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Are Painkillers Addictive?

a person sits at a desk and looks at a packet of pills wondering about Painkiller Addiction

If you have ever had medical treatment such as surgery or a broken bone, chances are you have been prescribed a painkiller. Painkillers, natural or synthetic, are medications prescribed by doctors to manage moderate to severe pain for a finite period. Painkillers are effective at treating pain by triggering the release of the brain’s feel-good chemicals known as endorphins. A common question people have is, are painkillers addictive?

From the late 1990s to today, the United States has seen a sharp ascend in painkiller medication overdose deaths. This public health crisis is directly connected to the highly addictive nature of these medications. Painkiller addiction is one of the most prevalent forms of addiction and requires intervention. At Rockland Recovery, we offer a wide range of painkiller addiction treatment programs so you can find care specifically designed for your needs. If you or a loved one is struggling with painkiller addiction, contact our team today by calling 855.732.4842. We are here to help.

What Is Painkiller Addiction?

Painkiller addiction is a type of substance use disorder characterized by the uncontrollable urge to use painkiller medication, even if the individual wants to stop or knows the negative consequences of their actions. Addiction negatively impacts all areas of an individual’s life, such as their overall well-being, relationships, or profession. Painkillers are designed for short-term pain relief and an individual struggling with addiction will continuously chase this feeling to avoid withdrawal symptoms or emotional pain. Oftentimes, individuals will increase the dose and frequency of the medications as their tolerance increases, leading to the vicious cycle of addiction.

Similar to other diseases, painkiller addiction progresses over time, has specific symptoms, and has effective treatment options.

Symptoms of Painkiller Addiction

Having the ability to identify if you or a loved one is struggling with painkiller addiction is the first step on the road to recovery. Coming to terms with addiction is difficult, but understanding the symptoms and treatment options can make this process less daunting.

The main symptoms that characterize painkiller addiction are physical dependence, increasingly heavy and frequent use, and cravings. Physical dependence is seen when an individual stops taking the painkiller and experiences withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, chills, or even a fever. Withdrawal symptoms are a significant factor in individuals increasing the dose and frequency of painkillers, despite it negatively affecting their health, finances, or relationships. An additional withdrawal symptom is craving which is a compulsive physical and emotional urge to take the drug. This can also be seen in drug-seeking behaviors, where an individual is committed to finding more painkillers even before withdrawal symptoms set in.

Additional symptoms of painkiller addiction include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in sleep
  • Isolation from friends, family, or work
  • New financial difficulties
  • Stealing from friends, families, or businesses
  • Changes in exercise habits
  • Mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Stopping or reducing important events
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or other activities

Even when suffering from addiction, individuals may not be able to recognize the symptoms alone or accept they need treatment. Painkiller addiction requires professional intervention to overcome. Luckily, there are many forms of painkiller addiction treatment offered at Rockland Recovery to help you begin your journey toward the future you want.

Why Are Painkillers Addictive?

At Rockland Recovery, we believe that knowledge is power. Learning about addiction and its symptoms is just one part of the puzzle, as is understanding why painkillers are addictive.

The principal reason painkillers are highly addictive is because they both relieve pain and create a sense of euphoria or extreme happiness. Experiencing euphoria after taking opioids is a major sign of being vulnerable to addiction. Early in addiction development, individuals may take the medication solely for the emotional experience. Over time as tolerance increases, individuals often increase the dose and frequency of their medication which leads to physical dependence.

Once physical dependence develops, the body has adapted to the drug, and withdrawal symptoms set in once it is no longer in the system. The desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms is a leading factor in addiction. However, if painkillers are taken repeatedly over time, the body’s natural endorphin production slows down. This means that a higher dose of painkillers is needed to attain euphoric feelings. Additionally, without the medication, the body is not producing enough endorphins, leading to severe emotional withdrawal symptoms on top of physical symptoms. Combined with physical dependence, the emotional withdrawal symptoms can be overwhelming. Painkiller addiction is a debilitating disease that is difficult to overcome alone. With the help of our addiction team at Rockland Recovery, we are with you every step of the way.

Rockland Recovery’s Painkiller Addiction Treatment Program

Painkiller addiction is a national health crisis that impacts millions of households in the United States, and our goal is to reduce that number. Our wide array of painkiller addiction treatment programs provides long- and short-term care to clients from all walks of life. We use a combination of evidence-based and holistic approaches through our sober living homes, Day Intensive Outpatient Programs, and Day Partial Hospitalization Programs, just to name a few.

Rockland Recovery is committed to helping you find life in recovery and will be by your side every step of the way. If you or a loved one is struggling with painkiller addiction, reach out to learn more about our programs via 855.732.4842.

Medical Reviewer Kate Perfetti, LADC II

Medically Reviewed by Kate Perfetti, LADC II

Kate is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor who has worked in the field of substance abuse for the last nine years. At Rockland Recovery, Kate works to provide resources to the local community and engage and progress Rockland Recovery’s alumni program.


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If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, we encourage you to request a confidential call to explore treatment options, ask questions, and receive support from experienced professionals. We know taking this first step can be challenging, but it’s a courageous and important part of the recovery journey.

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