Painkillers are routinely prescribed all over the world for pain management but not all of them are addictive. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed for the treatment of mild to moderate pain; however, when the pain becomes more acute, your doctor may prescribe an opiate-based painkiller. Unfortunately, these have drugs a high potential for abuse and addiction.
Prescription painkiller drugs are generally prescribed in a manner that decreases the likelihood of addiction. For example, many opiate painkillers such as codeine and tramadol are only intended to be used on a short-term basis and as directed. When these drugs are misused, the risk for dependence and addiction is significantly increased.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), it is estimated that over 2 million Americans over the age of 11 struggled with an opioid pain reliever disorder in 2014 alone and statistics show this is a growing trend.
Despite the careful prescribing of such medications, some people who take the drugs exactly as prescribed may find that they are becoming dependent on them and may begin abusing them as their bodies become tolerant and they need more and more to achieve the same effects/relief.
ASAM also reports that women may more rapidly develop a prescription painkiller addiction than men. A recently published journal on Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy noted that on average individuals who were admitted to opioid treatment programmes who abused only prescription opioids, compared to those who abused both heroin and prescription opioids, were about five years younger than individuals admitted solely for heroin abuse or dependency.
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Detoxing and withdrawal from prescribed painkiller medication, like many other prescription medications, usually require medical supervision. Medical practitioners will usually recommend a reduction programme to reduce the risk to the patient and in some cases prescribe medication to lessen the effects of the withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, and they can even be life-threatening if not managed correctly and safely. Some of the symptoms include: Nausea and/or vomiting, insomnia, agitation, diarrhoea, anxiety, muscle pain and sweating.
Only once the detox is complete can addiction treatment begin in earnest. Specialist addiction counsellors can be invaluable to help the patient identify why they have abused the medication, define the triggers and learn new skills and practices to reduce the likelihood of future drug abuse.
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