, hold and cold flashes, irritability, depression, and other negative effects.

Painkiller Abuse – How to Detect Use and How to Get Somebody Help

Because of the potency of painkillers, there are often tell-tale signs that for which you should be looking for that indicate abuse. They include:

  1. Many painkiller users can appear drowsy or disoriented.  Much like alcohol, a user’s motor functions, cognitive process, and speech will be affected.
  2. Users often move and speak slowly.  They will sometimes drop items that they are holding onto such as letting keys fall out of their hand to the ground.
  3. One definitive sign can be what users refer to as “nodding off” which refers to the behavior of drifting in and out of consciousness.

Most opioid-based painkillers can be detected from a simple urinalysis kit that can be bought at an average drug store or pharmacy over the counter.  Some painkillers are harder to detect, although most do show up on blood or hair tests performed by a professional laboratory.  But sometimes detecting painkiller abuse can be as simple as finding some inexplicable pills laying around someplace.  Most painkiller users are not cognizant of “covering their tracks” because the high is so powerful that it prevents them from doing so.

If you suspect your loved one of abusing or being addicted to painkillers, it is imperative that you seek professional help.  Some rehabilitation centers, detoxification units, physicians, counselors, and other addiction treatment professionals specializing in helping a person safely withdraw from their painkiller addiction so that they can then embark on a full recovery process.  Because of both the mental and physical effects of painkillers, it is recommended that a person receive treatment in both areas.  Because painkiller addiction is a life-threatening emergency, it is recommended that a person seek help immediately.