The opioid epidemic is a real and serious thing happening in America today. Studies show that about 80% of people who are heroin users first misused prescription opioids, and that more than 115 individuals across the country die every single day from an opioid overdose.

One of the reasons behind the origin of the opioid epidemic is the over-prescription of painkillers in the late 1990s. Doctors were reassured by drug companies that the drugs were safe and non-addictive. This proved to be untrue, and patients taking painkillers found that they were unable to stop. Painkiller medication is among one of the most prescribed drugs in the United States, adding to the potential that more and more individuals will become addicted.

One situation in which patients are often prescribed opioids is after surgery. Prescription painkillers after surgery help curb severe pain for patients and make recovery bearable, as they bring about feelings of euphoria and calmness. However, while painkillers can make for a more tolerable recovery after a procedure, the prescription of opioids after surgery can also have devastating effects—including the start of an addiction.

If you’re wondering how an addiction can happen post-surgery, the following information will help. Once you understand more about how addiction arises and what its symptoms are, you can also arm yourself with the knowledge of how to help someone get better. That way, if you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction, you can take the steps that you need to help them heal and maintain sobriety.

Becoming Addicted After Surgery

Painkiller addiction after surgerySurgery is an invasive process and the recovery can be painful for anyone having to experience it. To mitigate the pain, doctors will prescribe patients narcotics, which are strong pain relievers that should be used for a short duration post-surgery when pain is most intense and sometimes almost unbearable.

Narcotics are usually given after surgery both in a hospital setting and for at home use, depending on the severity of procedure. Some drugs that are given in the hospital include fentanyl, morphine, or hydromorphone. These medicines are usually given by IV, and dosage is given very particularly due to the addictive nature of these medications.

Different narcotics are prescribed to be taken at home after a patient has been released from the hospital. These medications include Percocet (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodone), or Oxycontin (and others).

Most doctors will prescribe patients enough pain medication to get them through a certain length of time after surgery. Often, the pain during the healing process reaches a level that is bearable and no longer requires opioids for relief. Unfortunately, this leaves some patients with extra pills left from their prescription. Because the effects of these drugs are so desirable, people will continue to take the pills for longer than their body actually needs them just for the high itself.

While many patients don’t realize it, narcotic painkillers have a risk of physical dependency, and when people stop taking them, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. If you treat withdrawal symptoms with the painkiller, the symptoms go away. But the dependence continues, and this becomes the cycle that leads to addiction.

Alternatively, opioids can cause psychological feelings of relief for people who experience depression or anxiety. Those who have gone through substance misuse before also find relief in opioids. This emotional relief creates a psychological craving for the drug, leading a person to take the pills more and more often. This continuous use then leads to a physical dependency. Once a user is both physically and mentally addicted, it can be nearly impossible to stop.

Once someone is physically addicted to the drug, it becomes hard to stop since the withdrawal process is so physically excruciating. People who run out of their prescription or no longer have access to narcotics may turn to street drugs to fill their need for opioids, like heroin.

How to Help a Person Who Has Become Addicted After Surgery

If you or someone you know has become addicted to opioids after a surgery, it can be a scary and challenging prospect. However, there are some steps you can take for rehabilitation that can help you heal from your addiction, and there are experts who can help you reach and maintain sobriety.

Acknowledge that There is a Problem

The first step to healing from an addiction is acknowledging that there is a problem. Once someone can admit that they’re dealing with a real medical issue, they can also accept help.

Get Help from a Professional

Opioid withdrawal is very uncomfortable and can make a person feel very sick. For that reason, it should be done under the supervision of trained medical professionals. Rehabilitation centers have trained staff that know how to guide a patient through a withdrawal process so that it is as pain-free and tolerable as it can possibly be. Trying to detox by yourself can be an overwhelming process: sometimes withdrawal symptoms are so severe that they can be dangerous to an addict’s health if not treated properly. So, consider checking into an inpatient drug rehab like Scottsdale Recovery Center to begin the withdrawal and recovery process.

Work Through Issues Related to the Addiction

Often, misuse of drugs is spurred on by depression, anxiety, or reactions to trauma. During your addiction treatment, it can be very helpful to receive counseling from a trained therapist. Therapy can help you talk through some issues that are causing you stress or unpleasant feelings, so you can release some of the things that weigh you down. Alternatively, trained therapists can help you develop better coping mechanisms so you don’t turn to drugs to alleviate pain.

The opioid epidemic is devastating the nation, and the reason that it is so severe is, in large part, is due to doctors prescribing medications that people become easily addicted to—especially after surgery. Even though people can develop an addiction after surgery, it does not mean that they can’t recover. There are steps that people can take to start the healing process, such as choosing a rehab facility like Scottsdale Recovery Center. With our proper medical monitoring and the help of trained experts, you or your loved one can move past an addiction and live a full, healthy, fulfilling drug-free life.


Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.