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Am I addicted to pain medication?

12 answers | Last updated: Mar 03, 2015
Caring.com User - Leslie Kernisan, M.D.
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Dr. Leslie Kernisan is a senior medical editor at Caring.com and a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics....
96% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

No, unless you have a history of substance abuse, having to increase the dosage of your pain medication doesn't mean you're becoming addicted. Doctors are usually careful to start people See also:
Can I Become Addicted to My Prescribed Opioid Pain Relievers?

See all 71 questions about Addiction & Alcoholism
on pain medicines at low doses, with a plan to slowly increase the dosage as needed until, together, the doctor and patient find the right dose needed to control the pain. Some people need only a low dose of pain medicine, but others need higher doses; that's just the way some bodies and some types of pain are. Since it's usually not safe to start with a high dose right off the bat, a period of slowly adjusting the doses upward should be expected.

For some people and some medicines, there's also an element of building up a tolerance, which means the body gets used to the medicine, so that higher doses are needed to get a certain painkilling effect. This is not the same thing as becoming addicted. Addiction means that a person has cravings for the drug and engages in behaviors that are counterproductive to happiness and success in order to get it.

Finally, many people have to increase the dosage of their pain medication because the condition causing their pain is getting worse. Common examples include worsening arthritis or the progression of cancer.

Many people get confused because when they don't take their medication, the pain comes back. Then they think they're addicted to the medication simply because they need it. But this isn't addiction either. Yes, they're dependent on the medication; they need it to control their chronic pain. All that this means is that they're in pain without it. Their need for the medication won't go away because their pain doesn't go away.

That being said, it's an unfortunate fact that a small minority of people taking painkillers will become addicted. These are usually people who have had problems with substance abuse before starting pain medicines. Signs of addiction include cravings, getting pain medicines from several different providers, and being dishonest about the medication with family and physicians. If these signs come up for you or your loved one, get professional help as soon as possible.


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85% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

Alot of people think that because you need pain medication on a daily basis is considered addicted. Thank you for clearing that up. I am on a daily pain medication and without it, the pain increases. As long as you said that going to extreme measures to get pain meds, it isn't an addiction. Although many people may disagree, they are not informed or are blind to it and have no idea what we go through.


75% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

Your right Debbie, I've had doctors come right out and ask if I'm a drug seeker. I have chronic pancreatitus which can be so painful that I want to take a gun and end it. I stay away from inner-city doctors that take your inventory in 1 minute and quickly say no to pain meds. I wish I could give them a night of my pain and that would fix that problem. I have reduced my consumption of oxy by 70%, yes I can still feel my pain; however, I'm not looking at my Glock. There will always be people who abuse the system, but I refuse to allow someone in a white coat telling me how my body feels. I survived a horrific operation that came inches away from killing me. The good news is that there are good doctors that do care and are willing to help painful patients. My girlfriend is a nurse and I hear about how some nurses steal pain meds. One nurse was on herion (RN). They are no different, you have the right attitude. Thank you David


71% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

I've been on pain meds for over 6 years for cronic pain in my back, I take 5 pills a day and am able to go days without one if needed too with no side affect, so I agree that just because your on them dosn't mean your an addict or addicted. I have no past drug abuse issues nor does my family...although there are people that get pain meds just for the high, these are the people that make it more difficult for accuall people that do need it...if you can cut yourself off of pain meds for a day or two like I have been doing because I didn't need them that day, the less chance you become depended on them.


17% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

I have a long history of Drug Abuse. I was on Acid for 4 years before a stunning moment of clarity (and a very bad trip that made me hurt someone I cared for) drove me to become sober. I managed to stay that way for 10 years so far. I now have been diagnosed with Fybromyaglia (please pardon my spelling). I am on Celebrex and 7/750 Vicodin, I am so afriad of becoming addicted to the Vicodin but so far I haven't been using it unless I am in extreme pain. Does anyone have any other suggestions for pain control? tks BB


83% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

bbj I too have FM and I actually thought that I was an addict so I sought out help from a family therapist. It took me a while to come to terms with the chronic pain associated with FM. Ask yourself this one question, by taking pain medications does it help with the quality of your life? I used to just hole up in my room, didn't want to participate in anything ... I thought if I just stayed quiet and didn't move around that the pain would improve and maybe go away! The bottom line here is that I take the medications before the pain becomes too severe! I can actually say that this helps and it helps me interact with family and friends. Don't hide out from your pain and start logging and assigning your pain a #. It's amazing what you find out, certain triggers, stress, physical activity and even the weather! If you approach it with accountability and family advocates you may find that you need less in order to feel normal so to speak. Have you tried any of the newest drug therapies like Cymbalta or Lyrica or even Neurontin? Hope this helps! Your not alone!


A fellow caregiver answered...

