The untimely death of Tom Petty in early 2018 once again brought widespread attention to the dangers of prescription painkillers. The Los Angeles County medical examiner revealed that the musician had died from an overdose of several different prescription painkillers.1
Petty’s family asked that the news of his accidental overdose be made public to serve as a warning to others about the risks of taking prescription painkillers. If you use these medications, or other prescription painkillers with a high potential for addiction, you need to be aware of the risks.
Prescription Painkiller Misuse
In 2015, almost 11.5 million adults—representing over 12 percent of those who received prescription painkillers—misused those drugs. The main reason cited for the misuse, at 63.4 percent, was to relieve pain.2
Medications are designated as prescription-only drugs as a way of regulating how they should be used. Experts have assessed such drugs as potent or dangerous enough that their use requires professional supervision. Incorrect or unsupervised use of these drugs has the potential for negative health consequences.
Risks of Prescription Painkiller Misuse
The consequences of prescription painkiller misuse for any individual depends on many factors. These include the type of prescription painkiller involved, the frequency at which it is taken, the manner in which it is taken, the length of time it’s used and the general health of the person.
Misuse of prescription painkillers can cause a range of health disorders, including elevated blood pressure, strokes, cardiovascular illnesses and changes in mood and cognitive function. Prescription painkiller misuse has a high potential to lead to addiction.
Recognizing When You Are Losing Control of Your Prescription Painkiller Use
Prescription painkiller misuse is using drugs in any way other than as prescribed. The most common types of prescription painkiller misuse include taking more than prescribed, using for longer periods than intended, using prescription painkillers that have been prescribed to others or buying black-market prescription painkillers.
If you use prescription painkiller in any of these ways, you are opening yourself up to the risk of losing control of your prescription painkiller use. You may already have a problem with your use of prescription painkillers if any of the following behaviors apply to you:
- Hiding the extent of your prescription painkiller use from others
- Lying to your doctor, such as exaggerating symptoms, about your need for prescription painkillers
- Unsuccessful attempts to stop or cut down on your prescription painkiller use
- Needing to take increasing amounts of prescription painkillers to achieve desired results
- Experiencing anxiety, headaches, nausea or other symptoms of withdrawal when you try to stop using prescription painkillers
- Prescription painkiller use is adversely affecting your performance at work or school
- Prescription painkiller use is causing problems in your home life
Regaining control of your prescription painkiller use is difficult without professional help. If you feel you may have a problem, you should consider discussing this with your doctor or an addiction treatment specialist. The sooner you address the problem, the sooner you get on a path to recovery.