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Pain Killer Addiction

After marijuana and alcohol, prescription medication is the third most abused substance. It is estimated that 48 million people, which is about 20% of the population aged 12 and above, have abused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime.

  • One in six teenagers takes prescription medication to get high

Opiate abuse is the most commonly abused prescription medication.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 26 to 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide. In the United States, an estimated 2.1 million people suffer from prescription drug use related to prescription pain reliever abuse.

  • There were 207 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications in the U.S. last year

For many people, the initial drug abuse is voluntary. With time the changes in the brain caused by repeatedly abusing the drug affect a person’s self-control and ability to make sound decisions. The person gets impulses to take more drugs.


  1. Opioids—prescribed to treat pain
  2. CNS depressants—prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders
  3. Stimulants—prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy


Opioids is the term for all the opiate drugs prescribed to relieve pain. Here is a list of some of the most common opioids:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin


CNS depressants, also known as sedatives, are substances that slow down brain activity. This property makes them useful for treating anxiety and sleep disorders. It also opens the door to being abused.

  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Sleep Medication


Stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy and elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. They do not get prescribed very often anymore due to increased concerns for abuse.

  • Amphetamines
  • Methylphenidate

There are three classes of prescription drugs that are commonly abused, they are;

  1. Opioids used to treat pain, 56% of those who abuse pain relievers got them from family or friends
  2. Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants used to treat panic attacks, tension, anxiety, and sleep disorders
  3. Stimulants used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy

A common result of abuse of prescription drugs is addiction. Drug abusers who take prescription drugs tend to have trouble with the law, at school and home. Abuse of prescription drugs has risks to health. Abuse of opioids can lead to vomiting, reduced cognitive function, decreased respiratory function, and in extreme cases, coma or death. The risk is even higher if the opioids are taken with other substances such as alcohol.

Abrupt stopping or reducing the use of CNS depressants can cause seizures. Mixing them with other medications or alcohol can slow the heartbeat and cause death. Abusing stimulants is known to cause heart failure or seizures. Mixing opioids with other drugs could cause dangerously high body temperature or an irregular heartbeat.

Side effects

The symptoms vary depending on the class of drugs abused. 


  • constipation
  • slowed breathing
  • poor coordination
  • slowed breathing

Sedatives and anti-anxiety medication

  • drowsiness
  • unsteady walking
  • confusion
  • slurred speech
  • problems with memory
  • poor concentration and dizziness


  • reduced appetite
  • high body temperature
  • insomnia
  • irregular heartbeat
  • paranoia and agitation


If you suspect your family member or a friend is abusing prescription drugs, compare their behaviors below. They are a few signs to be on the lookout for;

  • Losing their prescriptions
  • Seeking prescriptions from many doctors
  • The person appears high, sedated, or unusually energetic
  • Decrease or increase in sleep
  • Excessive hostility or mood swings
  • Taking higher doses than those prescribed
  • Forging or stealing prescriptions

Prescription medications can produce serious adverse health effects, including abuse and addiction. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in America. It is estimated over 2 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers alone. It is easy to become dependent on prescription and over-the-counter medications. Getting help for a drug abuse problem can be a matter of life or death.

Painkiller addiction is the use of medication, usually opioids, without having a prescription or in a way other than the one prescribed for the feeling and experience. It’s defined as someone taking a medication, other than the patient for whom the medication was prescribed, or taking them in a manner or dosage other than as prescribed.


Prescription abuse is a very subtle problem. It can convince someone there is nothing wrong, when there is something very wrong. Please don’t wait until it’s too late.

If you or someone you know is abusing any type of prescription medication, we are here to help. Inappropriately taking pills is not something to be ashamed. Pain medications and ant-depressants are powerful mood-altering substances. It is very easy to become dependent on them without even realizing it.

Addiction to drugs, whether illicit or prescribed, is a disease and can effectively be treated. Treatments take into account the needs of the individual. Successful treatment incorporates several components including detoxification and counseling. For a patient to fully recover, they need multiple courses of treatment.

There are two main categories of treatment; behavioral and pharmacological. Behavioral treatment helps the patient to stop using by teaching them how to function without using drugs, how best to deal with cravings and how to handle relapses. Pharmacological treatments include the use of other medications to treat the patient. Just like any other addiction treatment works best if the patient seeks treatment early.

Individuals who abuse or are addicted to prescription opioid medications can be successfully treated. Treating painkiller drug addiction is different than treating other drug abuse problems. In the case of people suffering from chronic pain, for example, they may need to take prescription medication.

See about the science of addiction