ClickCease

Pain Pill Abuse: Addiction Signs, Withdrawal & Treatment Process

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: September 23rd, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

Pain makes us unproductive. It makes it almost impossible to get through your day-to-day activities. According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain each day. That’s where the need for pain pill relief arises.

However, the use of opioids for pain relief has brought about the addiction epidemic. Although some people might require pain medication, physicians have to cut down prescriptions to prevent users from developing addictions. But a lot of doctors struggle to balance between caring for patients and controlling opioid prescriptions.

There’s a fragile line between helping out and hurting patients when it comes to pain management. Once you find that you can’t function without taking a pain pill, you’ve probably developed an addiction. What you do next will determine whether you beat the addiction or remain its victim forever. Check out what you should know about pain pills and addiction.

Pain Pills 101

Pain relief is one of the many reasons that people visit their doctors. There are various drugs that doctors prescribe to relieve pain, with the most frequent being opioids (or opiates or narcotics.) Common prescription opioids include morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and oxycodone. The drugs work in the brain by mingling with opioid receptors and eliminating any pain sensations. While at it, they slow down blood pressure, breathing rate, and heart rate, bringing about relaxation.

While most prescription opioids are acceptable for medical use, they are classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency under the Schedule II controlled substances due to the potential for dependence and misuse. If you take the pills for a short time as your doctor prescribes, the drugs are usually safe. However, since they bring about a level of euphoria alongside managing the pain, you might find yourself taking it in a way that could lead to misuse.

What Is the Misuse of Pain Pills?

If you take a pain relief pill in a way other than your doctor authorized, it amounts to misuse. It can occur when:

  • You take a higher dosage of drugs.
  • You only take the medication to get high and feel a sense of well-being.
  • You take pills from another person’s prescription, even if your pain is legit.
  • You think about the drug all the time and anticipate your next scheduled dosage.

The problem is extensive. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 18 million people misuse medication at least once a year. As of 2019, about 50,000 people in the U.S. misused opioids and died. When you take prescription opioids, you’re likely to develop psychological and physical dependence since your brain gets accustomed to the chemical changes.

When an opioid pill finds its way into the brain and fills the opioid receptor while slowing down the central nervous system, it also leads to an increase in endorphins and dopamine. The chemical and neurotransmitter relieve stress/pain and signal feelings of pleasure, respectively. Repeated drug use will interfere with the natural making and absorption of the substances, and that’s how drug dependence develops. That is so because when the “opioid sensation” diminishes, dopamine levels follow suit and can cause both physical and emotional discomfort.

Now that you know the basics of pain pill abuse and addiction, how can you tell if you’re battling with it?

Signs of Painkiller Addiction

Prescription opioids should relieve pain, but abusing the drugs might cause more pain. If you have an opioid use disorder, you’re likely to exhibit the following signs:

  • Cutting down vital activities or stopping them altogether
  • Using pills while in dangerous situations such as driving
  • Becoming tolerant of pain pill effects, making you need more to feel a sensation
  • Harboring a strong urge to use the pills
  • Using drugs longer than initially intended
  • Inability to control or stop using
  • Taking up too much time finding the drugs or recovering from their effects

While the above are behavioral signs, you can also show physical symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Sluggish movement
  • Slow breathing
  • Confusion

Pain Pill Withdrawal

Stopping the use of opioids isn’t as easy as tossing the pills aside and forgetting they exist. Since you’re dependent on them, you may struggle to withdraw from their use. Withdrawal effects contribute to the growing cases of opioid addiction since users tend to lose control over the frequency and dosage of drug intake to curb the annoying symptoms.

The onset of withdrawal symptoms can occur within eight to 24 hours after the last use of short-acting opioids or between 12 to 48 hours after the last use of long-acting opioids. Some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Cold sweats
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Seizures
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Anxiety
  • Teary eyes
  • Insomnia

Withdrawal effects not only occur physically, but emotionally as well. Here, you might feel agitated, irritable, anxious, and/or depressed. Trying to quit pain pill addiction on your own can be a daunting task, and you might find yourself falling back to drug use as a result of the harshness of withdrawal symptoms. That’s why you need assistance from a medical professional who’ll monitor your withdrawal and provide the proper treatment for complete detoxification.

Treatment at Granite Recovery Centers

You’re probably wondering how a medication will treat another medication problem. Here, your physician attempts to eliminate the withdrawal symptoms with medication in a process referred to as detoxification. The substitution medications help manage opioid dependence and withdrawal symptoms, making the withdrawal process effective and comfortable. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

The ideal way to go about withdrawing from pain pills is by checking into a medical detox program. Quitting a prescription opioid can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if you already have a dependence on the pain pills. Therefore, it is not recommendable to quit taking the drugs suddenly. A proficient medical professional can reduce the opioid intake slowly over a set period, allowing your brain to re-stabilize.

