Painkillers and Withdrawal Management
Authored by Audra Franchini
Painkillers, whether they are over-the-counter or prescription, are seemingly everywhere. They can also lead to addiction or make an ongoing addiction worse.
As the country continues to be plagued by the ongoing opiate crisis, the role of painkillers in all of this cannot be ignored. Many of those who enter methadone clinics and/or other treatment centers do so because of painkiller addiction.
Is There a Difference Between Opiates and Painkillers?
While all opiates are painkillers, not all painkillers are opiates. For example, basic analgesics (pain relievers) such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are not opiates, while the stronger prescription medications, including codeine and morphine, are considered opiate analgesics. Illegal drugs such as heroin are also considered opiates.
Prescription painkillers are given to individuals who have had recent accidents, injuries, or surgeries, or to help with chronic and acute pain, but the medications have a major risk of being abused. These addictive drugs can also include opioids such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet, Roxicet).
Why Are Painkillers and Opiates Addictive?
Narcotic medications, such as those listed above, attach themselves to the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Once attached, they block sensations of pain and create what users interpret as feelings of euphoria.
Because they are highly addictive, these substances can have devastating (and many times deadly) effects on users. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
“From 1999 to 2016, more than 200,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids. Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999.”
Painkiller Addiction: Understanding Withdrawal
The signs and symptoms of addiction to painkillers can include anxiety, depression, confusion, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, chills, sweating, tremors, and strong cravings. But, the symptoms of withdrawal from painkillers, whether a person has gone too long between doses or is going through sobriety treatments, can be equally unpleasant and sometimes worse, even life-threatening, if not monitored under medical supervision.
In addition to the aforementioned vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, tremors, etc., withdrawal from opioid painkillers can include abdominal cramps, fever, cold flashes, insomnia, muscle aches, loss of appetite, enlarged pupils, and anger/irritability.
Help for Painkiller Withdrawal
Methadone treatment programs, such as those offered here at Trenton Healthcare Clinic, can help with the management of painkiller addiction, as well as the withdrawal symptoms that occur during detox. Methadone treatment combats the side effects of these drugs by blocking the dangerous high they produce and relieving their withdrawal symptoms.
Administered and monitored by health professionals, methadone treatment can help those struggling with addiction to painkillers b in a safe, secure setting through proper dosing and maintenance, therapy programs, educational resources, and additional health services such as HIV testing and physical exams.