Why are Painkillers so Addictive?

Why are painkillers so addictive? Those that have been prescribed painkillers might wonder what their chances are of becoming addicted to the painkiller drugs. There are others that simply use painkillers as a way to get high, thus abusing painkillers in an often-illegal manner.

That leaves those who have been prescribed painkillers or simply those who use painkillers improperly and illegally at an increased risk of being addicted to the painkillers. But why are painkillers so addictive? Keep reading to learn more about the ingredients used in painkillers to help those with injuries and chronic pain manage their pain, but also cause a risk of becoming addicted to the drug.

Why Are Painkillers So Addictive?

Addiction is a behavioral phenomenon that is often defined as a compulsive use of a substance. There are painkillers that have specific ingredients that work to control certain parts of the brain so the individual becomes both physically tricked into feeling addicted to the drug as well as mentally addicted to the painkillers. Those with an addiction to painkillers often exhibit signs of losing control of oneself, losing focus unless you are on the drug and the focus of that person's life becomes the drug ruling out all other priorities and responsibilities.

With addiction to painkillers comes the physical dependence. This takes place when your body physically encounters withdrawal symptoms once the drug is not taken for a certain period of time. If a person is taking a drug that is in the opioid category, they are likely to begin withdrawal symptoms once their body becomes dependent on the drug. Part of developing a physical dependence and an addiction to opioids includes building a physical tolerance of the drug. This is a physiological process and includes developing the need for an increased dosage to produce the same desired effects as the drug was giving in the beginning. Once the receptors in a person's brain recognizes that same dosage over and over, it builds a tolerance to the opioids and requires an increased dosage to see those same effects. For example, a person with physical pain that has become addicted to the painkillers will begin needing to take more and more pills in order to obtain the same level of pain relief that they were getting in the beginning with a lesser dosage.

There are certain types of opioids and painkillers that are more likely to cause an addiction. Higher dosages of any narcotic containing opioids are more likely to cause an addiction faster and stronger. With some painkillers that are short acting, they build up in a person's bloodstream, but then are quickly depleted out of the body. That is why a person is more likely to become addicted to the drug. Those painkillers that are newer to the market are less likely to be addictive because they are released slowly into the bloodstream, which helps reduce the tolerance build up that many other painkillers cause that help lessen the risk of addiction to the painkiller. 

There are a few different ways to help prevent the risk of painkiller addiction. To start, it is less likely to develop a painkiller addiction in those pain patients that use other methods of pain management therapy to help manage and cope with their pain. Because of this they will be less likely to rely solely on the painkillers to help deal with their chronic pain. Other ways to help prevent painkiller addiction is to always follow the instructions on prescription drugs given by the doctor. Also be sure and talk to your doctor or health care provider if you feel like you might be developing an addiction to the medication. Doctors will also likely wean then off the drug in order to prevent addictive behaviors between the patient and their painkillers. 

Sources: medicinenet.com

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