Treatment for Painkiller Abuse

Treatment for painkiller abuse needs to involve both physical and psychological help. Addiction to pain medication is a serious problem. Treatment for painkiller abuse and drug addiction can include counseling as well as inpatient or outpatient drug treatment programs.

Painkiller abuse is a serious problem, but it can be effectively treated if individuals seek help. Between 1995 and 2005, the number of people seeking treatment for painkiller abuse and addiction increased by more than 300 percent. People who abuse painkillers need to be treated for physical dependence, psychological dependence, or both.

The first step in overcoming painkiller abuse is to recognize that you have a problem. For many people this does not come until their painkiller abuse has led to painkiller addiction that has disrupted their lives or caused them legal problems. Treatment for painkiller abuse may be more complex for these individuals and for patients with a history of substance abuse or addiction than for those patients who realize early that they are abusing painkillers, but there is help for anyone who is abusing painkillers.

A person should not stop taking painkillers suddenly; they need help to overcome their physical dependency or addiction. A person seeking treatment for painkiller abuse have a number of sources to choose from:

  • Doctor
  • Hospital
  • Counselor
  • Rehabilitation center or detox program

Depending on the seriousness of the painkiller abuse, a doctor may recommend various types of treatment programs. Medical detox programs can be short or long, and can be inpatient, where the patient lives at the hospital or facility, or outpatient, where the patient stays at his or her own home at night. Inpatient programs tend to be more effective for most people, especially if they have developed a dependence on the painkillers.

Painkiller withdrawal can cause serious psychological pain involved with the feeling that the patient needs the painkillers, as well as physical symptoms like:

  • Cramping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety

The symptoms of withdrawal may need to be treated or eliminated for the patient to overcome their painkiller addiction. This can be done with synthetic opioids. These are drugs that were developed to help heroine addicts overcome their addiction and work with other opioids like painkillers.

  • Methadone is a synthetic opioid that blocks the effects of heroin and other opioids, like painkillers. It eliminates painkiller cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It has been used successfully for over 30 years to help people overcome addictions to heroine and other opioids.
  • Naltrexone is an opioid blocker used to treat people who are very motivated to overcome addiction to painkillers and to avoid using opioids again. It can help prevent painkiller abuse relapse.
  • Naloxone is used to treat overdoses of opioids and can counteract the effects of painkillers.
  • Buprenorphine is another synthetic opioid. It is a more recent medication created to treat addiction to heroine and is effective for other opioids.

Once patients have completed a detox or therapy program to deal with their addiction, they will need to find ways to cope with pain that do not involve opioid painkillers. Doctors, counselors, or physical therapists are some of the medical professionals who can help with pain management that is safe for recovering painkiller addicts.

The success of painkiller abuse treatment varies from person to person. The more committed a patient is to overcoming their addiction, the more effective their treatment is likely to be. Support from family, friends, and doctors helps a recovering addict stay away from painkillers. Joining a support group can also help a person to avoid relapsing following painkiller abuse treatment.


National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA InfoFacts: Prescription Pain and Other Medications [online]

Parents: The Anti-Drug, Prescription Drug Abuse, Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse [online]
Jeanie Lerche Davis, WebMD Health News, Getting Past Painkiller Abuse, December 8, 2003 [online]

Related Article: Prescription Drug Statistics >>