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Signs of Painkiller Abuse

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, roughly 15,000 people die every year of overdoses involving prescription painkillers. However, painkillers can encompass a wide variety of both prescription and illegal drugs, of varying strengths and addictive properties. Still, knowing how to identify different painkiller drugs, as well as knowing the signs of painkiller abuse, can go a long way in helping oneself or a loved one find lasting recovery from addiction.

What are Painkillers?

Painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are types of drugs called analgesics, used to treat pain. Painkillers work by targeting by interrupting pain signals before they reach the brain.

Many painkillers are available for over-the-counter purchase from pharmacies and supermarkets. These drugs manage mild to moderate pain over a limited time. Paracetamol, ibuprofen, and aspirin are over-the-counter painkillers.

For those experiencing long-term pain or inflammation, stronger painkillers are often prescribed. These drugs can include:


Hydrocodone treats moderate pain, chronic pain management, and pain relief after surgery or injury. It is prescribed in five or 10-mg pills that contain some combination of hydrocodone with acetaminophen or Tylenol.


Similar in its effects to hydrocodone, oxycodone is prescribed for stronger pain. Its brand names include Roxicodone, Roxy, Oxycontin, or Oxycodone. Dosages begin at 15 mg and can go up to 80 mg.


Though not as potent as oxycodone, morphine has a long history of effectively treating severe pain. In tablet form, morphine’s dosages range from 30 to 120 mg. Morphine can also be administered as a patch or injection for severe pain. Those living with painkiller addiction often inject morphine to feel its effects more immediately.


Fentanyl is one of the strongest painkillers on Earth. It is available commercially in tablet form, as well as buccal film and a transdermal patch. Fentanyl is also used to treat what is known as “breakthrough pain,” which occurs when one still feels pain after taking medication.

Fentanyl often appears in common street drugs, like heroin. Because it is so potent, fentanyl contains an elevated risk of overdose among people using it without medical supervision. In fact, Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Anne Milgram called fentanyl “the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered.”

The Signs of Painkiller Abuse

As with abuse of any drug, painkiller abuse has its own signs and symptoms. Physically speaking, the signs of painkiller abuse include dilated or constricted pupils, noticeable weight loss, and frequently bloodshot or glazed eyes. People who abuse painkillers often appear drowsy, like they could nod off at any moment. Other common signs of painkiller abuse include:

  • Poor concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slower movements and reactions
  • General apathy
  • Mood swings
  • Depression

Because people who are abusing prescription painkillers often go to great lengths to conceal their use, it may not be obvious that a person has a problem with painkillers. However, as with any drugs, there exist quite a few physical and behavioral symptoms that point to an addition to painkillers. These can include:

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Itchy or flushed skin
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting
  • Fluctuating energy levels
  • Frequent lying
  • Poor work or school performance
  • No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Withdrawal from friends and loved ones

The Dangers of Painkiller Addiction

Developing an addiction to painkillers can have lasting effects for the user and their loved ones. For this reason, detox and comprehensive addiction treatment must take place to minimize the following dangers of painkiller addiction:

  • Onset of seizures
  • Criminal behavior, leading to possible imprisonment
  • Financial problems
  • Destruction of meaningful relationships
  • Isolation from friends and loved ones
  • Job loss
  • Homelessness
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal thoughts and tendencies
  • Overdose and death

Treatment for Painkiller Addiction

Treatment for painkiller addiction begins with an effective detoxification program, or detox. Detox is the process of ridding the body of all traces of the harmful and addictive substance. Detox tends to last between three and seven days.

In most cases, a person detoxing from painkillers will experience uncomfortable, perhaps even painful withdrawal symptoms as the harmful substances leave the body. Such withdrawal symptoms can include sweating, sleep disruption, nausea and vomiting, and hallucinations. In such cases, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may be necessary. MAT involves the prescribing of prescription medication to ease the most severe painkiller withdrawal symptoms.

Know the Signs of Painkiller Abuse with Smoky Mountain Detox in East Tennessee

Coming to terms with the fact that you may have developed an addiction to painkillers is the first step to recovery. When you’ve decided you are ready to take that first step, Smoky Mountain Detox in Mosheim, TN can help. Contact us today to begin your detox treatment in a safe, caring, and supportive environment.

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