Pain pills are medicines used to relieve short-term or long-term pain. The majority of these drugs fall in the opioid group.
Opioid drugs are also called narcotic pain relievers and are used to relieve pain. They do so by changing the brain's response to pain and lowering the number of pain signals the body sends to the brain.
Opioid pain pills help treat different issues, like injuries, toothache or dental procedures, chronic conditions like cancer, and surgeries. Examples include tramadol, methadone, opium, hydrocodone, and morphine.
When taken as prescribed by the doctor, pain pills pose no harm. However, they can lead to side effects (like constipation, mental fog, and nausea), dependence, or addiction when misused.
Misusing drugs involves taking too many drugs, taking medicine incorrectly, taking someone else's medicines, or using medicines to get high.
Dependence refers to the state where a person experiences withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug.
Addiction is a condition affecting the brain and behavior such that a person's mind or body cannot function without the drug. This often leads the person to seek drugs compulsively, even if the drug harms them.
Pain Pill Addiction in Youth
About 18 million people, with more than 6% being children above 12 years, have misused pain pills in the United States as of 2017. The 2017 study done by National Survey on Drug Use and Health states that about 2 million Americans misused prescription pain killers for the first time that year, averaging 5,480 daily initiates.
After alcohol and marijuana, prescription drugs abuse is most common among the American youth (14 years and above) In 2016, about 4% of 12 million adolescents (12-17 years) were misusing pain pills. Their usage was way above the 7% among older youth (18-25 years).
The majority of the misuse was as a result of prescription drugs for different conditions and not heroin. For example, sports injuries or toothache after extraction. This then led to dependence and addiction.
Generally, the death rate from pain pill addiction is low. However, deaths from pain pill overdose are increasing among teens.
In 2016, for example, more than 4,200 youths (15-24 years) died as a result of drug overdose. 40% of these deaths were prescription pain pills. Plus, more than half of these deaths were linked to pain pill misuse.
Is Your Teen Addicted to Painkillers?
Teen pain pill addiction involves adolescents using drugs for pleasure or to get high and not for medical purposes. As such, they become dependent.
Dependence on painkillers means the teens cannot control when, whether, how, and how much drug to use. Their bodies and brain cannot function without the pain pill.
You may easily identify slight changes in your teen's behavior. But, identifying teen pain pill addiction may not be as easy as many think.
Teens abusing painkillers like opioids can result in them having severe pains. As such, if your teen is consistently taking painkillers for non-medical use, he may display apparent abuse symptoms over the same.
Misusing painkillers often leads to nausea, cough, slow breathing and movements, and laziness. This can make the teens appear confused and not coordinated the whole day. As a result, it may become difficult to focus or concentrate on tasks. The teens may also be constantly dizzy.
Misusing pain pills can also affect behavior. The opioid in pain killers can make teens disinterested in their jobs or school. Such teens may become aggressive and provoke disputes among family members. Here are some of the symptoms showing your teen is addicted to pain killers:
- Misusing pain pills: taking pain relievers in a way other than the prescribed one, taking more than the doctor prescribed, or taking pain pills to feel high.
- Taking pain pills "just in case" even when the teens are not in pain.
- Teens having extreme mood changes like from being high to being hostile.,
- Changes in the teen's sleep patterns.
- Borrowing other people's medication or intentionally "losing" medicines so that they be given other prescriptions form.
- Teens looking for the same prescription from different doctors just so that they have a "backup" supply.
- The teens have poor decision-making abilities to the extent they can put themselves or others in danger.
Good thing, teen pain pill addiction can be resolved. This is by taking the adolescents to medical rehab professionals to detoxify the drug and be taught how to deal with the withdrawal symptoms better.
Which Pain Pills Are Youth Addicted To?
During surgery or when a person is in pain, they need medicine to help them manage it. Here, the most effective medicines are usually pain pills, also called opioid medications. Opioid medicines are good at relieving pain as they work by blocking the body's pain signals from reaching the brain.
