Painkiller Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Navigating the path to recovery after a major surgical procedure or a significant injury may involve the use of prescription opioid painkillers. While these medications effectively alleviate physical discomfort and pain, they also induce a profound sense of relaxation and euphoria. The combination of these pleasurable sensations and the highly addictive properties of opioids can swiftly trigger the development of addiction to painkillers.

Signs of Painkiller Addiction

Many people who misuse prescription painkillers that are addictive go to great lengths to hide their intake. This means that it may not always be evident to their loved ones that they are battling opioid dependency. That said, there are many physical, behavioral, cognitive, and psychosocial painkiller addiction signs to watch out for.

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Physical manifestations of painkiller addiction

  • Appetite loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Constricted pupils
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Development of tolerance to opioids
  • Withdrawal symptoms in the absence of opioids
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Constipation
  • Cardiac complications 

Behavioral manifestations of painkiller addiction

  • Doctor shopping to obtain more opioids
  • Shifting energy levels
  • Increased consumption of prescription pills
  • Dishonesty
  • Impaired professional performance
  • Discontinuation of previously enjoyed activities
  • Ongoing use of opioids despite adverse outcomes
  • Loss of impulse control
  • Social isolation

Cognitive manifestations of painkiller addiction

  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Euphoria
  • Reduced decision-making abilities

Psychosocial manifestations of painkiller addiction

  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Depression

Developing an awareness of the signs of these diverse markers of painkiller addiction can help you intervene promptly if you suspect a loved one is abusing prescription opioids.

an image of pills representing painkiller addiction

Symptoms of Painkiller Addiction

Painkiller addiction is clinically described as opioid use disorder, one of ten sub-types of addiction (substance use disorder) recognized by APA (American Psychiatric Association) in DSM-5-TR (the revised fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). These are the eleven DSM symptoms of painkiller addiction:

  1. Taking larger amounts of painkillers or using painkillers for longer than intended.
  2. Making frequent unsuccessful attempts to moderate or discontinue use of painkillers.
  3. Spending lots of time obtaining and using painkillers or recovering from their effects.
  4. Experiencing powerful cravings for painkillers.
  5. Failing to meet personal or professional commitments.
  6. Ongoing painkiller use despite misuse triggering social or interpersonal problems.
  7. Spending less time on previously favored activities.
  8. Using painkillers in potentially dangerous situations.
  9. Sustained use of painkillers even though opioids are causing or inflaming a physical or psychological condition.
  10. Tolerance developing so that more opioids or more frequent doses are required to deliver the initial effects.
  11. Withdrawal symptoms manifest when the effects of opioids wear off.

If you or a loved one exhibits two or more of these signs of addiction to painkillers, this may indicate the presence of an addiction. Seek professional evaluation and appropriate treatment to move from active addiction into ongoing recovery – read on to discover how you can achieve this.

Painkiller Addiction Treatment

Treating someone who is addicted to painkillers requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the physical, psychological, and social aspects of addiction. While everyone has a unique experience of using painkillers, there are some standardized and evidence-based treatment approaches that can effectively treat painkiller addiction.

The first phase of prescription painkiller addiction treatment typically involves a supervised medical detox. During prescription drug detox, individuals can be gradually tapered off painkillers under close medical supervision. This may involve the substitution of opioids for painkillers that aren’t addictive. Supervised detoxification helps manage the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings, while addressing the issue of physical dependence. Ongoing treatment is normally required to tackle the psychological component of addiction.

Medication-assisted treatment is proven effective for treating opioid use disorder. FDA-approved medications like methadone and buprenorphine may be administered as part of an MAT approach. Medications can reduce cravings, alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms, and support sustained recovery from painkiller addiction.

Behavioral interventions like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy), MI (motivational interviewing), and CM (contingency management) can be effective for treating the psychological side of painkiller addiction. Through ongoing therapy sessions, individuals can learn strategies to cope with addiction triggers, manage urges or cravings for opioids, and develop more positive patterns of thoughts and behaviors.

Many people grappling with painkiller addiction also have co-occurring mental health disorders. When addiction and mental health issues present simultaneously, this is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Integrated and coordinated treatment is proven more effective than treating each condition in isolation.

Participation in support groups such as NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or SMART Recovery provides a robust support network of individuals who have lived similar experiences and challenges. These groups can provide powerful peer support, ongoing encouragement, and an appropriate platform for sharing coping strategies and experiences of recovery and addiction.

To complement these science-backed modalities, most reputable rehabs also offer a variety of holistic treatments. Engaging with mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or other complementary treatments may improve overall well-being, promote relaxation, and reduce stress. Additionally, many holistic treatments help individuals with addiction to increase self-awareness.

All addictions are chronic and relapsing disorders. All the best painkiller addiction treatment involves a comprehensive aftercare plan that may involve ongoing outpatient therapy and the administration of non-addictive painkillers. Shortcut your search for assistance, even if you have been abusing the most addictive painkillers, by placing your trust in California Detox.

an image of California Detox's prescription drug rehab

Get Treatment for Painkiller Addiction at California Detox

If you have developed an addiction after the sustained use of prescription opioid painkillers, we specialize in the treatment of opioid addiction at California Detox in Laguna Beach, CA.

Access FDA-approved medications and continuous emotional care by engaging with our supervised opioid detox program. After a week or so of detoxification, you can move into ongoing treatment. Our inpatient treatment program provides the most structured and supportive pathway to ongoing recovery. 

All treatment programs at our affordable luxury rehab facility combine evidence-based treatment like MAT (medication-assisted treatment) and psychotherapy with holistic interventions for a whole-body approach to healing.

Call 949.694.8305 today for immediate assistance fighting back against opioid addiction.


Yes, some painkillers can be addictive. Opioid painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone have a high potential for addiction due to their ability to induce euphoria and relaxation. Tolerance and dependence can also develop rapidly, frequently leading to addiction (opioid use disorder).
Why are painkillers addictive? People can become addicted to painkillers due to their potent effects on the reward system of the brain. The sustained use of painkillers can lead to the development of physical and psychological dependence, as well as triggering a desire to experience the pleasurable effects again. Beyond this, variables like genetics, co-occurring mental health conditions, and social or environmental factors can also contribute to the development of painkiller addiction.


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