Prescription Painkillers: Oxycodone, OxyContin, Demerol, Percocet, Vicodin, Codeine, Hydrocodone, Morphine
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Prescription Painkillers?
Prescription painkillers are numbing medications that medical professionals prescribe to treat severe pain, usually after surgery. They are often referred to as opioids.
What Are the Most Commonly Abused Prescription Painkillers?
Oxycodone, Demerol, Percocet, Vicodin, Codeine, Hydrocodone, and Morphine.
What Do They Look Like?
The appearance of these prescription pain medications varies depending on the brand and dosage. They come in a variety of tablet and pill forms.
How Are They Used?
Prescription painkillers are abused orally, crushed and sniffed, or dissolved in water and injected.
What Are the Short-Term Effects of Prescription Painkillers?
Prescription painkillers are used to manage moderate to severe physical discomfort. They are typically taken after undergoing surgery but can be used to soothe other bodily aches. Prescription painkillers can additionally cause feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Despite the temporary relief they may provide, prescription painkillers can have lethal side-effects.
Why Are Prescription Painkillers Harmful?
Prescription painkillers are not often regarded to be as harmful as other drugs that are sold illicitly, but they can be incredibly dangerous and addictive. Prescription painkiller use can lead to suppressed breathing and organ damage. They are especially damaging when mixed with alcohol because combining the two boosts the risk of respiratory failure. This destructive mixture can also cause mental health issues such as anxiety and depression to develop.
Long-Term Effects of Prescription Painkiller Abuse
Continuous misuse can lead to drug addiction and health problems, including:
- Liver damage
- Muscle spasms
- Severe constipation
- Kidney failure
- Respiratory failure
- Cardiovascular issues
Recognizing Prescription Painkiller Addiction
Repeated opioid abuse can cause the brain to become dependent on drugs. Signs of a prescription painkiller addiction include:
- Mood changes
- Lack of energy
- Irregular sleeping habits
- Weight loss
- Slow movements
- Digestive problems
What Does a Prescription Painkiller Overdose Look Like?
An overdose occurs when an individual’s body cannot metabolize the substance fast enough to avoid the unintended side effects. During an overdose, prescription pills affect the part of the brain that controls breathing. Often, breathing stops completely. Oxygen starvation eventually stops vital organs.
Signs of Overdose
- Clammy skin
- Slowed heart rate
- Bluish nails, skin, or lips
- Gurgling sounds
- Erratic breathing
In the case of an overdose, one should call 911 for help and if possible, administer naloxone, an over-the-counter medicine designed to reverse opioid overdoses. In many cases, multiple doses may be necessary. Because of the severe damage that painkillers can have on the body, it is important to seek immediate medical attention, even if naloxone is successful at reversing the overdose.
How Do You Treat Prescription Painkiller Addiction?
Prescription Painkiller Detox
Because prescription painkillers take a tremendous toll on physical health, medically-monitored detox is strongly recommended before beginning any other form of addiction treatment. During the detoxification process, toxic substances are eliminated from the body, allowing it to begin to heal. Due to the strong physical dependence caused by long-term abuse, it is important that individuals detox under the supervision of a healthcare professional. This will insure the individual’s safety and comfort during this challenging process.
- Muscle aches
- Intense cravings
- Hot flushes
- Abdominal cramps
Prescription Painkiller Addiction Treatment
Recovering from addiction is more than just abstaining from pills. It is important that after the body has been stabilized, individuals continue onto a rehabilitation program that will help them uncover the cause of their addiction, address their emotions and behaviors, and learn how to maintain their sobriety through drug counseling. The most common treatment options are inpatient (residential), outpatient, and medication-assisted treatment programs.
Substance abuse negatively impacts an individual’s physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. Combining alternative therapies with traditional drug treatment helps to address the individual as a whole. By improving overall well-being, individuals find themselves better prepared to overcome any challenges they may face in the future.
Certain therapies can meet the needs of those struggling specifically with prescription painkiller addiction. Individuals who relied on painkillers to alleviate their physical discomfort can find a similar but safer form of relief through Acupuncture. Another natural alternative to painkiller medication is Yoga, which gently stretches and strengthens the body to relieve pain. Those who experienced adverse physical side-effects as a result of their painkiller use can learn how to properly nourish and restore their bodies through Nutrition Education.
Sequence of postures and breathing exercises to unite your physical, mental, and spiritual self in order to strengthen total wellness.
Group designed to create mindful eating habits by exploring the role nutrition plays in recovery. Activities include label reading, food preparation, and food tastings.
Explore our Wellness page to learn about other therapeutic activities that provide holistic rejuvenation.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
For some individuals battling prescription painkiller addiction, traditional therapy is not enough to keep them on the path to recovery. For these individuals, implementing MAT into their addiction treatment plan could be the key to achieving sustainable sobriety.
Addiction medications used in MAT help counteract the effects prescription painkillers have on the brain and body. By relieving withdrawal symptoms and cravings, addiction medications significantly reduce an individual's relapse risk, enabling them to stay committed to their recovery.
Addiction Medications for Prescription Painkillers
Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone)
Highly effective prescription medication used in the treatment of opioid addiction. Available as a film strip that dissolves under the tongue, this addiction medicine needs to be taken daily under medical supervision.
Sublocade (buprenorphine extended-release)
Extended-release formulation of buprenorphine used to treat opioid addiction. Available as a monthly injection, administered by a certified healthcare professional.
Vivitrol (naltrexone extended-release)
Extended-release formulation of naltrexone used to treat alcoholism and opioid addiction. Available as a monthly injection, administered by a certified healthcare professional.
To learn more about addiction medications, visit our Medication-Assisted Treatment page.
While prescription painkillers may seem harmless, long-term abuse can be deadly. If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription painkillers, reach out for help. We are here to assist you every step of the way. A life free from addiction is possible.