But, overconsuming opioid pain pills can lead to overdose, the youth being dependent on the drugs, or addiction. Here's a look at the pain pills most youths are addicted to:
- Hydrocodone with acetaminophen. This could either be in liquid (Hycet) or tablet form (Vicodin and Lortab).
- Morphine both in pills and liquid form.
- Hydromorphone, both in pills and liquid form. For example, Dilaudid.
- Oxycodone with acetaminophen, both in pills and liquid form. Examples include Roxicet (liquid) and Percocet pills.
- Plain oxycodone both in pills and liquid form.
Painkiller Addiction Side Effects and Symptoms
Taking opioid pain pills for a couple of days can lead to side effects. Like, constipation, drowsiness, stomach problems, or itchiness. Given that the pain pills are taken as instructed, the side effects may cause inconveniences but may not be dangerous. However, when the medications are taken for longer or in higher doses, they could lead to the following risks:
- Physical dependence. Failure to take the pills means that the person experiences withdrawal symptoms.
- Tolerance. Tolerance means a person needs more or higher opioid doses to relieve the same pain he previously could manage with lower doses.
- Addiction. This is when a person strongly craves for opioid use and continues to use the same even when the medication poses a risk to his health, money, and relationships.
Pain pill addiction can lead to inappropriate or risky behavior. Like the youth stealing pain pills from family or friends, buying opioid medications from friends, lie to their doctors so that they get new prescriptions, and buying or using street drugs. Taking opioids in very high doses or mixing them with other drugs or alcohol can result in overdose or even death.
Common Painkiller Addictions
When taken for non-medical purposes, painkillers can lead to adverse health effects like overdose, dependence, addiction, or even death.
People addicted to prescription drugs have significantly increased in the United States. This is as per the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). About 4,000 to 14,800 people have died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in the last 10 years.
Common painkiller addictions usually contain opioids. Natural or synthetic opioids are used mainly as pain relievers. When taken as instructed, they are safe and help patients with chronic pain or those recovering from surgeries control pain.
Opioids are usually ingested by mouth. Once ingested, the drug is slowly released in the body over time instead of being released all at once.
The drug can also be crushed into a powder and then injected or sniffed. Doing so causes the drug to be rapidly released into the body, making a person feel high.
Taking higher doses of opioid medications leads to quick dependence on the drug. Abusing opioids is very dangerous and can cause death. Taking opioids with other medications should be closely monitored as it can lead to life-threatening consequences.
For example, opioid drugs should not be taken with antihistamines, alcohol, benzodiazepines, or barbiturates.
Here's a look at the common painkiller addictions containing opioids:
· Codeine and Morphine
Codeine and morphine belong to the opioid family. They help reduce pain but can make a person feel high or cause serious side effects when taken in large doses. Usually, codeine is prescribed for mild pain or coughs, while morphine is prescribed for severe pain. Morphine brands include MS Contin, Kadian, and Avinza.
· OxyContin and Percocet
Oxycodone is another opioid pain pill present in drugs such as Percocet, OxyContin, Percodan, and Roxicodone. People abusing the medications sometimes crush, inhale or inject it, increasing overdose risks.
· Lorcet, Vicodin, and Lortab
These drugs contain acetaminophen together with hydrocodone (opioid). High doses of these drugs can lead to severe breathing problems. Feeling sick or having flu-like symptoms after ceasing these drugs means that the person is dependent on them. Thus, they need to consult their doctor.
Pain pill addiction is increasing in the United States. By 2010, over 12 million people have used painkillers for non-medical uses such as feeling high. Pain pill drugs work by binding themselves to brain receptors, thereby decreasing perception of pain. They can also make a person feel high, cause physical dependence, or lead to addiction. People abusing pain pills might take larger doses to feel high or reduce withdrawal symptoms. This can lead to slowed breathing or lack of breathing, resulting in death.
When treating addiction in youth it's important to find a suitable rehab center. Learn more about drug rehab for young adults in our online resource.