Prescription Opioid Addiction – What To Do If You Fear You’re Developing An Addiction

Pain is a terrible, debilitating thing [1]. Those who suffer from chronic pain would do almost anything to relieve their suffering. Unsurprisingly, medical science has devoted considerable time and resources to solving the problem of pain – and they’ve developed some pretty effective painkillers. Unfortunately, nothing comes without a price. Arguably the most effective kinds of painkillers are opioids. We’ve been using opioids to medicate ourselves for centuries, in the form of laudanum, opium, heroin, and (more recently) things like vicodin and oxycodone. They’re very effective – but also dangerously addictive. In some parts of the world (notably the USA [2]), addiction to prescription painkillers is becoming a major public health issue – and Australia is fast catching up with America’s prescription opioid addiction position [3]. If you’re on prescription painkillers, and fear that you may be becoming addicted, what should you do?

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Learn The Difference Between Dependency And Addiction

While we know that prescription drug abuse is a problem, we’re less familiar with quite how it manifests, and what can be done about it [4]. How can this be? Well, up until very recently, the only kind of opioid abuse which got any attention from researchers was intravenous heroin use. People addicted to prescription opioids tend to take them in differing formats, and the addiction frequently progresses down a differing path from that of heroin users. As a consequence, many who are deep within the throes of addiction have absolutely no idea that they have a problem, while others may worry that they are dangerously addicted when they are in fact just mildly dependent. But isn’t it bad to be dependent on drugs? Well, yes and no. Anyone who takes prescription opioids for pain will develop a physical dependency of some sort, and will probably start to develop a tolerance to them after a while [5] – meaning that dosages have to be upped. So long as you keep your doctor informed about your tolerance levels, and any withdrawal symptoms you may have from your painkillers, it should be perfectly possible to manage your prescription quite satisfactorily without true addiction ever developing. However, if you find yourself taking more painkillers than you need, becoming deceptive about your drug-taking behaviour, and going out of your way to obtain more painkillers (among other things), then you may need to take a long, hard look at yourself.

Be Honest With Yourself About Prescription Opioid Addiction

It can, in all fairness, be difficult to discern where dependency ends and addiction begins. However, there are certain warning signs [6] that your pill-popping is becoming problematic. If you find yourself perpetually so drugged up that you are listless, drowsy, and unable (or unwilling) to participate in your regular activities, then you may have a problem. If your painkillers are interfering with your cognitive abilities or state of mind, then you may have a problem. If your painkillers are more important to you than your friends, family, appearance, behaviour etc then you may well have a problem. If you lie about how many pills you have taken (or obtained), or lie to obtain more pills, then you probably have a problem. It can be tough to admit that you may have an addiction to painkillers – particularly when you need them to prevent awful pain. However, for the sake of your long-term health and relationships, it is important to be honest with yourself about these things.

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Seek Help, And Find Alternatives

If you think that you are addicted to painkillers, don’t panic. It can be a long, tough, and tiring process – but it is perfectly possible to treat these addictions. If you’re scared that you’ll be immediately taken off your pain pills and all of your pain will come flooding back, then don’t be. Doctors who know about pain and addiction are well versed in treating pain through managed opioid doses [7] in addicted individuals. It may require rather more regulation and overseeing than you’re used to, but your pain will be kept at bay without your addiction getting any worse. If you would prefer not to use opioids at all, then there are a surprisingly high number of effective alternatives by which you can manage your pain in a non-addictive manner. Speak to your doctor, or seek out an addiction specialist. It is perfectly possible for all of your problems to be treated, and for an effective outcome to be achieved.


[1] Margarita Tartakovsky, “Living with Chronic Pain and Depression”, Psych Central

[2] Nora D Volkow, “America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse”, National Institute On Drug Abuse, May 2014

[3] The Cabin, “Prescription Drug Addiction in Australia is Out of Control”, Sept 2015

[4] Anne M Fletcher, “What Do We Really Know About Treating Prescription Opioid Addiction?”,, Feb 2016

[5] Institute For Chronic Pain, “Tolerance To Opioid Pain Medications”

[6] CBS News, “Five signs a loved one is abusing painkillers”, Feb 2013

[7] Pain Edu, “Treating Patients with Pain and Addiction Issues”


Author’s Bio

It’s been a long road to the point Mel Chester finds herself at now. She’d originally battled opioid addiction during her mid twenties, after an accident left her in pain and immobile. Whilst in recovery, she tried many other therapies and found Yoga to be one that helped her immensely. After a career in the health care industry, working with other addicts, she took a short career break to become a mom – and now is in the position of being able to work from home, spend time with her family and write for a living

Mel Chester

Freelance writer