The Painkiller Problem

Prescriptions for Opioids, or Painkillers

Over the past 20 years, prescriptions for opioids, or painkillers, has increased more than tenfold. And, not surprisingly, painkiller addiction has also tripled in just the last decade alone. While you may think these drugs are not as dangerous as “illegal” drugs, the truth is, according to Centers for Disease Control, painkillers kill twice as many people as cocaine and five times as many as heroin.

painkiller addictionHigh Risk of Addiction

Opioids, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and meperidine (Demerol) are among the most powerful painkillers available. Originally designed to treat severe acute pain, such as following surgery, opioids are being increasingly used to treat chronic conditions such as arthritis, migraines, or back pain. This is highly controversial, however, because opioids target the the same brain receptors as heroin and carry a high risk of addiction.

The explosion in prescription painkiller use has led to the birth of so-called “pill mills,” clinics who specialize in the highly profitable “legal” sale of these drugs. This highly publicized practice has led to crackdowns in the past few years, but surprisingly, these and other doctor’s prescriptions make up less than one-fifth of the supply for admitted abusers.

An Alarming Statistic

So where are addicts getting these drugs? Believe it or not, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 70% of painkiller abusers say they obtain the drugs from friends or family members — and 55% of that group says they get them for free. An alarming statistic, to be sure.

Painkiller addiction can sometimes be overlooked, or dismissed, because many times it does not involve the criminal characters making street deals as depicted on television. But, it is a dangerous problem which requires treatment at a facility like 12 Keys.

Long-Term Changes in The Brain

Opioid addiction creates long-term changes in the brain and people undergoing treatment not only experience withdrawal symptoms, but are also prone to relapse because of cravings. Treatment consists of two phases: detoxification from the painkillers, followed by a longer (and sometimes indefinite) maintenance phase. Although counseling is an important part of treatment, most people addicted to painkillers also require medication treatment during both detoxification and maintenance therapy.

If you or a loved one is addicted to prescription painkillers, call one of the caring counselors at 12 Keys Rehab today. It could just be a life-saving decision.

The Addiction Blog