addicted to pain pills after surgery

For two decades doctors routinely prescribed an excessive number of opioid analgesics to patients following surgery.  For example, doctors would send a patient home with a script for 50 pills for pain management after a hysterectomy or gallbladder removal.  Even dentists were over prescribing the opioids.  Only later was it realized that some patients could experience withdrawal symptoms after only 3 or 4 days of use, prompting them to continue to take the drugs to avoid the nasty withdrawal symptoms.  By the time their prescription expired, they were fully addicted.

Admittedly, doctors had no formal prescribing guidelines during those years so they would simply guess, unaware that the drugs were highly addictive.  Dr. Jay Lee, an author of a recent study out of the University of Michigan, states, “Before this study, we were just guessing about how much opioids our patients needed to adequately relieve pain after surgery.  Because of this, many patients were prescribed too much opioid medication.”

Part of the over-prescribing fallout is due to the extra meds left unattended in the family medicine cabinet.  After family members or visitors discovered these leftover pills, they were being sold or shared for recreational use, only contributing to the opioid epidemic.  Now the country is in the grip of an opioid crisis, with upwards of 115 people dying each day due to an opioid overdose.  The challenge now becomes treating the resulting addiction that so many innocent people are suffering from.  Obtaining professional addiction treatment is the appropriate action after becoming addicted to pain pills after surgery.

What are the Signs of Becoming Addicted to Pain Pills After Surgery?

What is so distressing about acquiring an addiction to pain pills following surgery is that the patient was simply complying with doctor’s orders, taking the medication as directed to manage the sometimes brutal post-operative pain.  Who knew that the opioid molecules were literally remapping their brain chemistry, making them a slave to the drug? 

The first hint that something is wrong appears when the patient attempts to discontinue use of the drug.  Even after a short period of use, withdrawal symptoms can present themselves.  These symptoms become more severe the longer the patient was using the opioid prescription pills.  Withdrawal symptoms include physical, behavioral, and psychological symptoms, which may include:

  • Intestinal distress, including nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting
  • Muscle aches and joint pain
  • Shakiness or chills
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue and physical weakness
  • Mental confusion
  • Watery eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite or excessive hunger
  • Depression
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Nightmares
  • Hallucination
  • Seizures

Someone who experiences the discomforts of these withdrawal symptoms may then attempt to get more of the medication so they can feel better.  This is when addictive behaviors become apparent, as the patient may go to great lengths to obtain the drugs illicitly if the doctor refuses to refill their prescription.  Some may buy the pills online, bum them off a friend, or begin doctor shopping for a new prescription.  In many cases, the patient may switch to the much cheaper and more accessible drug, heroin, to find relief from withdrawal symptoms. 

 What is the Treatment When Becoming Addicted to Pain Pills After Surgery?

Getting professional help after getting addicted to pain pills after surgery will begin with the detox and withdrawal phase of treatment.  Detoxing allows the body to expel the toxins that have been stored in the body’s tissues, which then allows the individual to move forward into treatment with a clear head.  Addiction treatment is an active, not passive, endeavor that requires the participation and commitment of the individual, and that is only possible after detox is completed.

The next phase of recovery involves a multi-pronged therapeutic approach to supporting the individual through the therapies and activities that will help them move past their addictive behaviors.  Therapy can take various forms, including traditional talk therapy, group therapy, classes that teach coping skills and relapse prevention techniques, family group, holistic activities like yoga and meditation, medication management, and participation in a peer-recovery group such as A.A., N.A., SMART Recovery, or LifeRing Recovery.

Solutions 4 Recovery Provides Treatment for Prescription Pill Addiction

Solutions 4 Recovery is a premier addiction and dual diagnosis inpatient program located in the coastal communities of Southern California.  Solutions 4 Recovery offers all levels of care for individuals who became addicted to pain pills after surgery, including medical detox, inpatient treatment, and outpatient treatment.  Our highly trained, expert clinical staff designs a customized treatment plan responsive to each client’s individual needs and situation.  For more information about our program in sunny So Cal, please contact Solutions 4 Recovery today at (888) 417-1874.