Dangers of Painkiller Addiction
It is a common misconception that abusing prescription and over the counter medication is safer than taking illegal street drugs. However, abusing prescription and over the counter medication is very dangerous, and is as fatal as abusing street drugs. The potential to become addicted to prescription medication, or to overdose is very real.
Abuse or misuse of medication can lead to tolerance, which refers to the body’s adaptation to the long-term use of abuse to the point where it no longer produces the desired effect. The result is that a person needs a higher dose of the substance to achieve the same response produced previously by the prescribed dose. As with street drugs, withdrawal from these types of medications is similar and begins after stopping or reducing the dose of medication that has been used for some time.
Withdrawal symptoms from medication can range from mild to life-threatening, and unfortunately many are unaware of the dangers of addiction to medications such as painkillers or anti-anxiety medication.
This kind of addiction can disrupt a person’s life just as much as addiction to street drugs and the consequences to their state of mental and physical health are just as severe. Addiction to medications such as codeine and benzodiazepines and their withdrawal symptoms can result in seizures, liver and kidney damage, depression, anxiety, strokes heart-rhythm abnormalities and even death.
It is important to keep in mind that pain medication that such as codeine is derived from the opioid family, just like heroin and morphine.
Some of the most dangerous over the counter and prescription medications include:
This medication is commonly used to treat panic attacks and anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines are extremely addictive and fatal overdose can occur, and people who tend to become more reliant on this type of drug, who become progressively more incapable of tolerating their emotions and life stressors are especially vulnerable.
One of the greater dangers are using benzodiazepines in conjunction with alcohol, which at first makes the user more at ease, but later serves to only cause more anxiety. This is a dangerous cycle, as it leads one to take more than the prescribed dose, as the anxiety becomes more and more unmanageable.
Codeine is one of the most abused over the counter drugs in South Africa, this became apparent after a study was done by the Medicines Control Council. This substance is often found in a variety of pain medications as well as cough syrups. Unfortunately, in South Africa, this is an easy medication to get hold off, as it is sold over the counter, and most pharmacies do not keep track of how often a person may be buying more. It is incredibly addictive and has severe dangers when it comes to withdrawal. Codeine is often used in conjunction with benzodiazepines and alcohol, which makes it even more dangerous. Codeine addiction should be treated with the utmost care as going cold turkey can bring on suicidal thoughts and tendencies, hallucinations, or even psychosis.
Oxycodone is an opioid often prescribed for relief of moderate to severe pain. It is highly addictive, and a patient can easily become addicted after a legitimate prescription was issued to them.
Valium is used to treat a range of conditions such as anxiety, seizures and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Long-term tranquilizer use can cause brain damage and the detoxification can lead to seizures.
Like oxycodone Demerol is prescription pain medication, this is another drug in which the user can develop tolerance and become addicted leading to an increase in dosage and painful withdrawal symptoms.
Ritalin is used for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system. This drug is often abused by students, who use it as a stimulant. Heavy use can lead to physical dependence, and withdrawal symptoms include exhaustion and severe depression.
This opiate-based painkiller is highly addictive and is often used for a euphoric feeling. Bone pain, anxiety, aches, cramps, chills, vomiting, diarrhoea and nausea are associated with long-term abuse.
Part 2 – Dangers of Opioid Addiction
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process