There has been extensive media coverage on the high numbers of Americans dependent on or addicted to prescription painkillers. Some are calling the nation’s opiate addiction an epidemic that’s sweeping the country, leaving people hooked on highly potent opioids after initially using meds to treat chronic pain. The fact that this problem originates in the physician’s office has contributed considerably to the rising number of individuals struggling to stop taking the drugs they need to help them function.
The kinds of painkillers that are coming under scrutiny as a result of this epidemic of opioid abuse include the following:
- Fentanyl Hydrocodone
- Oxycodone and acetaminophen
- Oxycodone and naloxone
Where has the opioid epidemic come from?
Prescription painkillers have become extremely potent, making them very effective in treating chronic pain caused by accident, injury or disease. Many people automatically assume the drugs they are prescribed by their doctor as being safe. However, opioid-based painkillers carry a significant risk of developing dependence and ultimately opiate addiction, which many users are simply not aware of.
The fact that opioids are initially prescribed by doctors is extremely significant. Despite our better understanding of opiate addiction these days, many people still believe in the stereotypes the media projects of addicts trapped in an impoverished and dirty lifestyle. Consequently, people who have become dependent on prescription medications will fail to recognize that they may have developed addiction as a consequence of regular use. This also deters many from seeking help with painkiller abuse when they first start having problems as they do not necessarily think they fit the “profile” of an addict.
How Addictive Are Prescription Painkillers?
Opioid-based medications are extremely addictive as they are essentially a synthetic version of the illegal street drug heroin. The reason these kind of drugs are so addictive is due to the effects they have on the brain, which effectively distracts the mind from pain signals elsewhere in the body. When a person takes an opioid pill they will experience the same euphoria as a heroin addict as dopamine floods the body with pleasurable sensations.
The difficulty with these types of painkillers is that users are quick to find themselves tolerant to their effects. At first, the prescription dose will be adequate to reduce or even eliminate pain for short periods but the body quickly builds a tolerance that requires higher doses to achieve the same effects.
The problem is that when people are initially prescribed with opioid painkillers and start to experience breakthrough pain on the original dose, it is very easy to be tempted to take more than one pill. After all, if one pill is considered a safe dose by the physician, surely one more won’t be harmful? It is precisely this kind of reaction to tolerance that can quickly develop into opioid dependence, making it crucial for people prescribed these drugs to regularly consult their doctors.
Recognizing Opioid Addiction
A combination of the following factors could indicate an individual is struggling with prescription painkiller use:
- They are taking medication without a prescription or in higher doses than prescribed
- Taking opioid-based painkillers in different ways to those prescribed, such as snorting or injecting
- Using opioid painkillers that have not been specifically prescribed for pain or that have been purchased illegally
- Displays a tendency to “doctor shop” in order to get the higher doses of painkillers needed
- Combining more than one medication to get the desired effects
Holistic Prescription Painkiller Addiction Treatment
The holistic approach to treating prescription painkiller addiction is to replace chemical remedies with natural therapies. Many people entering drugs rehab centers for problems with opioid addiction are also suffering the physical, psychological and emotional effects of prolonged substance abuse. Healing addiction to opioids is much more successful when holistic treatments are combined with evidence-based therapies.
Our inpatient painkiller addiction program allows patients to comfortably detox from powerful prescription meds under the full supervision of qualified addiction specialists. Detox is generally completed at the client’s pace over the course of around 30-days, which gives ample time for the individual to overcome withdrawal which can often be quite an intense experience. After detox, patients enter the rehabilitation phase of a painkiller addiction program which focuses on healing physical and emotional issues associated with substance abuse. Depending on the individual, rehab from painkillers lasts for around 90-days although some patients require more time. Due to the fact that each individual progresses through detox and rehab at different speeds, quality painkiller addiction programs are completely flexible to allow clients to heal at their own pace.
Painkiller Addiction Treatment Aftercare
Opiate addiction treatment does not stop once a person leaves a drug rehab center and services are available to them as an outpatient for as long as they need our support. During rehab, the focus is on healing the patient from addiction, whereas when they have returned home, this shifts to protecting their sobriety and preventing relapse. Aftercare services should include regular check-up calls, support group referrals and access to a variety of holistic therapies and opiate addiction treatments.