How can you tell if you're addicted to painkillers? I'm taking a morphine-based drug (OxyContin) and I'm worried about becoming addicted.
OxyContin (also known as Oxycodone) is a schedule II opioid pain reliever. That means it's a drug that can only be obtained from a doctor by prescription. It was first brought onto the market in 1996 so it is a relatively new drug.
OxyContin is a highly effective pain reliever used by millions of chronic pain patients. Unfortunately it does have a down side with long-term use because it is morphine-based and can be addictive. Morphine-based drugs bring pain relief but also a sense of euphoria and pleasure that can lead to abuse and addiction.
Long-term use of OxyContin leads first to tolerance. This means you must take larger amounts over time to get the same pain relieving (or euphoric) effects. Tolerance is not the same thing as addiction.
The next step is physical or psychologic dependence. Dependence means that without this drug, the body starts to go into withdrawal symptoms. The person is considered addicted when the drug is needed for the person to function normally and when withdrawal symptoms occur if the drug is stopped.
Talk to your doctor about your concerns. Find out how to manage your dosage to get the maximum benefit with the minimum amount of risk.
De-Yong L, et al. Chronic Pain and Genetic Background Interact and Influence Opioid Analgesia, Tolerance, and Physical Dependence. In Pain. April 2006. Vol. 121. No. 3. Pp. 232-240.
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