1st correct me if I am wrong. All Meds are poison. The amount depends on what it does for you. 2nd If you take opiates, you a sterotyped as a druggie by Dr., Family, friends, and general public. 3rd. If you are taking strong pain killers you are replacing your natual ability to fight pain. Most important is. If you are taking these meds. There should be a 2 part program. 1st control the pain for some quality of life. 2nd the Dr. shold be doing everything possible to find and fix the problem so you don't need the meds. Most meds have seriuos side effects. I use Morphine. The side effect is resotory sytem issues. Not something you want to fool around with. Most other meds have worse side effects. My rule of thumb is; if I get to a point where I feel really good when I take the Med, I don't need as much. That where abuse and addiction starts. Sorry for the spelling, 1 final thing. 5 years from now we will all be taking MJ for Pain...lol 1 MJ = 1 pack of Marlboro think about your lungs.....The pain med issue changes every 5-8 yrs so we will see where we go.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Thanks for your input. I also take morphine for pain, 30mcg daily and at that dosage it helps my my pulmonary system muscles relax so that I can exercise thereby improving respiration. A pain management M.D. told me that the morphine could have this effect. Perhaps a muscle relaxer would do the same thing? I don't know who to ask but if anyone does please advise, thanks.


A fellow caregiver answered...

I'm just going to quite frank. First of all, thanks for the opening article and the honesty about people who choose take pain medication for recreation or who actually need it. I had a procedure done on my shoulder after extreme exertion to the shoulder over the summer with different jobs I was doing. One of which included moving about four tons of sod and dirt after extending the driveway for a ramp to reach pavement from the back off the house for my Stage IV handicapped father. I also have to help lift him in odd positions to help with showers and so forth. At any rate, I abuse my shoulder quite a bit and had to have an injection by a specialist. Prior to that referral I was prescribed Vicodin ES. I really was concerned about the Acetaminophen. I had that Dr's partner a friend of my father prescribe Norco which was way more adequate and helps with my daily tasks and doesn't make me sleepy. However, when I told the specialist about the Vicodin ES he erupted as if I had murdered someone and acted extremely inappropriate along with his nurse and proceeded to stereotype me with construction workers whom he deals with all the time and how he doesn't prescribe narcotic pain medication. Meanwhile I was shocked by the reaction much less able to respond. He finished and prescribed me Tramadol which has terrible caused terrible side effects and I don't even take it. I know the injection is helping but I'm an avid gym member and want to rebuild strength. I however, continue to have issues with this shoulder and regular strength OTC's don't help. The Norco at 7.5/325 is really helpful but he refuses. I have cancelled my follow up visit after they way they treated me on the phone just for asking and wonder what I should do. I injured this shoulder playing high school football a few times as well and think I may have developed some Chronic issues. Not to mention Migraines are genetic from my mothers side. I need a pain management doctor that will prescribe me this medication to take as needed so I can be an adequate caregiver for my father and not worry about the tasks that have to be done. Is there any advice on how to get a prescription for chronic pain with being accused of a drug addict or being stereotyped with other patients and my bodies ability to handle different amounts of pain medication. I'm six foot and way close to 200lbs so it takes a fair amount of medication to be effective. What should I do? I have a small prescription of this medication but it will run out soon. I need a Dr. who is willing to trust me and let me take care of my business.


A fellow caregiver answered...

I'm glad to see this blog. I've had 3 surgeries in three years and often worry about becoming addicted to pain medication. I started to see a therapist because of my constant stress due to chronic pain and wanting reduce my meds. My husband gives me a very hard time about taking them also. Lucius, it took me a while to find a good specialist and i felt extremely blessed and relieved when I did. Drs give you a very hard time about being on pain medication. Ive left offices in tears because of remarks made to me. I've heard there are only 3 specialist in my state. It takes me an hour to get there, but it's worth it. They are very understanding. So search for Pain Management Specialist in your entire state. Mine also does physical therapy and vitamins, which are also helpful.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Hello to all who've posted or not. I would like to start by saying that my childhood was less than ideal which led me to heavy drug use as a youth and stopped at 19. I honestly thought that chapter was over for me, but I couldn't have been more wrong. I was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer at 26 and after surgeries, etc., I was given vast amounts of pain medicine. No doctors told me of the risks involved and set me free. Long story short, I quickly became addicted. It was the lowest point in my life and took me nearly 2 years to beat. I'm now 34, and have been on Percocet 7.5/325 x 90 every 30 days for degenerative disc disease and scoliosis. My body is severely misaligned and causes intense pain and the condition is highly verifiable through x-rays and MRI. Not to mention I'm totally crooked and anyone can tell how bad it is by looking at me. The difference between then and now? I became a Buddhist and found meditation and self control. It's not easy, but I can do it. I am also VERY honest with my doctor about my past and offered to let her put me on a pain management contract. This is in place so that I have more monitoring in place. If she wants, she can call me on any random day and request that I come in and bring my pills.Well, if she counts them and sees tthat I'm missing more than I should have, we have a problem. I've not violated this trust or contract and never plan to. I'm not saying religion is for everyone, but honesty IS! If you have a past, be assured your dr, new or old will find out through records and cross references. If you are abusing it, please tell them. A good doctor should understand and offer the proper help. Good luck to you all!