How Can I Tell If I’m Addicted To Pain Medication?

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An estimated 100 million U.S. adults live with chronic pain, which, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, affects more people than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined.

Pain can be felt in one place on the body or all over, which may be described as a sharp or dull ache, soreness, stiffness, stinging, burning, or another sensation that is unpleasant or uncomfortable.

In many cases, these aches are managed with powerful prescribed pain relievers that alter how the brain perceives pain. They block the transmission of pain signals to the brain, which, for the user, reduces sensitivity to it.

When someone starts taking prescription pain medication, they do not set out to become addicted to it. But it does happen.

Addiction, which is a psychological or emotional dependence on the drug, can develop quickly, but there are almost always revealing signs and symptoms that signal when it has. If you are wondering how to tell if you or your loved one is addicted to pain medication, here are a few signs.

Increase in Usage

When abuse of pain relievers was still relatively new, the majority of people was getting the medications from their doctors. After realizing the effects experienced at higher dosages, many of these individuals quickly began to increase their usage, which was also due to how quickly they developed a tolerance to pain medications.

Constantly Thinking About Using Pain Relievers

If you or someone you know is watching the clock just to make sure the next dosage is not missed, that is a sign that a psychological or emotional dependence has developed as a result of misusing or abusing that drug or drugs. Being preoccupied with the amount of pain medication possessed are two main signs that addiction is underway.

Using Pain Medication In Ways Not Intended

Another way to tell if you or a loved one is addicted to pain medication is how it is used. There are various ways to misuse a drug. If a medication is supposed to be swallowed in pill, tablet, or capsule form but is instead crushed to be snorted, injected, or used in some other way inconsistent with its purpose, that is a sure sign of misuse or abuse. Taking larger amounts of a medication or taking it more often than originally prescribed are also ways a medication can be misused.

Changes in Personality, Behavior

A radical change in one’s personality and behavior is often a sign that addiction has developed. Even the most levelheaded people can become impulsive, reckless, and unpredictable after becoming physically and psychologically dependent on a mind-altering substance. The main reason for these changes is the central role pain medication abuse takes in the person’s life.

Because of the addiction, the person is always concerned with secrecy and being able to obtain the substance of choice whenever it’s needed. Otherwise, the individual will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. It’s a stressful existence, and as the drug becomes more important, virtually all other aspects of the individual’s life are met with a lack of interest. As a result, the person may seem like a mere shadow of their former self.

Emotionally Withdrawn or Absent

Similarly, people who have become or are becoming addicted to pain medication will begin pulling away and distancing themselves from family members, friends, and other loved ones who would object to their substance abuse. Abusing drugs and alcohol often numbs people to others’ feelings and makes it easier to ignore them. It also makes it easier to avoid anyone who may try to interfere with the seeking or consumption of the pain medication since being unable to obtain the substance or substances to which a person is addicted is what precipitated withdrawal.

Continuing to Use Medications After Symptoms Clear

Most people take their medications as directed for only the required time. However, there are people who continue to obtain and take them even after the symptoms of their condition have cleared. Continuing to take medicine after having already recovered from the condition that was treated is a strong indicator that the individual either is addicted to or is becoming addicted to pain medication.

More Time Spent Seeking Out, Obtaining Medications

Ever since pain reliever abuse reached epidemic levels, there have been many people diverting their prescription medications by selling them on the street. This means that when people’s prescription for pain medication runs out, there’s a strong chance that they could find more of the drug. And as an addiction becomes increasingly severe, an addict will spend more time seeking pain medications, which often includes having to resort to unsavory methods of getting the money that’s needed to pay for them.

Therefore, someone with a pain medication addiction will be flaky and unreliable, prone to disappearing unexpectedly for prolonged periods and seemingly never available, which is due to having to spend much of their time seeking more pain medication.

Decline in Hygiene, Sleep Routine

People who are addicted to pain medication may forget to take care of their hygiene. This could mean forgetting to shower or bathe, brush one’s teeth, or take care of the skin and eyes. A person in addiction also may forget to wash their hair or keep their nails and beard trimmed. They may neglect doing laundry, picking up after themselves, and keeping their living space clean.

Prescription pain reliever addiction also can affect a person’s sleep routine. The person may oversleep or not sleep as much as they used to. These changes may indicate that addiction is underway.

Neglects Responsibilities

With an addiction taking up more and more of one’s time, it becomes increasingly difficult for people addicted to pain relievers to fulfill their responsibilities. Things such as writing college papers, going to work, and caring for one’s children seem less important than keeping withdrawal symptoms at bay, which is how people in active addiction justify the shirking of their responsibilities. Over time, people struggling with a psychological dependence on pain relievers will have stopped fulfilling the majority of their obligations, even those that are important. Being behind in paying bills can also be a sign that people are taking too much pain medication.

Forgets Things

Regularly blacking out and forgetting things or events is a sign of prescription addiction. WebMD explains that a blackout is a type of amnesia that occurs when a person loses their short-term memories. It writes, “During a blackout, you may function normally. People around you may not notice anything different about your behavior. You might do the things you normally do, such as eat dinner, wash dishes, or watch television. But later you have no memory of doing them.”

Addicted to Pain Pills and Want to Stop Using Them? Call Us Today

At the Palm Beach Institute, we can help anyone suffering from addiction to find the treatments, programs, and services that best address each person’s unique needs. If you or someone you love would like a free consultation, call the Palm Beach Institute at 855-534-3574 or contact us online. Whether day or night, we’re here to help you take the first steps in your journey to health and lasting happiness.



Elysia Richardson
Digital Content Editor

Elysia L. Richardson is a content writer and editor who covers addiction and substance abuse for Delphi Behavioral Health Group. Previously a writer and editor for various digital and print publications, she enjoys researching news in the recovery field and finding engaging ways to share information that helps improve people’s lives.

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  • I want the life I had before my pain meds were cut down to 15mg 4x a day FROM 30mg 5x a day where I had a life with freedom from pain to do the things I loved, take trips, visit relatives and friends, I don’t have that anymore, I’m in constant pain and in withdrawal, I want to go see my only grandchild get married this august but I have to travel and fly to do that, I dread the hours I will spend inside an aircraft, in an airport, in line, for TSA, blah, blah, blah, life sucks now.

    1. You can tell you are addicted to pain medication when you realize the losses are higher than the gains and you continue using even after realizing it makes no sense to continue using.

  • I have RA everywhere, type two achalisai and 2 brain anurysims and I take 3 .325 pain pills a day and constanly worry. I never feel any thin and never pain free but I worry about addiction. I also have fibamiliga.

  • I have been daignosed with broken bones throughout my spine. The latest cat scan showed a complete fracture of the L4 vertebrae, broke in 2 places from top to bottom. I was given an injection in my spine. I was also prescribed 7.5 milligrams of Norco once every 8 hours. I told my doctor that it helps but does not last for more than 3 hours at the most. He immediately said that’s all I can do for you. What options are available to someone in my condition? Nothing? No one in the medical community seems to care. Because of the opioid problem people who actually need help cannot get it. I think it’s sad that myself and others are grouped in with drug addicts and treated with such disdain.

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