Painkiller Addiction

Estimated reading time: 27 minute(s)

Millions of people across the United States are prescribed painkillers every day. These highly potent medications can tackle severe pain due to injury, trauma, or a major surgical intervention and truly do a magnificent job of keeping an individual comfortable. However, even these medications carry the potential for addiction, especially when they fall into the wrong hands. Interestingly, painkiller addiction not only hits those who abuse them for fun but can also hit plenty of those who are taking them exactly as prescribed. Regardless of who acquires painkiller abuse, there are different ways to manage it safely before it starts affecting life.

Painkiller Addiction Symptoms to Look Out For

Determining if someone is suffering from painkiller addiction can be pretty challenging. Even if they are using their medications exactly as the doctor prescribed them, the risk of dependency is always there. Some potential physical signs of painkiller addiction include the following:

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Feeling high
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Altered breathing

As the abuse slowly progresses to transform into addiction, certain other behavioral pain pill addiction side effects may pop up. Some of these signs to watch out for include the following:

Excessive Mood Swings

An individual who is knee-deep in painkiller addiction may develop frequent mood swings. They may develop anger issues or become extremely hostile, negatively affecting their relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. The problems may persist to the extent that it leads to a breakup or the loss of a job.

Doctor Shopping

This phenomenon occurs when a painkiller addict uses their prescription pills earlier than the next scheduled refill due to overuse. Hence, they may attempt to visit different doctors and pain management clinics to get as many of these medications as possible.

Poor Decision Making

This includes engagement in risky activities and behaviors, such as acting impulsively or driving recklessly.


Painkiller addict tends to lie about their pain or may not be fully honest about how they use their medications.

How to Stop Painkiller Addiction: The Need for a Detox and Professional Treatment

Painkiller addiction is highly underestimated but a hazardous condition with the potential to destroy lives. Fortunately, many high-quality rehabilitative services are available to individuals fighting this type of addiction at specified treatment centers. These centers have specialized teams with qualified experts committed to helping their patients swiftly move toward a life without painkiller dependency.

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Because of how difficult it can be to admit to a painkiller problem and seek help, many rehab facilities provide free addiction assessments at designated clinics. These assessments give everyone a chance to come face-to-face with an addiction team in a private setting and open up about their challenges in a supportive environment. These sessions also help potential victims understand the need to seek help and know more about what to expect from their journey toward recovery.


Regardless of the type of painkiller an individual is addicted to, the first step toward a painkiller addiction treatment program includes detoxification. The process aims to rid the body of all painkiller traces and thoroughly cleanse the system to get over the physical aspect of addiction. Detoxification typically occurs in a controlled environment under the supervision of experts who monitor all patients from time to time. The aim is to make the process easier and more comfortable by keeping the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms in control.

Some salient features of a detox process at a painkiller addiction rehab include the following:

  • 24-hour care from a support team that includes detox professionals who ensure client safety as their top priority
  • A drug-free environment to minimize relapses
  • Using controlled medication to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay

The aim of the detoxification process is to make individuals physically stable so that they can safely move to the next part of addiction treatment therapy.


Once a client has been stabilized through detoxification, they can officially enter the rehabilitative phase of treatment. This phase focuses on helping these people overcome the psychological aspect of addiction through different evidence-based psychotherapies and other treatment modalities. A rehabilitation program may take place in one or more of the following settings:

  • The inpatient setting includes staying on campus and receiving care and therapy round-the-clock.
  • The outpatient setting involves daily therapy sessions, following which clients can return to their homes
  • Aftercare planning allows clients to continue seeking therapy and support in the community after getting discharged from rehab.

Throughout the different stages of rehabilitation, painkiller addicts get access to several therapies to overcome their addictive behaviors by killing their root cause. These therapies include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Meditation and yoga
  • 12-step facilitation
  • Music and art therapy
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing
  • In addition to the therapeutic interventions, clients also have a chance to engage in other healing practices such as:
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Spa and sauna
  • Equine-assisted therapy
  • Adventure hikes and trails
  • Swimming and other sports

Who Provides Painkiller Addiction Treatment?

