I didn’t know that I was going through withdrawal. I thought I was sick. I thought I had the flu. I thought I was going to die (discussing fentanyl patches).
You know your body and your experiences. And if you are asking yourself, am I addicted to pills, then you may be sensing that something is off. There are several things that factor into your answer like: Are you taking pills that have been prescribed to you by a doctor or are you taking pills to deliberately get high? Determining if your use of pills is starting to become an addiction is something requires honesty and self-reflection.
I’m taking pills that were prescribed to me by a doctor, strictly according to the label
You may worry that you’re addicted, especially if you’re on certain drugs that are used recreationally, but there’s a difference between taking a medication and abusing one.
Some medications are habit-forming or addictive or cause what is known as a “physical dependence,” where your body adapts to expect that medication.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid taking those medications if that is what you and your doctor decide. If you’re afraid of taking a habit-forming medication, have a discussion with your doctor about the potential side effects of a medication and whether they outweigh the benefits. It is common and acceptable to ask for a different treatment.
You know yourself and your body, it’s ok to get a second opinion. If you feel that your concerns are dismissed (which is more common for women or people of color) then it’s ok to know that something is wrong. And to reevaluate the person prescribing it to you.
But make sure you avoid suddenly stopping any medication without talking to your doctor first—sometimes your body needs to “taper” off by stepping down your dosage over time.
Know it’s ok to have other options or solutions. Most times, it’s not a one thing that fixes all. There’s usually a variety of things you can do to help yourself.
I’m taking pills that were prescribed to me by a doctor, but I’m deliberately using them to get high.
Taking medication outside its normal purpose is what we call substance abuse. For example, maybe your doctor has prescribed you a benzodiazepine like Xanax for panic attacks or opioids for pain. But instead of following the instructions your doctor gave you, you find that you’re taking a lot more than you should. Or take your medications recreationally or use them with other substances like drinking. These are signs of problematic drug use.
If you are using pills to get high, the most important thing you can do is reflect on why you are using pills as a coping skill.
- Why do you feel you have to do these behaviors?
- What do you think that you need?
- What feelings, pain, etc. are you masking?
The Addictions: Answer, Share, Explore tool can help reflect on your experiences and find answers to these questions.
There are negative consequences to becoming dependent or addicted to pills. If you feel like you are going to die and you need to use pills, then survival instincts will kick in and affect your decisions. You can lose a lot and change the whole course of your life even if you don’t think you have a problem. For example, you could get injured on your job and fail the alcohol and drug test. This can have severe consequences such as no worker’s compensation, lawsuits, etc.
I think I may be addicted to pills, what should I do?
You are not alone—many others have recovered from addiction to pills. Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and peer support can offer hope and help in your healing journey. You should also pay attention to your triggers—think about when and why you are using and what else you can do instead of use. Recovery takes time and isn’t easy, but feeling better and healing are always worth it.