The Pitfalls of Painkiller Addiction

The Pitfalls of Painkiller Addiction

Painkiller addiction and abuse are serious public health problems in the United States. Over eleven million people abused these drugs in 2017. Painkiller addiction can lead to long-term health problems such as kidney and liver failure and be devastating to your work and social life.

Addiction is a chronic disease with complex causes. However, it is possible to recover, and most people benefit from some form of treatment. With commitment and support, you can live a fulfilling life of sobriety.

What Are Painkillers and Why Do People Use Them?

Painkillers are powerful prescription drugs. Doctors usually prescribe them following an accident or post-surgery and occasionally for chronic pain. Most addictive painkillers contain opioids, and according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, New Jersey doctors wrote 38.9 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people in 2018.

While opioid painkillers are incredibly useful in treating short-term pain, many people misuse them. Misuse is defined as using pain medication more often or in higher doses than your prescription requires or to experience its pleasurable effects. It is possible to develop a painkiller addiction using them exactly as your doctor prescribes, but abuse makes it much more likely.

Why Are Painkillers Addictive?

Using opiates repeatedly over time can lead to chemical changes in the brain and produce strong urges to seek or use painkillers that can be very difficult to resist. These changes may be long-lasting and persist even after years of sobriety.

Repeatedly using painkillers may also lead you to develop a physical dependence on the drug. Your brain becomes used to the increased levels of opiates in the body and adapts by decreasing its natural production of opioids. You begin to need higher and higher doses to experience the same effects, and eventually, you can become dependent on the drugs just to feel normal.

While everyone’s experience of addiction is different, certain factors make developing an addiction more likely. These include:

What Are Some Types of Addictive Painkillers?

Opiate Painkillers

Opiates are natural sedative drugs derived from the seeds of the opium poppy, such as morphine and codeine. Opiates can produce experiences of euphoria in the user and relieve physical and emotional pain.

Opioid Painkillers

Opioids are natural, synthetic or semi-synthetic drugs that have similar effects to opiates. Some common opioid painkiller brands are:

  • Lortab
  • Vicodin
  • Zohydro
  • Percocet
  • Hycodan
  • Roxicet
  • Percodan
  • OxyContin

What Are the Dangers of Painkiller Addiction?

If untreated, painkiller addiction can be devastating to your health, relationships, and work-life. Effective treatment, however, can be life-changing and can put you on the path to a life free from addiction.

How Does Painkiller Addiction Affect Your Health?

Painkiller addiction can cause long-term and short-term health problems, including

How Does Painkiller Addiction Affect Your Social and Work-Life?

Painkiller addiction and abuse can take over your life. You eventually spend most of your time acquiring and taking painkillers, losing interest in activities you used to enjoy, and neglecting work and social responsibilities. Some users are driven to commit crime to fund their habit.

Addiction can also strain relationships with family members and other loved ones. You may lie to hide your addiction from those around you or prioritize your drug use over your relationships.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Painkiller Addiction?

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if you or a loved one has a painkiller addiction. However, there are certain signs and symptoms you can look out for. These signs can be behavioral, mental, and physical.

Behavioral signs of painkiller addiction include:

  • Using painkillers even when the pain has gone away
  • Lying about pain to get medication
  • ‘Doctor shopping’ - getting multiple prescriptions for the same medication
  • Slurred speech
  • Thinking and talking about painkillers frequently
  • Spending less time with friends and loved ones
  • Prioritizing painkillers over work and family life
  • Taking high doses of the drug

Mental and physical signs and symptoms may include:

  • Sweating profusely
  • Coordination problems
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Itchiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Painkiller addiction is a serious illness that can take over your life. At Enlightened Solutions, we provide clients with the tools you need to overcome your addiction and move forward in your sober life. Our individualized programs are rooted in the 12-step philosophy, and we focus on healing the entire person. Our treatment modalities include talk therapy and group support, as well as holistic healing methods such as equine therapy and meditation. As a co-occurring treatment center, we treat any underlying mental health issues alongside your addiction. Our treatment center is on the southern shore of New Jersey, the perfect place for healing and relaxation.

If you struggle with addiction, or if someone close to you does, please call us at (833) 801-5483 for more information about our treatment options.