Most rehabilitation centers offering treatment for painkiller addiction have dedicated teams of experts with expertise, knowledge, and training in the management of the issue. These experts are also dedicated and committed to delivering a detailed and evidence-based program to all clients through a person-centered approach to foster the best outcomes in each client. The members of these teams also remain up-to-date with the latest medical interventions, therapies, and breakthroughs in addiction. Moreover, the approaches they adopt for treating addiction also adhere to national guidelines. Mentioned below are some essential team members of a good addiction specialist team:

  • Addiction specialist: This expert performs all initial assessments to map out a plan of care as per personal needs
  • Detox team: This team includes physicians and nurses who overlook the detoxification process and help clients flush out all painkiller traces in a safe and comfortable environment
  • Substance abuse counselor: This addiction expert helps clients identify potential triggers and help them learn how to sort them out so they can eventually lead a life without using them
  • Inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation teams: These teams are responsible for taking care of their clients around the clock and typically  include doctors, social workers, nurses, addiction specialists, and mental health counselors
  • Medication specialists: The job of a medication specialist is to prescribe clients controlled medication to support withdrawal symptoms and minimize drug cravings to reduce the risk of a relapse


Why do people abuse painkillers?

The main reason why people abuse painkillers are to numb their pain. Others may use them legally or illegally to obtain other benefits, such as feelings of pleasure, relaxation, euphoria, or tranquility. These soothing effects are highly addictive and can force anyone to continue using painkillers in higher doses until they develop an addiction.

How does someone become addicted to painkillers?

Painkiller addiction can hit anyone regardless of the reason why someone is taking a painkiller in the first place or whether or not it is a legal drug. Many painkillers have a very high addiction potential as they change brain functions. Using these medications with other drugs or alcohol severely increases the risk of dependency and addiction. When an individual takes a painkiller, it switches off the pain receptors in their brain and leads to a euphoric feeling. With time, the receptors become used to the painkiller and require it in higher doses to shut down. This progressive increase in dose leads to dependency, which may make someone believe they are in more pain when they do not use their usual painkillers. This is a sign that your brain has developed tolerance to the medications and has already set on a dangerous use pattern. Additionally, many other factors contribute to the risk of developing painkiller addiction, such as an inability to manage stress, a history of trauma, genes, etc.

Who needs to attend a pain killer addiction treatment program?

Painkiller addiction usually has a slower progression, making it difficult for anyone to realize that they need help. In general, people who need to seek painkiller addiction treatment are the ones who heavily rely on these medications to fulfill their physical, psychological, or emotional needs. Some of them may feel the need to combine their painkillers with other medications or alcohol to increase their effects or maintain them. Engaging in drug-seeking behaviors may become a norm for them, and they may start going to more than one doctor to get enough refills to maintain their addiction.

How can I know if someone has taken an overdose of painkillers?

Individuals addicted to painkillers are at a very high risk of overdosing. A painkiller overdose may present with a handful of symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, destructive emotions, and loss of consciousness. Make sure to act quickly if you feel like you have overdosed on painkillers, as consuming them in more significant amounts can even prove fatal.

How long does it take to heal from painkiller addiction?

While painkiller addiction usually takes some time to develop, its onset is relatively quicker than other addictions. This quicker onset is because most painkillers, particularly opioid painkillers, carry a very high addiction potential and make the body get used to the high they bring. Breaking the cycle of such a strong addiction can be difficult and time-consuming but certainly not impossible. Different people usually take a different amount of time to heal from a painkiller addiction. A rehab team can be the best place to get an estimated timeline for recovery from this addiction. This team will analyze your personal circumstances, the severity of addiction, and other factors before providing an estimated time duration. Most people require at least 90 days to fully overcome this issue.

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