Pain Management Specialist Questions Pain relief drugs

Can pain relieving drugs become addictive?

I recently read a report that said pain relieving drugs could become an addiction for people in no time. Is this true?

4 Answers


Pain relieving medications can become habit forming but most are not "addictive" per se. The classes which are more at risk for being habit forming or addictive are the opioids and benzodiazepines.

Nichelle C. Renk, M.D.
Certain pain relieving drugs can become addictive. Other alternative therapies including non addictive drugs and modalities including physical therapy should be considered.
There is a big confusion among millions of people who think powerful narcotics could lead to early onset addiction. Narcotics (Opioids) will cause rapid onset of physical dependence. This means that if you do not take the narcotic(s) for a period of time you can go into Opioid withdrawal. This concept is physical dependence on a drug. If you take narcotics and you constantly think about getting high and always thinking of where you are going to get your next fix, then that is an addiction. Two things that drive addiction: euphoria/getting high and prevention of bad feeling of narcotic withdrawal.
If you are asking about opioid medications for pain relief, then yes. All opioids have that addiction side effect profile. The research shows it doesn't take a long time to become "addicted" to these meds. Some show time as little as 2 weeks. However, there are many factors that come into this such as reason for taking the pain medication. Many people take pain medication for the wrong reason, like stress or escape. These medicines are not meant for that use. Or use of these medications after the pain has subsided and some patients take it in fear of pain coming back.

There are other meds that don't have that side effect such as NSAIDs. These are very helpful in relieving pain without causing addiction.