People are given painkillers for a number of reasons – perhaps they suffer from chronic pain; maybe they are recovering from extensive surgery. Whatever the reason, painkillers are often prescribed to offer relief to the patient.
Unfortunately, these benefits are riddled with negative side effects, risk of addiction being one of them.
What is painkiller addiction?
Opioid pain medications are indeed approved by the FDA for medical use, and countless individuals have found relief from symptoms by appropriately following the medication’s instructions. When used for their intended purpose, painkillers are highly effective.
The danger arises when medications are used improperly. After being on the prescription for an extended period, the body builds up a tolerance and requires a higher dose to feel the same effects; tolerance also causes the body to experience withdrawal effects, where you’re likely to suffer from flu-like symptoms if you suddenly stop taking the medication.
This can quickly lead to the development of an addiction.
What if my loved one has a painkiller addiction?
If your loved one is suffering from a painkiller addiction, you will likely notice several symptoms, including:
- Seeing multiple doctors get multiple prescriptions filled even if they’re not needed
- Taking prescription medications belonging to someone else
- Taking more of the medication than what was prescribed for the sake of increasing euphoric effects
- Experiencing intense mood swings or changes in behavior, like increased irritability
- Physical changes, like dilated pupils, itchy/flushed skin, respiratory depression, nausea and GI upset
- Withdrawing from family or friends, events or other experiences they previously enjoyed
- Declining performance at work/school, or developing a habit of tardiness or absenteeism
- Suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety
If you notice one of these signs in your loved one, it should not send you into a panic. However, if you know your loved one has been on pain medications, and you see repeated, concerning signs, you might want to consider conversing with your loved one to determine what needs to be done to help them.
How can I support a family member suffering from addiction?
While you cannot force a family member to stop addictive behaviors (change only ever happens if they desire it for themselves), you can encourage them to start making healthy choices for themselves in various ways.
Tell them you’ve noticed concerning behaviors
Most of the time, those struggling with addictive behaviors recognize a problem is present, but either find themselves unable or unwilling to make changes in their life. Sometimes, the simple act of another person bringing these problematic behaviors to light can help bring about the mindset of change.
If you notice harmful habits with painkillers that your loved one is engaged in, bring it to their attention. Do not be confrontational, but rather, tell them you’ve noticed negative changes in their behaviors and are worried about their long-term health; ask them what they believe is causing these behaviors. See if the two of you can’t formulate a plan for their benefit.
If they want to talk, make sure to listen
Sometimes those struggling with addiction do not want to talk about it. Maybe they weren’t yet ready, or maybe they needed to first hear someone was ready to listen before they were able to process their thoughts and feelings.
If they do decide to share with you, listen. Do not interrupt their story no matter how you feel. Let them express what they want to share, and make sure to not push them further than they are comfortable. Information about one’s struggles is vulnerable, and should be respected as such.
Don’t give unsolicited advice, but make yourself available
If they share their struggles with you, remember that it is not your job to hand out advice unless they ask for it. It requires a lot of courage from your loved one to open up about these things, and they may feel uncomfortable if you continuously offer advice they did not want, are emotionally unable to receive or physically incapable of implementing.
Do, however, offer to help them find someone who can help. If they express a desire for recovery, but seem unable to make that desire a reality, offer to help them look into treatment programs. They may simply need that accountability to make it happen for themselves.
Set good boundaries for you, too
Supporting someone with an addiction of any kind is emotionally taxing, and you must take care of yourself just as well as you’re taking care of your family member. What boundaries need to be set may vary from situation to situation, but may look something like this:
- Not giving money to your loved one as this may enable addictive habits – instead, make them meals on occasion, offer to drive them to therapy, etc.
- Set limits on when they can contact you – you need your time to recharge as well, and being available 24/7 is not healthy for you or your relationship
- Seek counseling for yourself if you feel like talking to a third party would help you process
- Encourage self-care for everyone involved, as good sleep, healthy meals and routine exercise will benefit the whole family
By taking good care of yourself, you will be better equipped to help take care of your loved one.
For additional support
October Road is dedicated to helping those battling addiction find relief and to providing the needed support to family and friends. To get in touch with us today, contact us online or by calling 888-201-5086 to learn more.