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Painkiller Addiction: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment



Painkillers relieve pain by reducing the body’s ability to feel it. 

A doctor can prescribe them for acute or chronic pain, but they’re also available without a prescription in many cases. 

While some people take painkillers in small doses to treat temporary discomfort, others develop an ongoing dependency on them. 

Painkiller addiction is a serious issue it’s one of the most common types of substance use disorder and one that affects millions every year.

What are the symptoms? Painkiller addiction isn’t always easy to recognize at first glance. 

However, there are some common signs and symptoms associated with this condition. 

If you think that you might be addicted to painkillers, it’s essential to seek treatment. With the right treatment program in place, you can overcome your addiction and minimize its impact on your life.


Table of Contents

What are addictive painkillers?

Painkillers are drugs that are used to relieve pain. They include prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine. They can also be found in illegal drugs such as heroin.

When you take a painkiller for an injury or chronic condition (such as arthritis), it can feel good because your body learns to associate the drug with relief from discomfort. 

Over time, this can lead to physical dependence on the medication — meaning that when you no longer take it regularly, your body feels withdrawal symptoms such as nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; anxiety and/or nervousness; insomnia (trouble sleeping); restlessness; diarrhea; constipation or loss of appetite may occur too.


How do painkillers work?

Painkillers are used to treat a wide range of ailments, including:

  • Headaches and other types of pain. Many painkillers work by blocking the brain’s natural ability to sense pain. Common examples include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and naproxen sodium (Aleve).
  • Anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines such as Xanax are often prescribed for patients with anxiety disorders because they calm the mind by reducing activity in regions that regulate emotions and impulses. These drugs can also cause some people to feel drowsy or sedated, so they’re not recommended for everyone who suffers from anxiety attacks or panic attacks these medications can worsen symptoms for specific individuals.
  • Muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or injuries related to motor vehicle accidents or sports injuries; muscle spasms associated with Parkinson’s disease; restless leg syndrome; fibromyalgia; chronic hives; Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis; preventing migraine headaches when taken regularly before they become severe enough that they require treatment with prescription drugs like Imitrex.


Why are painkillers addictive?

The reason that painkillers are addictive is that they work by changing the way your brain responds to pain. 

Taking a painkiller changes how your body feels and moves by mimicking the effects of naturally occurring chemicals called endorphins. 

These substances are produced by our bodies whenever we’re stressed or excited, and they help us feel happy, relaxed, or focused. 

Taking a painkiller can trick your brain into thinking these same feelings are happening again—and so you get addicted!

If you use these drugs regularly over time, your brain can become dependent on them for them to feel normal. 

This means that if someone was addicted before quitting cold turkey (or any other way), there might be intense cravings when trying not only because their mind wants them (due to being used) but also because their body needs them (because of what happens during withdrawal).


What makes you more likely to become dependent on painkillers?

Several risk factors may make you more likely to become dependent on painkillers. These include:

  • A lack of sleep
  • Stress in your life
  • A family history of addiction or substance abuse
  • Certain mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can also put you at higher risk for abusing prescription drugs. In addition to being more likely to develop an addiction, people who have these conditions may be prescribed painkillers to manage their symptoms. However, you need to understand that even if you don’t have any medical condition requiring pain medication treatment and if your doctor doesn’t prescribe narcotics specifically for your use but instead recommends taking over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen; there is still a chance that they could become addicted because they’re taking high doses regularly which can lead into dependence if not monitored closely by someone who knows what they’re doing like doctors would do when prescribing meds and therapists if needed too!


How do I know if I am addicted to painkillers?

If you are asking yourself if you have a problem with painkillers, it’s essential to understand what addiction looks like and how it manifests in the body. 

There is no quick answer to this question. The signs of addiction vary from person to person and depend on your unique circumstances and history. 

However, some commonalities can help you determine whether your use of pain medicine has become a problem—whether or not you believe yourself to be addicted or not.

  • Physical Signs: Painkillers can affect the way the brain perceives pain, so some people who take them for legitimate medical conditions find that they need more medication than initially prescribed for these effects (and their ability to relieve pain) to remain consistent over time.
  • Behavioral Signs: You may also notice behavioral changes when taking higher doses of opioid medications like Vicodin or oxycodone.
  • Psychological Signs: Some people feel less anxious after taking opioids because they work by binding receptors in the brain responsible for regulating dopamine production and release; this has been shown by many studies over several decades.
  • Emotional Symptoms When Quitting Pain Medications


When should I seek addiction treatment?

If you are taking more than the recommended dosage and/or using them more often than intended, it’s time to consider getting help. 

There are a few other signs that indicate when it’s time to consider addiction treatment:

  • If your medication is causing problems in your life, such as trouble sleeping or staying awake, difficulty concentrating or remembering things, withdrawal symptoms like shaking or sweating, depression or anxiety—all of these could be signs of painkiller addiction. Doctors say that if you have tried to stop using and failed multiple times, this may be an indication that you need some kind of professional help. You should also seek medical attention if your doctor has told you directly that he thinks you’re addicted; this isn’t something most doctors do lightly.


Treatment programs for painkiller addiction

The treatment of painkiller addiction depends on the severity of your dependence and any other mental health issues you may face. 

If you’re struggling with addiction, there are a few different types of programs that can help:

  • Inpatient treatment. This is the most intensive form of care and involves living at a facility for several weeks or months while receiving medical supervision from doctors, nurses, and counselors. During this time, patients receive medication management and therapy sessions to address underlying psychological issues that could have contributed to their painkiller abuse.
  • Outpatient treatment. Patients who don’t require full-time intensive care can opt for outpatient treatment instead, which allows them to continue living at home but still receive care from psychiatrists or therapists during regular visits.

It’s important to note that no matter which type of program you choose, medication is often an essential part of the recovery process because it reduces cravings and blocks the effects of opioids. 

When used correctly under medical supervision—and combined with therapy sessions—medication can help ease withdrawal symptoms while also preventing relapse during recovery.


Takeaway: If you think you might be addicted, you should seek treatment

Painkillers can be very effective in treating pain, but they can also lead to addiction. 

If you think you might be addicted, you should seek treatment. There are many types of treatment programs available for people who have been prescribed or have used painkillers.

There is a list of resources that provide information about treating opioid addiction and helping someone who is suffering from this disorder. 

For example, the NIDA website provides information about how family members and friends can help those with substance use disorders; what medications are available to treat opioid dependence; ways for people with opioid dependence to get help; and more details about the different kinds of treatments that are available for opioid dependence.

You should also look into any specific state-sponsored drug abuse programs in your area if possible because these programs may offer additional resources that could be beneficial to you or someone else struggling with painkiller addiction.



If you think you might be addicted to painkillers, many treatment options are available. 

You should seek help immediately before the addiction gets worse or leads to other health problems.


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