What to Never Mix with Alcohol

What to Never Mix with Alcohol

You may be familiar with certain medicine labels that tell you not to mix this medication with alcohol. The American Addiction Center says that more than 55% of people mix over the counter medication with alcohol. By learning about the different substances that should never be mixed with alcohol, you will not have to deal with negative health consequences that may occur as well as masking the effects of the medication.

Energy Drinks

Mixing caffeine with liquor may give you a lot of energy and lessen the effects of alcohol, but this will only make you continually drink more alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control says that mixing energy drinks with alcohol will make you binge drink more and commit reckless acts such as driving under the influence, engaging in unprotected sex, and getting into violent fights.


Drinking alcohol while under the influence of marijuana can enhance THC which is the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana. Liver metabolizes one substance at a time with alcohol being metabolized first. This will not give your body enough time to metabolize the marijuana and will continue to stay in your system for hours. This unhealthy combination can also lead to a higher risk of dehydration since alcohol and marijuana are both diuretics. Other risks can include increased anxiety, hallucinations, and liver and kidney disease.

Pain Relief Medication

Over the counter pain relief medication like Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and Aleve can lead to serious consequences over time with symptoms like nausea, ulcers, stomach bleeding, rapid heartbeat, and liver damage. Once alcohol and these medications are mixed, your liver will use all of its energy to process everything going into your body at once. This will give you a better chance of having liver damage over time compared to those who do not mix medications with alcohol.


Painkillers like Demerol, Vicodin, Percocet, and Fentanyl have the power to kill people all by itself. Once these painkillers are mixed with alcohol, the results can be lethal. The American Addictions Centers say that this deadly combination can lead to having trouble breathing, severe drowsiness, dizziness, impacted motor functions, liver damage, and an increased chance of an overdose.

Sleeping Pills

While it is important not to drive or operate heavy machinery when you are on sleep medication like Ambien, but you should also not be mixing this medication with alcohol. The short-term effects may include dizziness, drowsiness, impaired motor skills, and having trouble with breathing and memory. Long-term effects can include liver damage as well as developing an addiction to the sleeping pills itself.


The combination of cocaine and alcohol can create the chemical Cocaethylene which can pose great problems to your long-term health. While this chemical enhances the high that alcohol and cocaine can give you, this high also leads to high blood pressure, irritable thoughts, and bad judgment. Toxic levels in your liver will increase as well as the chances of having a sudden death.


LSD, Ketamine, and mushrooms are hallucinogens that can cause negative effects to the body like vomiting, diarrhea, aggression, cardiac arrhythmia, and brain damage. Alcohol has a tendency to elevate these risks. This can lead to immediate dehydration as well as cancer and a weakened immune system in the long-term.


Mixing alcohol with antidepressants like Zoloft, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Effexor, Lexapro, and Marplan will result in dangerous symptoms. This can mean that the results your antidepressants are supposed to show will not work. This will make your symptoms even harder to treat. This might cause you to take more pills to achieve a desired effect. While alcohol may make you feel good, it will only be temporarily and the effects of your anxiety and depression will increase. If you take monoamine oxidase inhibitors like Marplan or Nardil, be sure not to take them with red wine or beer or your blood pressure will spike.

Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers like Lithium are powerful drugs on their own as they are able to treat bipolar disorders and manic depression. Your mental state will be in danger if you mix these mood stabilizers with alcohol. Alcohol tends to clash with lithium in order to regulate the production of neurotransmitters to feel stable. The problem is that alcohol causes the brain to make even more dopamine and those on mood stabilizers do not need any more of it. It is also possible to experience drowsiness, dizziness, tremors, muscle pain, and liver damage.

ADHD Medication

If you are on medication to treat ADHD like Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin, Strattera, or Vyvanse, the mixture of it with alcohol can cause insomnia, increase your blood pressure, and cause seizures and heart problems. ADHD medications alone can give you heart problems as your heart rate and breathing problems can be the effects of the medications which lead to irregular heartbeats and heart palpitations. Bringing alcohol into the mix will cause arrhythmias, increased blood pressure, and an accelerated heart. This can increase your risk of suffering from a stroke or heart attack.


Antibiotics like Flagyl will cause severe nausea and vomiting when mixed with alcohol. The University of Michigan says these two substances should not be mixed up to three days after a full round of antibiotics have been consumed. By not mixing medication with alcohol, the effects of your pills will work to treat physical and mental symptoms that the medication is meant for without dangerous side effects.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will be ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.