Prescription painkillers, such as Hydrocodone and Oxycontin (both opioids), are highly effective in relieving chronic pain. This is why they are often the first choice in treatment by pain management doctors. Although these drugs are legal when properly prescribed, they are chemically similar to heroin, and can be just as addictive.

Most people first begin using prescription painkillers for physical pain, but soon notice that the medication can also distance them from emotional pain. If the person has gone through some type of trauma (such as a violent accident) that has left behind emotional scars, they may find themselves drawn to the euphoric effect of these drugs. The pleasurable feelings created by these painkillers can leave a person desiring more.

People prescribed opioid painkillers can quickly build a tolerance, which results in higher and higher doses required to achieve the same effect. In addition to physical tolerance, they can also develop psychological tolerance as they become desensitized to the drug. Because the person may have grown accustomed to the euphoric feelings created by the painkillers, the desire to use more medication than prescribed can become the beginning stages of addiction.

It is common for people who are becoming addicted to narcotic painkillers to feel that their physical pain is getting worse. This can be a result of relying on painkillers alone, instead of including proper rehabilitation and exercise to improve the injured body part. In order for proper healing to take place, a focus on strengthening the injured area should also be a part of the plan. Without this vital piece, the person will often rely on taking more medication for relief as their injury continues to suffer from physical neglect.

While these medications can play an important role in helping people with chronic pain, they can also be dangerous when not monitored closely. If you have a loved one taking prescription painkillers, stay aware of these warning signs of addiction:

- Taking more medication than prescribed

- Changes in personality, behavior, or mood

- Social withdrawal

- Continued usage of the drug even after medical condition has improved

- Visiting multiple doctors in order to obtain more of the drug

- Negative changes in daily habits and appearance

- Defensiveness when discussing the drug use

Once a person has become addicted to painkillers, they will experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug wears off. Ironically, one of the most common withdrawal symptoms of opioids is intense physical pain. This can make it very difficult for the addicted person to stop the cycle since their only immediate relief from the pain is taking more of the drug.

My husband was prescribed Oxycontin for a back injury, which resulted in addiction. Eventually he started going through the medication so fast that he turned to purchasing additional pills illegally. His number one focus became the drug. Whenever he'd run out of medication he would suffer with extreme back pain, stomach issues, and depression.

After several failed attempts at getting off the drug on his own, he agreed to go into addiction treatment. It took nearly seven days of medical detox before his withdrawal symptoms calmed. Amazingly, once the drugs were out of his system, his back pain was gone.

He completed an in-patient program, and is now healthy and pain-free. We found out first hand just how dangerous these drugs can be if not taken correctly and monitored closely. Most people would not voluntarily take heroin if offered, but many are willing to take these opioid prescription painkillers without being concerned. Because they are prescribed and legal, the overall belief is that they are safe. Prescription painkillers are the fastest growing addiction in America, and being aware of the dangers is vital to prevention.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa Espich is the author of the multi award-winning book, "Soaring Above Co-Addiction: Helping your loved one get clean, while creating the life of your dreams", which was just chosen as one of the top 500 books for 2011 by the USA Best Books 2011 Awards. For additional articles, resources, and a Free preview chapter of her book visit: