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What Are the Risks of Using Painkillers for Treatment?

prescription pad

Prescription painkillers are becoming an addiction epidemic for people across the country of all ages and backgrounds. The reason behind it is complicated but understanding how prescription painkillers lead to addiction and associated risks can provide insight into this growing epidemic.

Painkiller Addiction

Painkillers are addictive because, like heroin, they engage the brain much the same. Prescription painkillers have legitimate medical uses for people in pain as well as blocking those receptors and increasing dopamine. Medically speaking, they create a sense of detachment from pain across the board (physical and emotional). Dopamine serves as the brain’s ‘motivator’ and is closely tied to the reward system of the brain. This uses dopamine and a reward system for survival and reinforcement of pleasurable experiences. Prescription painkillers short-circuit this mechanism of providing pleasure in a more extreme form without presenting any benefit to survival.


Addiction is a trap that keeps people spiraling out of control on a dangerous cycle of dosage, withdrawal, cravings, and then more of the drug. The only way to overcome this is to re-establish normal brain function with total abstinence from the substance. Groups offer meetings to support people in recovery and inpatient treatment facilities provide space to detox, do rehab, and heal. One of the reasons that treatment with painkillers is difficult is due to the high likelihood of crossover addiction. When a person enters treatment for addiction, their brain and body are already wired for addiction. To get them off of it using some of the painkillers can be a tricky balancing act requiring people who are experienced in helping those trapped in addiction break free. Sometimes the best option is to stay away from use of painkillers in treatment, but it may be necessary for some conditions where nothing else is treating the pain. A treating physician experienced in this type of treatment should be able to support a person in deciding the best way forward.

Moving Forward

Rather than attacking specific substances, the only way to improve the state of painkiller addiction in America is to focus on addiction itself.  Encouraging loved ones to seek help is the only way to move forward and start to heal from the addiction crisis taking over people’s lives. The method of treatment is determined later, but the first thing is to support a loved one in overcoming denial so they can step forward into their future sober and clean.

Arbor Behavioral Healthcare knows that lifetime sobriety, health, and wellness, are completely possible. Each of our treatment programs offer the opportunity for holistic healing utilizing an integrative approach for the recovery of mind, body, and spirit. You can recover. You will recover. Call us today for more information: 844-560-7269