Am I an Addict?

I take prescription pain pills. Am I an addict?
Anyone who takes opioid pain medications on a regular basis for more than two to four weeks will have physical withdrawal symptoms if they stop. Does this mean they are addicts?
No. This is physical dependency.
To meet the criteria for the diagnosis of opioid addiction, psychological symptoms must also be present. People with addiction use the drug for longer and in higher amounts than they planned to, and give up social and recreational activities because of drug use. An addict keeps using the drug even though bad things happen as a consequence. An addict spends much time obtaining, using, and recovering from drug use. An addict can’t quit – and stay quit – if they want to. Contrast this to a patient with chronic pain, and no addiction, who is able to taper off pain pills if given a good reason to do so.
For example, a patient with chronic pain may take opioid pain pills by prescription for years without having the disease of addiction, even though their body will be physically dependent. This patient is able to function better because of relief of pain. This patient doesn’t obsess and think about their pain medication. They simply take it as prescribed, and don’t become intoxicated.
It is possible to have both chronic pain and addiction. Patients may start on prescription opioids for pain relief, but find it also makes them feel really good, so they begin to increase their dose in order to get this good feeling. Things progress along this line, and then the patient has two problems: chronic pain and addiction.
Sometimes it’s hard for doctors to tell if a patient has only chronic pain, or chronic pain and addiction. The diagnosis often becomes clearer over time, as the physician observes the patient and how they are doing.
These are the type of behaviors that make a doctor suspect a patient may have addiction: using the drug in ways not intended, like snorting or injecting; buying from drug dealers, getting extra pills from friends and family members; running out of medication too early because pills were taken faster than prescribed; episodes of intoxication; taking pain pills to medicate mood or to sleep; chewing pills for faster onset; falsifying prescription information.
If you recognize these behaviors in yourself, it is likely that addiction is present or is in danger of developing.


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