According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the year 2010 had approximately 16 million Americans report using a prescription medication for non-medical reasons in the past year, and 7 million report drug abuse in the past month.
Addiction does not discriminate, meaning it can even strike people who take their medications correctly, so remain in contact with your doctor and learn about signs of dependence. There are universal signs of addiction, which should not be ignored, but addressed before you lose control.
Risks of Taking Painkillers
The following medications are the most commonly abused:
- Opioids for pain relief
- Central nervous system (CNS) depressants (barbiturates and benzodiazepines) for anxiety or sleep problems
- Stimulants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sleep disorders or obesity
Opioids are narcotics that are typically used to treat moderate to severe pain for a short period of time, usually for 1-2 weeks. These medications are highly addictive, so they can cause withdrawal symptoms if someone abruptly stops using them or accidentally skips a dose.
CNS depressants, also called sedatives and tranquilizers, are medications that slow down brain activity, so they are extremely useful for treating anxiety and sleeping disorders.
Just as the names suggests, stimulants increase alertness, attention and energy, which elevates blood pressure, heart rate and respiration. Historically, stimulants were used to treat a variety of ailments, such as asthma and other respiratory problems, obesity and neurological disorders. But as their abuse potential skyrocketed, stimulants began to diminish from medical use, so now they are restricted to only a few select health conditions, such as ADHD, narcolepsy and occasionally depression. In fact, stimulants are only used to treat depression if people respond poorly to other forms of treatment.
How to Prevent Painkiller Addiction
If you suspect that you are susceptible to painkiller addiction, then take the following steps:
- Ask your doctor
- Keep your doctor informed
- Read all pertinent information
- Take your medication as prescribed
- Keep medications secured
To ensure that you are informed about your medication, ask your doctor about the drug before committing to taking it. Your questions can ease some stress and keep you aware of warning signs that the medication is causing problems.
If your feel side effects from the medication, or even if you suspect they you are becoming addicted to it, then consult your doctor. By keeping a doctor informed, you can adjust the medication to lower your risk of addiction.
All medications come with a list of allergic reactions, which can help you recognize signs that you should stop taking the medication.
Taking a drug as prescribed can lower your risk of addiction, but such use does not mean you will avoid addiction. Even when taken as prescribed, narcotic painkillers have a high risk of addiction, so use extreme caution when using such powerful drugs.
To prevent others from abusing your medication, secure it in a safe place, which could mean storing it out of others’ reach or securing it in a locked drawer.