Last Updated on February 26, 2019 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Painkillers are sometimes used to treat debilitating pain or stress. These drugs simultaneously help the body’s nervous system block pain and stimulate portions of the brain that create pleasure. As such, painkillers can be highly addictive.

Opioids are the most powerful painkillers. These drugs may be prescribed to treat chronic pain, but they are usually intended for short-term use.

Ongoing painkiller use may lead to physical and psychological dependence and various long-term health risks. To better understand painkiller addiction, let’s take a look at 10 of the most addictive painkillers, along with the risks associated with these drugs.

1. Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid commonly used to treat cancer patients. Fentanyl use often results in a short-term high, and the drug is 50 times more potent than heroin as an analgesic, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Additionally, fentanyl is sometimes used to increase the potency of heroin.

The side effects of fentanyl use can be significant. Short-term fentanyl symptoms include drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and respiratory depression. Meanwhile, a fentanyl overdose may cause coma or respiratory failure that ultimately leads to death.

2. OxyContin

OxyContin is a time-released form of oxycodone, an analgesic used to alleviate pain. Doctors may prescribe OxyContin to people dealing with pain related to injuries, cancer, arthritis, and other health conditions.

Generally, those who are prescribed OxyContin should take the drug with or without food approximately every 12 hours. However, OxyContin may cause dry mouth, constipation, drowsiness, and other side effects following initial use. OxyContin has also been linked to severe side effects such as seizures, fainting, and abdominal and stomach pain. In rare instances, OxyContin causes allergic reactions like rashes, itching, and trouble breathing, too.

3. Demerol

Demerol, also referred to as meperidine, is commonly used to address moderate to severe pain. It may be administered before or during surgery. In some instances, Demerol is also used to treat ongoing pain.

Nausea, constipation, vomiting, and sweating are among the most common short-term side effects of Demerol. The drug sometimes causes abdominal pain, mood changes, hallucinations, and other serious side effects as well. Prolonged Demerol use has even been linked to serotonin syndrome, a condition that raises the body’s serotonin levels and may be fatal.

4. Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone, aka Vicodin, contains both an opioid pain reliever and acetaminophen, a non-opioid pain reliever. It helps alter the body’s response to pain. At the same time, hydrocodone helps reduce fever symptoms.

Common side effects of hydrocodone include anxiety, dizziness, lightheadedness, and upset stomach. Also, severe side effects associated with hydrocodone include shallow breathing, confusion, fear, and loss of appetite.

5. Morphine

Morphine is sometimes prescribed to relieve severe pain that cannot be controlled with other pain medications. It may be prescribed as a liquid or extended-release tablet or capsule. Morphine helps alleviate pain for up to four hours when taken as a liquid or up to 12 hours when taken as an extended-release tablet or capsule.

Short-term side effects of morphine include dry mouth, mood changes, drowsiness, and difficulty urinating. Comparatively, severe side effects of morphine include skin discoloration, hallucinations, agitation, and seizures.

6. Percocet

Percocet is a pain relief medication that consists of oxycodone and acetaminophen. It may be prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain and can be formulated to different strengths.

Common side effects of Percocet include dizziness, nausea, confusion, and constipation. In some cases, Percocet users experience severe side effects such as difficulty breathing, “pinpoint pupils,” and extreme lethargy.

7. Codeine

Codeine is a prescription pain medication. Also, codeine is sometimes used in combination with other medications to treat coughing; in this instance, codeine reduces activity in the brain that causes coughing.

Codeine use may result in itching, shallow or noisy breathing, changes in heartbeat, and nausea, among other side effects. In severe instances, codeine may cause cardiac arrest, shock, and circulatory depression.

8. Methadone

Methadone is a painkiller unlike any other. It gradually reduces pain, delivering effects much slower than morphine and similar painkillers. Methadone also blocks the high commonly associated with painkillers like codeine and oxycodone.

Although methadone is sometimes used to treat addiction, it may actually do more harm than good, and the drug itself can lead to addiction. The short-term effects of methadone use include constipation, itchiness, restlessness, and slow breathing. Methadone side effects can escalate over time, and severe side effects of methadone use include lightheadedness, chest pain, and hallucinations. If a person uses methadone over an extended period of time, he or she may experience lung and breathing problems as well.

9. Dilaudid

Dilaudid may be used to alleviate severe pain. It is commonly prescribed in extended-release tablets and modifies the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain.

Side effects of Dilaudid include dry mouth, anxiety, depression, and heavy sweating. Dilaudid side effects may worsen due to prolonged use, and severe side effects of Dilaudid include difficulty breathing, chest pain, and seizures.

10. Oxymorphone

Oxymorphone changes the way the body responds to pain. In doing so, oxymorphone helps relieve moderate to severe pain.

Following oxymorphone use, an individual may experience red eyes, a fast heartbeat, nausea, and other short-term side effects. A person may also experience severe side effects such as seizures, changes in heartbeat, and hallucinations due to long-term oxymorphone use.

Prescription Painkiller Addiction Is an Ongoing Problem in the United States

Prescription painkiller addiction is a major problem in the United States, which is reflected in the following statistics from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM):

  • In 2015, there were 20,101 overdose deaths linked to prescription pain relievers.
  • 122,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 years old reported having an addiction to prescription pain relievers in 2015.
  • Between 1994 and 2007, the prescribing rates for prescription painkillers among adolescents and young adults nearly doubled.
  • Approximately 80% of all new heroin users start out misusing prescription painkillers.

Treating prescription painkiller addiction often proves to be difficult. For instance, if a person addicted to prescription painkillers suddenly stops taking these drugs, withdrawal symptoms may occur. As this individual’s withdrawal symptoms escalate, it may be tough for him or her to avoid relapse. Perhaps worst of all, this individual may binge-use painkillers, increasing his or her risk of a fatal overdose.

Take the First Step to Treat Painkiller Addiction

For those who are currently dealing with a painkiller addiction, help is available. In fact, Clear Sky Recovery offers a safe, effective ibogaine therapy program to help individuals address the root cause of a painkiller addiction. Our ibogaine therapy program enables patients to identify and treat their addictive behaviors. Plus, our program is personalized to a patient and ensures he or she can achieve long-term addiction relief.

Don’t wait to get help with a painkiller addiction. To find out more about Clear Sky Recovery’s ibogaine therapy for painkiller addiction, please contact us today at 305.901.5371.