Are You Addicted to Powerful Prescription Drugs?
Drug addiction might not be something you have ever thought about and associate only with illegal substances. Yet thousands of people around the world take at least one of the most addictive prescription drugs and you are probably one of them! When your doctor prescribes a drug, it gives you (and most of us) a false sense of safety; after all, your doctor isn’t going to give you a drug that could harm you, right?
The issue is all prescription and over-the-counter (OCT) drugs have side effects and risks. This means that although your doctor can take precautions to prescribe medicines that will not cause you any issues, often only you can know if a drug is causing you harm.
Misusing prescription drugs for recreational use has always been a problem, but anyone taking opioids for pain relief can become addicted. If you think you may need help for addiction to prescription and over-the-counter drugs, you’re entitled to NHS care, or you can contact Step by Step Recovery for free advice about drug rehab treatment.
Five Addictive Painkillers
1. Codeine and Solpadeine
Codeine can be obtained on prescription and is also contained in over-the-counter drugs such as co-codamol and Solpadeine. Often it is taken with other medications to help with flu-type symptoms. Codeine has a sedative effect and can also cause impaired consciousness.
2. Oxycodone (sold under the brand name OxyContin)
Extended-release oxycodone is sold under the brand name OxyContin. It is used to treat long-lasting moderate to severe pain but is only available on prescription. Even when taken correctly, this opioid can induce euphoric and sedative effects.
3. Fentanyl (sold under the brand names Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze)
Fentanyl is often prescribed for acute post-surgical pain or to help with cancer pain. Stronger than morphine, it creates feelings of euphoria and relaxation; when misused, it can cause hallucinations.
4. Hydrocodone (sold under the brand name Vicodin)
Hydrocodone produces euphoric effects. It can be prescribed as a combination of acetaminophen/hydrocodone or ibuprofen/hydrocodone for pain relief and homatropine/methyl bromide as a cough suppressant.
5. Meperidine (sold under the brand name Demerol)
Also known as pethidine and most often sold under the brand name Demerol, meperidine is typically used to treat moderate to severe pain. As well as producing feelings of euphoria, side effects of meperidine in large doses include confusion, anxiety, tremors, and seizures.
Signs You Could Be Addicted to a Prescription Drug
Opioids are prescribed to help you cope with pain. This could be due to an operation, accident, or chronic illness, such as fibromyalgia and arthritis. They are extremely effective and can help you heal faster and manage flair-ups of chronic disease, but they are also one of the most addictive drugs you may ever take. After 30 days of continued use, your body develops a tolerance to opioids, reducing their pain-killing abilities, and that is when you are at risk of misusing them.
Common signs you could be addicted to opioids include:
- Lying to your doctor about your symptoms or purchasing on the black market.
- Continuing to use even when you experience unpleasant side effects.
- Taking opioids to feel euphoric or relaxed instead of for pain relief.
- Taking a higher dose to continue to feel the same effects.
- Using opioids in larger amounts or not consistent with how they have been prescribed.
Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal
You may not even realise that you have a problem with opioids until you try to reduce or stop your dose. Withdrawal symptoms can begin after only using high doses of opioids for a short period, although they are normally more severe after taking opioids for more than 30 days.
Common opioid withdrawal symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Decreased body temperature
- Urinary retention
Withdrawal symptoms will usually reduce after around two weeks, although some symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, and disturbed sleep may persist for several months. You are also at a higher risk of an accidental opioid overdose if you have a break from opioids and then take them again in high doses.
If you are concerned about any prescription or over-the-counter drug you take regularly, do not be afraid to speak with your doctor or medical practitioner in charge of your care. You will not be blamed for misusing a drug and the sooner you seek help, the easier it will be to wean you off the medication at home. It can happen to anyone and is not something you have control over.