How often have you popped another Advil after the first one didn’t work well enough to take your headache away? 

Now, imagine if each Advil pill was three times as strong, and it didn’t just relieve physical pain but also had the ability to calm your mind and relax your body. How often would you take it? 

Maybe whenever you feel stressed or anxious; when you’re particularly sore after a workout or are having trouble falling asleep at night; maybe any time you just don’t feel like you’re 100 percent.

That’s how easy it is to develop a substance use disorder or addiction to prescription painkillers. Not only are these drugs being prescribed in abundance throughout the United States, but their high potential for abuse and addiction is concerning.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at prescription painkillers and identify the ones most commonly abused.

Commonly abused painkillers

The five most commonly abused prescription painkillers are morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and meperidine. Many of these drugs produce the same (or similar) effects in the individual who’s consumed them, but symptoms can vary in nature and severity per person.

1. Morphine

Morphine is one of the oldest known and most effective painkillers used in the history of medicine. It’s a powerful opioid pain medication that has a high potential for abuse, and as such, is only accessible through illicit recreation or prescription medication.

2. Codeine

Codeine is another opioid medication used to treat moderate-to-severe pain; it can be naturally derived from a plant or produced synthetically. Just like morphine, codeine has a high potential for physical dependence and addiction if used for an extended amount of time.

3. Oxycodone (“OxyContin”)

Another powerful opioid pain medication, oxycodone also works by binding to specific receptors in the brain and reducing or altering the perception of pain. It is a semi-synthetic drug with a very high potential for abuse and is considered a controlled substance in most countries due to its potency.

4. Hydrocodone (“Vicodin,” “Lortab”)

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid medication used to manage pain (such as from dental procedures, surgeries, and chronic conditions like arthritis). Like all opioids, hydrocodone carries a high level of risk due to how quickly a tolerance can form and withdrawal symptoms can manifest.

5. Meperidine (“Demerol”)

Meperidine, typically referred to by its brand Demerol, is a fully synthetic opioid medication used to manage short-term or chronic pain. It too has a strong potential for physical dependence, abuse and addiction because of its potency and effects.

If you’re currently taking one of these drugs and think you may have developed a substance use disorder, reach out to our team here at October Road for guidance on what to do now.

Signs and symptoms

Some people are better at hiding the signs and symptoms of their substance use disorder than others, as certain individuals manage to maintain a high level of functionality despite addiction.

Eventually, addiction will start to deteriorate multiple areas of your life; maybe not all, but it will begin to affect you in ways you can no longer hide from loved ones.

Symptoms you can watch out for in yourself and others include:

  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Respiratory issues, such as a chronic cough or being out of breath
  • Bloodshot eyes, pinpoint or dilated pupils
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene or grooming habits
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Dental issues, such as tooth decay or gum disease
  • Withdrawal symptoms when sober (short fuse, “fidgety,” headaches, irritability)

If you think you’ve developed a substance use disorder, or have recognized concerning symptoms or behavior in a loved one that makes you suspect addiction, seek professional help immediately.

Speak with an advisor today

October Road is a leading provider of behavioral health and substance use treatment, with our facilities nestled in rural North Carolina.

Whether you’ve just begun to suspect you’re abusing a drug or have been struggling with an addiction for years, you’re still here — it’s not too late to take the first step of recovery today.

To speak with one of our advisors and learn more about the different options you have moving forward, send us a message or give us a call today.

Taking medications at home. Daily dose of vitamins for the elderly in hand, headache tablets. Sedation pills.What Does Painkiller Addiction Look Like?
A young female patient sits casually with her doctor as they discuss her mental health.  She is seated in a chair in front of her doctor as they talk about her needs.  The doctor is wearing a white lab coat and has her back to the camera as the two discuss possible plans of care to navigate the woman's struggles.What Do I Need To Do To Stop Painkiller Abuse?