The Effects of Taking Too Much Pain Medication
Table of Contents
When prescription painkillers burst onto the scene in the 90s they were seen as a wonder drug. These powerful analgesics could swiftly manage moderate to severe pain and were supposedly non-habit forming. Well we all know the end of that story, as these synthetic opioids turned out to be extremely addicting and have resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths in the last decade, with 72,000 deaths in 2017 alone.
Tolerance to these drugs escalates rapidly, leading patients to increase the amount they are taking in order to benefit from the initial pain-relieving and euphoric effects. The brain begins to rely on the daily influx of the opioid painkiller and adjusts neurotransmitters accordingly. The flush of dopamine provided by the synthetic source, the drugs, causes the brain to eventually stop producing dopamine naturally. Once that happens, the individual becomes chemically dependent on the regular dosing the brain now expects.
This translates to trouble for the patient who was prescribed these drugs following surgery or injury, or for long-term pain management. Some people can become addicted to opioids in as little as two weeks, increasing the potential for chemical dependency. As they attempt to manage pain using ever-increasing dosing, they may accidentally overdose on the drug. Unfortunately, taking too much pain medication is a dangerous, but very common, possibility for individuals who rely on the drugs for mitigating pain.
About Prescription Pain Relievers
Pain relievers work by binding to the opioid receptors located in the brain, on the spine, and in other areas of the body, blocking the pain messaging to the brain. In addition to the pain relieving properties, these drugs also cause a sense of euphoria, as well as reduce blood pressure and respiratory rates that induces a feeling of deep relaxation. The prescription painkiller category of drugs includes several different varieties of synthetic opioids. These include:
- Oxycodone (OxyContin)
- Oxycodone/acetaminophen (Percocet)
- Hydrocodone (Hysingla ER)
- Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Vicodin, Norco, Lortab, Lorcet)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
- Methadone (Dolophine)
- Fentanyl (Duragesic)
Warning Signs of Addiction to Pain Medication
There are some warning signs to look for if you are concerned about the possibility of becoming addicted to the narcotic. These signs include:
- Chronic constipation
- Reduced sex drive
- Increased anxiety
- Prioritizing obtaining and using the drugs
- Loss of interest in activities normally enjoyed
- Difficulty sleeping
- Physical agitation
- Increased heart rate
- Sensitivity to light and sounds
- Decreased appetite
- Trying to cut back on the dosage and cannot
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the drug is withheld
What Happens From Taking Too Much Pain Medication?
An overdose occurs from taking too much pain medication at one time. This is an emergency, as breathing can be dangerously slowed and may even stop. When respiratory functions cease, brain injury or death will occur. Signs of opioid overdose include:
- Limp body
- Pinpoint pupils
- Nodding off, loss of consciousness
- Gurgling sounds, choking
- Pale, cold, or blue-tinged skin
Narcan (naloxone) is a nasal spray that is used to reverse an opioid overdose. Many metropolitan regions have trained first responders to utilize Narcan in the event of an overdose. Narcan can restore respiratory function at a critical juncture, saving the individual’s life.
When approaching treatment for an opioid addiction or dependency, the first step will be to successfully complete a detoxification program. It is always preferable to have a ly supervised detox where withdrawal symptoms can be monitored and managed, therefore dramatically increasing the chances of completing detox and making it into treatment.
During detox and withdrawal, the body will be rebelling due to the drug being withheld. As bodily systems and brain chemistry struggle to stabilize there will be very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that are similar to the bad flu. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and insomnia can be managed through the provided medications.
Treatment for Opioid Abuse and Addiction
If struggling with managing opioid use or abuse it is important to tackle the addictive behavioral responses that follow the cravings or triggers to take the medication. Someone who is under a doctor’s care can work with the doctor to taper the dosage down gradually, which might be sufficient if the dependency has not developed. However, for individuals who have already become addicted to opioids an addiction treatment program is in order.
In a comprehensive inpatient rehab program the individual will participate in various forms of therapy that can help change the way triggers are responded to. Using evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy, the therapist will guide the person toward forming new ways to respond to the internal messaging that keeps one going back for more of the drugs. These therapies help individuals develop new coping skills and productive behavioral responses that will become reinforced as they are practiced in real time.
Other recovery skills taught in rehab include stress management techniques, deep-breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation skills, better communication and interpersonal skills, and conflict resolution tools. Relapse prevention strategies will also be formulated so clients are prepared to face cravings or trigger head on.
Medications such as buprenorphine can be used in early recovery, once the opioids are out of the individual’s system, to help block cravings and support recovery. These drugs must be carefully monitored as part of a comprehensive recovery program. Individuals are also encouraged to seek out the support found in local recovery communities.
Capo By the Sea Offers Effective Treatment for Individuals Taking Too Much Pain Medication
Capo By the Sea is a premier rehab provider located in South Orange County, California. Ensconced in a lovely, tranquil seaside community, Capo By the Sea provides the highest caliber evidence-based addiction treatment modalities available. At Capo By the Sea, a team of highly trained addiction experts design tailored treatment plans that reflect the nuances and uniqueness of each individual client. No disease is the same, nor should every rehab program be the same.
Clients enjoy luxury facilities and spa-like amenities while engaging in the wide variety of therapeutic activities offered. Capo provides couples rehab and a pet-friendly community, understanding the need to address the heart’s needs in treatment as well. For more information about our offerings, or to ask if you are taking too much pain medication, please contact Capo By the Sea today at (888) 529-2114.