Every year, thousands of Americans visit their doctors for chronic pain. About 20% of people leave with a prescription for an opioid-based pain killer like Vicodin, Percocet, or OxyContin. When used for a short period of time and in moderation, these drugs are very effective at alleviating pain. But certain risk factors can also put you at a higher risk of developing a drug dependency or addiction.
How Common is Addiction?
In 2015, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) said that two million Americans were addicted to painkillers. About 21% – 29% of people who were prescribed pain medications become addicted to or dependent on them, and the problem continues to worsen.
You may have heard the phrase “Opioid Crisis” to describe the nation’s escalating rates of addiction and overdose, but despite the high rate of dependency, some people use painkillers and never have a problem. So what determines your risk of a pain medicine addiction?
Addiction Risk Factors
According to the Mayo Clinic, anyone who takes opioid-based pain killers is at risk of developing an addiction. But certain risk factors increase your risk of becoming addicted to pain medication even more, including:
- Criminal History
- Mental Illness
- Previous Addiction
- Long-term Use
One of the biggest risk factors for becoming addicted to pain medication is genetics. People who have impulsive personalities or seek out new and exciting experiences are more likely to develop a pain medication addiction. Furthermore, having a biological parent who has had an addiction problem may increase your risk.
Other risk factors include gender and age. Women are typically at a higher risk of developing an opioid addiction than men, as are younger people. Having certain mental illnesses can also increase your risk of developing an addiction. If you are taking pain medication at a time when you are constantly stressed out or unhappy, your likelihood of abusing drugs increases.
Finally, the length of time that you take pain medication affects your chances of developing a problem. Painkillers are deemed safest for only a very short-term use, (three days or less), and only to provide relief from an injury that causes acute pain, such as broken bones or surgery. If you intend to use painkillers for a longer time, take them only as long as needed, and take the lowest dose possible.
Signs of Dependency
Pain medication is very effective at controlling pain. But it also causes changes in the body and brain that can lead to a higher risk of a pain medicine addiction or dependency. Certain symptoms can indicate that you may be developing a dependency:
- Thinking about your medication a lot
- Having intense cravings for your medicine
- Continuing to use medication even after the prescription period ends
- Have difficulty reducing or controlling your use
- Engaging in dangerous activities while using drugs
Signs of Addiction
Early on, you might only notice one or two symptoms of a dependency, and they may be mild. Eventually, your dependency might lead to an addiction. Here are warning signs of addiction to look out for:
- Slurred speech
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal pain
- Faster breathing rate
If you think that you have an addiction to pain medication, it’s important to seek help right away. If you don’t get your opioid use under control, you run the risk of suffering from an overdose, which can be deadly. In 2015 alone, over 33,000 Americans died of an overdose. Talk to your doctor about safe ways to manage your opioid use, or ask about opioid alternatives for pain management that are safer and equally effective.
Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 855-408-2040 for a consultation.