Can You Become Addicted to Your Pain Medication?

man-neck-painIs it possible to develop a physical dependence upon an opiate medication like Percodan or OxyContin that you get from the doctor? Absolutely. In fact, most patients will begin to develop a tolerance to their prescription, requiring higher and higher doses in order to experience the effects after using the medication regularly for a period of time.

Can you become psychologically dependent upon pills you receive through a doctor’s prescription for pain? Definitely. Many patients find that they come to rely on the medication, craving its effects and feeling as if they will be unable to function without the pills long before a physical dependence sets in.

What happens if someone develops both a psychological and a physical dependence upon their opiate painkiller? When this occurs, patients are encouraged to seek immediate and comprehensive rehabilitation and treatment for this addiction.

Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone: Is One More Addictive Than the Other?

Many painkillers have as their main ingredient either hydrocodone or oxycodone. Both are opiate drugs and are addictive. Both are used for the treatment of moderate to severe pain, whether acute or chronic. Some doctors prefer to prescribe one over the other, depending upon the medical issue, the patient, and the other medications being taken. Though, milligram for milligram, oxycodone is more potent than hydrocodone, it is the dose of the pills that is more indicative of strength and chronic and/or heavy use of pills with either drug as the active ingredient can cause an opiate addiction.

There is, however, one new pill that has many in the medical community concerned. Called Zohydro, the drug is pure hydrocodone – with no acetaminophen or non-narcotic agent – and comes in an extended-release version that is not in tamper-resistant form. Many are concerned that this potent pill will increase the rates of opiate abuse and addiction as well as overdose deaths.

More Harm Than Just Addiction

Most of the time, pills that include oxycodone or hydrocodone also include a non-narcotic pain reliever as well. For example, Percocet is a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen, and Vicodin and Lortab are different ratios of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Acetaminophen in large doses and taken regularly can be damaging to the liver, causing more physical damage to the body with chronic, non-addictive use than the oxycodone or hydrocodone alone.

Anti-Addiction Protection

It’s not uncommon for people who abuse their medications to crush the pills – especially extended-release versions that offer multiple doses over time in one pill – before snorting, swallowing, or injecting the drugs. In order to protect against this abuse, many pharmaceutical companies created new versions of the pills most often being abused in this way (e.g., OxyContin) and made them tamper-resistant and harder to crush.

Also, many states have instituted statewide pharmaceutical databases that help doctors and pharmacists to identify patients who may be struggling with addiction and attempting to get multiple prescriptions for narcotics from different doctors.

Additionally, increased awareness of the highly addictive nature of opiate painkillers has encouraged many family doctors who often prescribe the drugs to their patients to learn more about the medications and, in turn, spend more time educating patients on the risks of taking the pills.

Fighting Addiction at Home

All of these changes in the past few years have helped to lower the rates of prescription drug overdose across the country, but opiate addiction is still a huge problem, taking more lives than car accidents each year in some states. When someone you love struggles with the problem, it can be terrifying – every day could be the day that overdose occurs, an accident under the influence changes the status quo, or the addicted person puts someone else’s safety in jeopardy.

Contact us at The Oaks at La Paloma now to learn more about how we can help your loved one overcome dependence upon opiate medications and begin a new healthy life in recovery.