Painkillers are medications which are designed to alleviate pain and provide relief to individuals suffering from various forms of discomfort such as back pain, migraines, toothache and more.

Although painkillers can be very beneficial in helping people manage pain, there is a risk of certain types of painkillers becoming addictive if not used as they are advised. But are all painkillers addictive?

Find out more about different types of painkillers, the risks of painkiller addiction, and how to use them responsibly.


What Causes Painkiller Addiction?

Not all painkillers are addictive, and their potential for addiction varies depending on the type of medication and how it is used. Over-the-counter painkillers are generally safe and less likely to become addictive when used as directed, while prescription opioids can be addictive when misused.

The most addictive painkillers are opioids, as this type of drug causes a strong reaction in the brain. Opioid drugs trigger opioid-sensitive neurons in the brain and activate the reward centre, causing the user to experience pleasure and pain relief which can become physically addictive.

This sensation and chemical process in the brain is what causes painkillers to be addictive for some users.

Although painkillers are mostly safe to use if consumed for short periods and as recommended by a doctor, many painkillers can be addictive if not used properly.


Signs of Painkiller Addiction and Abuse

There are a number of signs of painkiller addiction and abuse, and this behaviour needs to be identified early to ensure that a serious prescription drug addiction doesn’t develop. Some key signs of painkiller addiction include:

  • Using painkillers for longer than advised.
  • Taking painkillers more often than recommended.
  • Crushing or using large quantities of the drug.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug.
  • Behaviour changes such as restlessness or mood swings.
  • Obtaining painkillers illegally or manipulating pharmacies to get more than prescribed.

If you or a person you know is showing signs of painkiller addiction, seek help or advice for prescription drug treatment today.


What Are Non-Addictive Painkillers?

Over-the-counter painkillers are the safest and least addictive painkillers available and do not require a prescription from a doctor. The most common forms of over-the-counter painkillers are paracetamol, ibuprofen, aspirin and low dose codeine.

These drugs are used to treat minor to moderate pain, such as headaches, period pains, fevers, cold or flu symptoms and sprains. Although it is important to use these painkillers as directed, they are not very addictive and can be a good treatment for relief of minor pain.

If you or somebody you know is concerned about the addictiveness of painkillers speak to a pharmacist or a doctor before using medication. The chance of an over-the-counter painkiller addiction forming is very low, so it is best to use these types of drugs if you are experiencing mild to moderate pain.


What Are the Most Addictive Painkillers?

As numerous painkillers are very addictive, following doctors’ orders is key to avoiding dependence developing. Learn more about the most addictive painkillers below:


Fentanyl can be extremely dangerous and is one of the most addictive opioids and is typically prescribed for cancer patients or people with severe, chronic pain. Fentanyl has been a huge contributor to the opioid epidemic in America and is also an issue in the UK. It is known to be highly addictive, which is why it is usually only prescribed as pain relief for people on end-of-life care.


Codeine is a relatively safe painkiller when bought over the counter in pharmacies or supermarkets, but prescription codeine is a stronger medication which is more addictive than non-prescription drugs.

Codeine addiction can develop when used in large quantities for long periods of time and can be detrimental to livelihoods if an addiction develops.


Oxycodone is a very strong painkiller which is typically prescribed for people experiencing severe pain that cannot be controlled by other medications. Dependence on Oxycodone is very common so the drug is only prescribed if other painkillers are not working and use is usually monitored to ensure abuse of the drug is not developing.


Co-codamol is a prescription drug that consists of paracetamol and codeine. It is used to treat moderate pain such as toothache, migraines, and muscle pains. Although it can be safe for use when bought over the counter, prescribed co-codamol can be very addictive with long term use so following guidance is very important.


Risk Factors for Painkiller Addiction

A painkiller addiction can be a result of multiple issues and can develop in anyone. Unfortunately, painkiller abuse can occur even if the drug is not abused. Many people consume painkillers for longer than recommended to manage pain, not realising that tolerance to the drug is growing which means that more is required to experience pain relief. This can easily develop into painkiller abuse.

Despite this, there are some factors that make painkiller addiction more likely to occur in some people. This includes:

  • Family history of addiction
  • Genetics
  • People with mental health issues
  • Stress levels
  • Environment
  • Relationships and friends

Learn more about prescription drug addiction here.


How to Avoid Painkiller Addiction

To ensure the safe and responsible use of painkillers, it is important to always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions when taking painkillers and manage your drug use carefully. If you have concerns about painkiller addiction, seek help from your GP or reach out to professionals such as our team for help.

Even if you feel as though the painkillers are not working or you need a higher dose, sticking to guidance is key to avoiding developing an addiction.

If your pain is not severe, opting for over-the-counter painkillers is another way to reduce the risk of addiction as these can be very effective at pain management.


Treatment for Painkiller Addiction

If you are showing signs of prescription drug addiction to painkillers, seeking professional help is the best and safest way to recover. Your local GP can offer advice and guidance to help you safely withdraw from painkiller use, or you can reach out to a drug treatment centre such as ours at Asana Lodge.

At Asana Lodge we provide prescription drug rehab and can offer medically assisted detox for people suffering from painkiller dependence on drugs such as Co-codamol, Fentanyl, Codeine, and more. Whilst not all painkillers are addictive, prescribed opioids can become addictive if not used properly.

Get in touch today by filling out our contact form or phone us on 01908 489 421 for more information.

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