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Prescription painkillers are among the most addictive substances in America. Millions of prescriptions for painkillers are written nationwide with many users developing an addiction on just their prescribed dose.

Painkiller Addiction Defined

Addictions to painkillers can start with a person’s prescribed dose. Painkillers are some of the most prescribed drugs in America, inviting the highest levels of addiction due to both their potentially euphoric nature and quick development of dependency.

Addiction is defined as a physical dependence and psychological compulsion. Continued use of painkillers can cause the user to develop a physical dependence on them. Physical dependence is marked by tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. The psychological compulsion means a person will continue to use the drug in spite of negative consequences.

Painkiller Addiction Statistics

An addiction to prescription painkillers is more common than you might think. There are some alarming statistics for painkiller abuse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

4.7million people

There are an estimated 4.7 million people that are dependent on painkillers in the United States.

300percent increase

The sale of painkillers has increased by over 300 percent since 1999, creating more instances of abuse and addiction.

7%become addicted

Up to 7 percent of people who are prescribed opiate or analgesic pain killers will become addicted.

If you have a dependence on painkillers, help is right around the corner. Recovery is possible as long as you’re willing to take the first step.

Commonly Addictive Painkillers Include

  • Codeine: Formulated to relieve mild to moderate pain and coughing, codeine is a less potent opiate that is easily obtained through a prescription. Commonly abused among young adults, codeine is often combined with sugary drinks in a mixture referred to as purple drank or sizzurp. Codeine can be a gateway drug to other, more dangerous opiates.
  • Darvocet/Darvon: Though now banned by the FDA, Darvocet and Darvon were propoxyphene-based painkillers that were responsible for thousands of hospitalizations and deaths during their prime. Today, these addictive drugs or others like them may remain in circulation.
  • Demerol: A narcotic used to treat moderate to severe pain, Demerol is less frequently prescribed in modern times because of its high potential for addiction. Demerol is the brand name for meperidine and has euphoric effects similar to morphine.
  • Dilaudid: Sometimes called “hospital grade heroin,” Dilaudid is a powerful opioid painkiller. Available in extended-release tablets, Dilaudid is especially dangerous for people without a tolerance to opioids, as abuse can quickly lead to breathing problems or even death.
  • Fentanyl: A synthetic painkiller that is up to 100 times as potent as morphine, fentanyl is only used in cases of severe pain where the patient is tolerant to opioids. When used in conjunction with other painkillers including heroin, fentanyl can quickly lead to overdose and other dangerous side effects.
  • Hydrocodone: A main ingredient in many powerful painkillers, hydrocodone can be found in drugs such as Vicodin and Norco. It is typically combined with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but the FDA has also approved pure hydrocodone medications. They are all highly addictive.
  • Methadone: An opioid used for moderate to severe pain, methadone is also used as a way to curb cravings for people who are addicted to other opiates, including heroin. Despite its use for helping treat other addictions, methadone is still an addictive substance in its own right.
  • Morphine: An extremely potent opiate, morphine has been touted as a godsend for people suffering from severe chronic pain. It is also one of the most addictive substances around and responsible for a large amount of unintentional drug-related deaths nationwide.
  • Oxycodone: One of the most addictive drugs available by a prescription, oxycodone is sold under different brand names including OxyContin and Percocet. It is one of the most widely prescribed painkillers and has a high potential for abuse.

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Finding Treatment for Painkiller Addiction

An addiction to painkillers can be debilitating, expensive and dangerous. While many people are struggling with this type of addiction, there are just as many people who are qualified to help treat it.

Finding a good treatment center will help you break free from your painkiller addiction and get your life back. There are many treatment facilities with qualified addiction counselors and therapy programs that have been proven effective. Based on your location, price range and personal needs, we can help you find the treatment center that will help you overcome your painkiller addiction.

Find a treatment center that’s right for you.

Sources & Author Last Edited: April 6, 2016

  1. American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse, Science of Addiction. National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007.
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