Painkiller addiction signs and symptoms

Painkillers are a category of natural and semisynthetic substances that are derived from the opium poppy plant. When they are taken for legitimate medical purposes, these drugs are typically used to treat chronic and acute pain.

The term ‘painkiller’ refers to a broad range of different substances, including legal prescription medication and illegal Class A drugs, such as heroin.

Depending on the type of painkiller being consumed, these substances can be smoked, snorted, injected or swallowed as a tablet. Painkiller interact with receptors in the brain that are associated with pleasure, reward and pain. When an individual consumes painkillers, they will typically experience elevated mood, relaxed euphoria and an alleviation of pain – effects which can be highly addictive to some people. However, because the receptors that are triggered by painkillers are located in the area of the brain that also controls automatic functions such as heartbeat and respiration, failing to stay within appropriate dosages can be dangerous and even deadly.

Painkiller addiction can wreak havoc in all areas of your life including your relationships with loved ones, your performance at work, as well as your general health and wellbeing. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of painkiller addiction, and seek help & support as soon as possible. Our experts at Manor Clinic are dedicated to providing high quality painkiller addiction rehab, helping you to overcome your painkiller dependency and return to the healthy, happy and fulfilling life that you deserve.

What are the signs and symptoms of painkiller addiction?

The symptoms of painkiller addiction depend on a number of factors including the type of painkiller drug you have been consuming, the amount and frequency of your painkiller use, as well as varying from person to person. However, the following behavioural/social, psychological and physical symptoms may indicate that a harmful painkiller addiction is present.

Behavioural/social symptoms of painkiller addiction:

  • Feeling as though you want to stop taking painkillers, but finding that you are unable to
  • Poor performance and/or attendance at work
  • Finding that you only tend to associate with other drug users
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Lack of interest in activities or hobbies that you once enjoyed
  • Lying or being dishonest regarding your whereabouts, activities and the extent of your painkiller use
  • Devoting a large amount of time on acquiring, using and attempting to recover from the effects of painkiller drugs
  • Continuing to use painkillers despite the negative impact that this has had on all areas of your life
  • Using painkillers when it is obviously dangerous to do so e.g. when driving
  • Using prescription painkillers after the legitimate symptoms that they were treating have subsided
  • Borrowing or stealing prescription painkillers
  • Attempting to acquire multiple prescriptions for painkiller medication by visiting many different doctors
  • Ordering prescription painkillers on the internet
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts even in warm weather, in an attempt to hide bruises and cuts on the arms as a result of injecting painkillers
  • Evidence of paraphernalia related to injecting painkillers, including needles and syringes
  • A lack of interest in personal grooming or hygiene
  • Relationship breakdowns
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Financial problems
  • Homelessness
  • Legal problems, including arrest and imprisonment

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Psychological symptoms of opioid addiction:

  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness and despair
  • Feelings of shame and guilt
  • Extremely low self-esteem
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Angry outbursts
  • Poor judgement
  • Exacerbation of any existing mental health problems
  • Inability to stop thinking about when, where and how you will be able to obtain opioid drugs
  • Feeling as though opioid use has completely taken over your life
  • Suicidal thoughts and impulses

Physical symptoms of opioid addiction:

  • Increased tolerance to opioid drugs – finding that you need to take more and more of the drug in order to experience the desired effects
  • Overwhelming cravings for opioids and the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking, or are unable to gain access to the drug
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constricted pupils
  • Itchiness
  • Respiratory problems
  • Persistent flu-like symptoms
  • Regular chest infections
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Scabs, bruises, scratches, sores, or other skin damage due to injecting opioid drugs
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Exhaustion
  • Kidney and liver disease
  • Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS as a result of sharing infected needles

What are the effects of opioid withdrawal?

When your body has become accustomed to having opioid drugs in its system, the sudden absence or significant reduction of this can trigger a series of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. These can include:

  • Overwhelming cravings for opioid drugs
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Excessive sweating
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Severe abdominal cramps
  • Muscle and bone pain

At Manor Clinic, we offer a comprehensive medically assisted withdrawal detoxification programme, which has been specifically designed to help you to rid your body of opioid medication, whilst managing the withdrawal symptoms that you experience. This process takes place in a safe and controlled environment, with round-the-clock care, ensuring that you become physically stable and equipped to commence with intensive opioid addiction therapy.

What are the effects of opioid overdose?

It is important to recognise that taking opioid drugs carries with it the very real possibility of an opioid drug overdose. The following painkiller overdose symptoms may suggest that you or someone you know had overdosed, and requires urgent medical attention:

  • Pinpoint (abnormally small) pupils
  • Extremely shallow breathing
  • Dangerously low blood pressure
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Bluish tint in areas near mouth and/or fingertips
  • Twitches, tremors, and spasms
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizure

This page was reviewed by Sarina Wheatman (FDAP) in October 2021.

Contact The Manor Clinic Today

To discuss how the Manor Clinic team can help to support individuals and families dealing with an addiction issue or for further information on treatment and rehabilitation programmes, please call: 023 8046 4721 or CLICK HERE TO MAKE AN ENQUIRY.

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