Replacement Medications

When it comes to replacement medications, doctors usually replace short-acting opioids such as oxycodone with long-acting ones like methadone during the tapering process. Here are some FDA-approved drugs that are useful when treating opioid dependence:

  • Methadone: An opioid agonist that federally regulated clinics provide once a day. Available in a pill form, it controls withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Although methadone reacts with opioid receptors in the brain just like other opioids, the difference is it has a lasting effect. Therefore, you won’t have to take it frequently or in large doses to control cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Buprenorphine: An opioid agonist, albeit partial, activating opioid receptors on a smaller scale. The drug doesn’t make the user experience euphoria since it stops its effectiveness beyond a certain amount. The chances of abusing it are low. Buprenorphine is available in sublingual filmstrip and pill forms, and you can also get an implant version that releases the medication in bits for six months.
  • Naltrexone: An opioid agonist that blocks opioid receptors from getting any stimulation. Physicians prefer to use it during the late-phase treatment when opioids are out of the bloodstream to avoid withdrawal. Naltrexone promotes abstinence.
  • Naloxone and Buprenorphine combination medications: Combination medications that contain the two drugs include Suboxone, Bunavail, and Zubsolv. They are efficient in suppressing withdrawal symptoms and cravings as well as averting relapse.

If you have been taking prescription pills for an extended period, medication treatment would be ideal. With close supervision in a detox center, your mental well-being and safety will also be in safe hands due to care from professionals. You can expect pain pill withdrawal to be at its peak within the first two to three days. For the cravings and side effects, they may start diminishing in about seven to 10 days. After finishing the medical detox process, which will last from a few days to a week, your physician can then transfer you to an extensive addiction treatment program.

Supplementary Treatments: Controlling Dependence and Halting Pain Pill Addiction

Withdrawal and detoxification are the first steps toward your recovery journey in stopping and staying off pain pills. Now that the drugs are out of your system and you have taken care of the physical aspects, it’s time to handle the emotional side. After all, we’re only human, and our emotions play a critical role in thriving in the world.

If you fail to care for your mental health, chances of relapse are high after detoxification regardless of the time you have been clean. Therefore, therapies and counseling are critical components of your recovery. Granite Recovery Centers offers cognitive and dialectical behavior therapy services in either individual or group settings, helping you learn how to control your cravings and recognize and avoid relapse triggers. You also get to learn about the healthy ways of coping with stress.

If you are dealing with long-term painkiller abuse, an inpatient treatment program is recommended. Residential drug treatment facilities are available for women and men, with 24-hour monitoring and support to help achieve sobriety and the skills necessary to stay that way. The program treats the psychological and physical effects of prescription pill use disorder to promote overall wellness. Physicians pay close attention to every aspect necessary for your recovery, from therapy and counseling to regular physical activity and nutritional management.

Other treatment options include sober living homes and outpatient programs. Regardless of the treatment program, you will get to participate in 12-step support group meetings and create an aftercare plan for when you finally leave the rehabilitation center.

Can You Manage Chronic Pain Without Medications?

Yes, you can. People suffering from chronic pain may find it challenging to stop pain pills altogether. The silver lining is that you have various alternatives to controlling the pain. Here are some of them:

  • Engage in regular physical activity: Exercise releases endorphins, the natural chemicals that “take away” pain sensations and release “good feelings.”
  • Minimize stress: A high-stress level will contribute to a release in pain sensations, making the situation worse for your already chronic pain. You could also suffer a relapse if you have completed rehabilitation. Stress management techniques and relaxation can help.
  • Get enough sleep: If you get quality sleep, you’ll manage stress and tension and heal from your pain quickly.
  • Try massage therapy: A good massage will release tension from your muscles, hence reducing pain.
  • Consider chiropractic care: A chiropractor conducts physical adjustments on the spine to reduce pain and tension and enhance the body’s healthy functioning.
  • Occupy your mind: Physical pain often manifests in the mind. If you’re busy with a hobby, you’ll focus more on the activity and less on pain.
  • Eat healthily: Balanced diets will ensure that your body is ever healthy, making it capable of fighting off pain and minimizing stress.
  • Yoga therapy: Otherwise known as mindfulness meditation, yoga promotes relaxation and reduces sensitivity to pain.

Long-Term View

Substance use disorder is chronic, meaning it will be present forever. That’s why it’s critical to manage it and prevent a relapse from occurring. Treatment programs contribute to relapse prevention and promote long-term abstinence. It will be wise to remain in the program for long periods to make it easy yo implement healthy habits. The recommendable time for staying in a treatment program, according toNIDA, is a minimum of 90 days.

Consider joining support groups as well. You can join group recovery meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous and Pills Anonymous, where you get to relate with people facing similar challenges and offer each other support.

Get Help!

Do not let pain pill addiction put you down. You’re only a step away from getting back your sobriety; all you have to do is contact the medical professionals. At Granite Recovery Centers, we’re more than ready to help you get your life back. Fill out the form on our contact page or call us, and we will walk you through the steps of admission to one of our centers.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.