The Truth About Painkiller Addiction and Abuse

Addiction is a common problem for many individuals around the UK. While addiction to substances such as alcohol or illegal drugs is well known, most people are unaware that painkiller addiction is on the increase. Opioid medication such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, tramadol and morphine are highly addictive, but because these are often prescribed by doctors or by medical staff in hospitals, many are unaware of the dangers they pose.

The issue of painkiller addiction was highlighted in April 2016 with the death of pop superstar Prince, but his was not the first high-profile death from this type of opiate addiction. Michael Jackson also died from an accidental overdose of prescription medication in 2009. Both men had been addicted to painkillers initially taken for a legitimate medical condition. Their deaths highlighted the fact that these pills can be extremely dangerous and that they are a common cause of addiction.

How Painkiller Abuse Can Lead to Painkiller Addiction

Many people abuse prescription medication without even realising. They will self-administer higher doses of strong painkillers and be unaware that this constitutes abuse. Prescription medication such as opioids should only be taken over a short period because of the addictive nature of these substances.

The body quickly adapts to the pills, which is known as an increased tolerance. The effect of this is that the drugs no longer provide the same relief that they once did. With the drugs not providing the expected respite, there is a temptation to take more of it. However, taking more of the substance can mean that the body will soon begin to develop a dependence and will crave the drug when the effects wear off. It is easy to develop a painkiller addiction without even being aware of it. In many instances, those who have become addicted to their medication will only realise when their doctor stops the prescription.

Addictive Behaviour

Those with a painkiller addiction may begin to exhibit addictive behaviour long before they become aware of what is happening. The individual in question may start to suffer mood swings or become irritable unless they have had their medication. He or she might start to neglect responsibilities at home or work, and may spend less time with family members and friends.

Some people who have developed a painkiller addiction will become anxious as they near the end of their prescription, becoming desperate to source more medication. If their GP refuses to write a new prescription, the affected person might subsequently visit a number of other doctors in a bid to get more of the medication. Some will simply go online and search for the pills from an online supplier.

It may take a while before the fact that he or she has an addiction sinks in. Most are of the opinion that strong painkillers must be harmless if a GP has prescribed them. They do not comprehend the fact that a doctor can only prescribe these medications because of the highly addictive nature of the substances and that they are dangerous when abused. If these painkillers were harmless, they would be available to purchase over-the-counter.

Dangers of a Painkiller Addiction

It is easy for painkiller abuse to develop into a deadly addiction. Those who are affected by painkiller addiction are risking death by overdose, particularly if they mix their medication with other drugs or alcohol.

Those who source the painkillers online are also putting their lives at risk as many of the pills sold online are fake. They are mixed with harmful chemicals, which could result in dangerous consequences and even death.

Treatment for Painkiller Addiction

A painkiller addiction usually requires a programme of detoxification before treatment can begin. Most experts recommend a supervised detox as this is viewed as the safest and most comfortable way to quit a chemical substance. After the individual has quit taking drugs and all traces of it have been eliminated from the body, a programme of rehabilitation can be started.

It is important to remember that detoxification from painkillers can result in a number of withdrawal symptoms. The type and severity of symptoms depend on the kind of painkiller that the person was abusing, the length of time he or she was addicted, and a number of other factors such as age and overall health. Nevertheless, with a supervised detox, patients can expect the worst symptoms to be prevented by medical staff.


The process of rehabilitation usually takes place in a residential clinic or outpatient facility. Those who like the idea of a short but intensive programme would benefit from inpatient treatment. This will typically require a four-to-six-week stay at a residential facility with other recovering addicts. There will be staff on hand at all times to help with the recovery process as well as to provide advice and support.

Outpatient programmes vary in length, depending on the number of therapy hours each week. Some programmes do require attendance on a daily basis for a couple of months, but others will require weekly attendance for up to a year or more.

Recovering from a painkiller addiction is not a quick process; however, because addiction does not occur overnight, it would make sense that recovery is also something that takes time. It is also important to realise that overcoming any type of addiction, including a painkiller addiction, requires full commitment from the addict.

Counsellors and therapists can help when it comes to identifying the cause of the addiction as well as with helping with relapse prevention, but they cannot beat addiction for you. Unless you are prepared to face up to the reality of your situation and are willing to make the necessary changes, you will not get the most from any type of rehabilitation programme.

For help accessing treatment for addiction, contact us here at We can provide you with a comprehensive assessment of your illness and provide you with information relevant to your care. Our team of counsellors and therapists have experience when it comes to helping those with a painkiller addiction into treatment, and they can help you too. Call today for more information.

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