Opiate Addiction

Understand signs, symptoms, and treatment for opiate/Pain Killer addiction

Origins Behavioral Healthcare: Opiate Addiction
Origins Behavioral Healthcare: Opiate Addiction

Opiate/Pain Killer Addiction Overview

Legally prescribed painkillers can be very addictive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the term “prescription painkillers” refers to opioid or narcotic pain relievers. Patients who took these medications initially with no intention of misuse often find themselves in a place where pain control is less important than the euphoria provided by the pills. From this place, addiction grows.

The more someone takes opioids, the more the brain adapts to having them around. Having a tolerance to opioids means that someone has taken enough over time to require more frequent or higher doses in order to achieve the same feeling. Unfortunately, pain medications prescribed for legitimate medical use often end up in the hands of the recreational user because they are relatively easy to attain.

The most common opiate painkillers can be found in the list below:


Less potent but easily obtained through medicines for the treatment of mild to moderate cough, it is commonly used among young adults.


Though now banned by the FDA, these propoxyphene-based painkillers responsible for thousands of hospitalizations and deaths. A black market still exists for these drugs.


An addictive narcotic used to treat moderate to severe pain, Demerol (meperidine) has euphoric effects similar to morphine.


Sometimes referred to as “hospital grade heroin,” Dilaudid is a powerful painkiller. Available in extended-release tablets, it can quickly lead to breathing problems or even death.


A synthetic painkiller up to 100 times as potent as morphine, it is only prescribed in cases of severe pain. Used in conjunction with painkillers such as heroin, overdose death is common.


The main ingredient in many powerful painkillers such as Vicodin. Typically combined with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, the FDA has also approved pure hydrocodone medications.


Prescribed for moderate to severe pain, it is also used to curb cravings for addiction to other substances, including heroin. Despite this, it is still an addictive substance in its own right.


Morphine is prescribed for people suffering from severe chronic pain. It is one of the most addictive substances and responsible for numerous unintentional deaths nationwide.


Oxycodone is sold under the brand names OxyContin and Percocet. It is a widely prescribed painkiller and has a high potential for addiction.

With over 35 years of experience, Origins programs have a long history of treating people with painkiller addiction. Along with care for co-occurring mental health conditions, our multidisciplinary team of physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, and licensed therapists offer assistance with chronic pain management.

Addiction Risk Factors

Addiction has a genetic component, and individuals with first-degree relatives who struggle with addiction are more prone to develop a substance use disorder later in life. Since prescription painkillers stimulate the reward system of the brain by releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine, individuals who are genetically wired with deficiencies in dopamine levels often turn to prescription painkillers in order to correct this imbalance.

Individuals born into chaotic home environments in which drug use is prevalent are more at risk to develop an addiction later in life, as are people with emotional trauma. Likewise, people who are experiencing low moods from an untreated or undiagnosed co-occurring mental disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder, are at greater risk for developing a painkiller dependence.

People who begin to use painkillers at a younger age are more likely to develop an addiction to serious drugs later in life. Conversely, older adults may find themselves in the grips of addiction as the result of a completely legal prescription that later spiraled out of control. Origins is skilled at treating all generations, including young adults, mid-life, and older adults that may have found themselves addicted.

Painkillers and Chronic Pain

Those with chronic pain are more likely to be prescribed opioid medications to manage their symptoms for longer periods of time. As a result, they are at a higher risk or painkiller addiction. Many people with chronic pain begin taking these drugs with no intention of misusing them. As the drug takes hold, they find themselves trapped in a never-ending cycle of addiction that requires professional help. Origins offer a number of modalities that assist in the management of chronic pain as a component of our programs.

Signs of Use

The symptoms of prescription painkiller use will vary among individuals based upon genetic makeup, length of the addiction, and frequency of use. There are some common symptoms that are seen in most who use prescription painkillers. These include:
Behavioral symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Euphoria
  • Lying
  • Social isolation
  • Stealing
  • Doctor shopping

Physical symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constricted pupils
  • Sedation
  • Slurred speech
  • Itchy, flushed skin
  • Increased risks for cardiovascular complications
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Overdose

Psychological symptoms:

Prescription painkiller overdoses are an under-recognized and growing problem for men, women, and older adults, regardless of status or walk of life. Our team understands the varied dimension of personality, age, and gender that contribute to addiction. To learn more about our age and gender-specific programs that treat painkiller addiction, visit us here.

Doctor's desk with paperwork and stethoscope

Withdrawal Symptoms

When painkillers are abruptly discontinued or cut way down, people who are physically dependent upon these drugs will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

The most common withdrawal symptoms for prescription drug addiction can include:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Craving
  • Increased respirations
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tremors and shaking
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Involuntary leg movements
  • Cold flashes with goosebumps

Medical Detox

It’s strongly advised that individuals attempting to detox from prescription painkillers do so under the skilled care of a physician so that they can be medically monitored for safety. Supervised medical detox from painkillers is a critical part of sustainable recovery. It often medication-assisted therapy that alleviates the uncomfortable side effects of withdrawal. When the medical detox for painkillers is delivered in tandem with the services of licensed therapists and addiction counselors, positive outcomes are maximized.

Treatment Modalities for Painkiller Addiction

Therapies administered under the care of licensed professionals are an essential part of recovery from substance use disorders involving painkillers. Origins’ treatment modalities include:

Effects on the Brain

The changes associated with a substance use disorder involving painkillers can rewire the way the brain works on a functional level for the rest of the user’s life. Because of this, people are encouraged to continue with their rehabilitation efforts after detox to avoid relapse.

For this reason, we founded the Origins Center for Brain Recovery to ensure we remain on the leading edge of mind-body research and care. We incorporate principles from the growing and interrelated disciplines of health psychology and psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), which focus on studying the many ways that mental and physical health interact.

Contact Origins Behavioral HealthCare

Origins Behavioral HealthCare provides world-class, cutting-edge care that enacts real, lasting change for our patients. If you are struggling with painkiller addiction, we can help you lead a healthier, more confident, and more purposeful lives. Today is the day you break the cycle of addiction for good – start your journey to freedom and fulfillment by calling Origins Behavioral HealthCare at 561-841-1296.

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If you or someone you love has a substance use or mental health disorder, Origins Behavioral HealthCare can help. We will work alongside you to provide the most comprehensive treatment available.