Prescription pills have many uses and can be extremely helpful for those who suffer from injuries or pain after illness. However, prescription drugs can also be highly addictive. It’s estimated that over 2 million people in the U.S. suffer from substance abuse involving pain medication, and according to the CDC, about 40 people die every day of an overdose. It can be difficult to recognize the signs of addiction after the fact, so it is important to be proactive and know the risks before your doctor prescribes any pain medication.
Drugs like oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone and morphine can cause significant damage to the brain, according to the American Society for Addiction Medicine, and, if abused, can cause serious injury or death. However, there are many things you can do to stay safe while using pain medication. Here are some of the best.
It’s important to be honest with your healthcare provider and ask questions, especially if you’re pregnant or already taking medications for a chronic illness, as well as answer them. Find out all the side effects attached to the medication and how long you can expect to take them. Will the dosage be lowered over time so that your body can get used to the changes? Does your family have a history of addiction? Giving–and receiving–as much information as possible can help your doctor determine what’s best for you.
In the beginning, it can be a dramatic change to have a prescription pain medication regimen. Any medication can alter your mood, your ability to function at work or behind the wheel of a car, or your sleep habits. It’s important to talk to your doctor if any of these things become overwhelming, and never mix alcohol or other drugs with the pills unless your doctor has given detailed instructions on how to do so. It’s a good idea to refrain from your normal activities if possible until you have a good idea of how the medication is going to affect you.
As time goes by, some people become tolerant of their prescription pain medication, so that it takes more and more to combat the pain. Never adjust your dosage or take more than the amount your doctor recommends. Instead, talk to your health care provider and be honest about any pain you are experiencing so that you can find something that works better. Sometimes, the symptoms of addiction are the same as those of withdrawal; a buzzing feeling in the limbs, nausea, diarrhea, headache, and joint pain can all point to addiction. If you feel any of these symptoms and the only thing that helps is to take more of your medication, talk to your doctor immediately.
You may also experience a lack of interest in social activities, work, or school, sudden weight loss, or a change in sleep habits including sleeping much longer than usual. These can be signs of addiction as well.
It can be difficult to know when prescription medication is too much or too little, especially if your pain symptoms interfere, so it’s important to listen to your body, trust your instincts, and ask for help when you need it rather than trying to fix or handle the problem yourself.
Addiction isn’t just physical. It can affect your emotions and psyche, as well. Be aware that drug abuse–even if it is unintentional–can lead to depression or even suicidal thoughts. If you feel you are isolating yourself from friends and family or find that you are not being honest about your drug intake, it may be time to seek help.
Jennifer Woodson enjoys serving the public as a writer for PublicHealthCorps.org. The site is dedicated to putting the public back into public health by serving as a hub of reputable and useful public information on health topics.