Updated on February 9, 2024
5 min read

How Do You Spot and Treat Analgesic Addiction?

Analgesics are used to relieve pain and are available by prescription or over-the-counter (OTC). Healthcare providers commonly prescribe them for cancer, surgery, chronic or severe pain, and serious injury.

Analgesics are broadly categorized into non-opioid and opioid types, with each functioning differently in the body and carrying distinct risks. Despite their effectiveness, these pain medications have a potential for tolerance and addiction, leading to severe consequences like overdose and death.

From 2010 to 2017, there was a rise from 21,089 to 47,600 opioid overdose deaths.1 This number remained consistent until 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Are Analgesics Addictive?

While non-opioid analgesics generally have a low risk of addiction, misuse can still result in drug dependence. Prescription opioid misuse due to chronic pain is also common and quickly leads to addiction.

Opioids bind to the brain's receptors, producing a sense of pleasure and influencing reward pathways. This recurrent stimulation contributes to the cycle of reinforcement, resulting in repetitive drug use.

Over time, this develops tolerance, requiring increased doses for the same effects. Once a person develops tolerance, physical dependence sets in, wherein discontinuation leads to withdrawal symptoms.

What Are the Other Risks of Analgesics Use?

Aside from tolerance and addiction, the use of analgesics can also cause mild to life-threatening effects like arthritis, liver injury, kidney damage, and severe recurrent headaches. If mixed with alcohol, they can also amplify the substance’s side effects.

What Are The Signs of Analgesic Addiction?

Opioid addiction symptoms vary from person to person and may include these physical and psychological changes. Once tolerance develops, a person will need to take higher opioid doses to achieve the same physical effects.

Other signs of analgesic addiction include:

  • Feeling an intense need to use opioids regularly
  • Experiencing an inability to focus on routine daily tasks
  • Being unable to stop using the opioid on your own
  • Experiencing financial difficulties connected to opioid use
  • Resorting to dangerous behaviors to obtain the drug, such as stealing
  • Engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of opioids
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping or limiting opioid use
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Poor hygiene

What are Analgesic Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms?

The onset of withdrawal symptoms typically occurs several hours after discontinuing analgesic use. These symptoms include:

  • Muscle pain
  • Bone pain
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Cold flashes
  • Dyskinesia (involuntary movements, especially in the legs)
  • Severe opioid cravings
  • Night sweats
  • Temperature dysfunction
  • Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation)

What Is an Analgesic Overdose?

An analgesic overdose occurs when you take more of a drug than the recommended dose. Overdosing on opioids can cause your breathing to slow or stop, which reduces oxygen reaching the brain. 

As a result, you can quickly fall into a coma, suffer brain damage, or even die. In the event of this emergency, healthcare professionals administer Naloxone to block the physical effects of opioids.

In 2021, reported deaths from opioid overdoses rose to 80,411.1

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Online Therapy Can Help

Over 3 million people use BetterHelp. Their services are:

  • Professional and effective
  • Affordable and convenient
  • Personalized and discreet
  • Easy to start
Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Woman drinking coffee on couch

What Are The Treatment Options for Analgesic Addiction?

The standard approach for treating painkiller addiction often involves a combination of medications like buprenorphine, methadone, or naltrexone. These medications manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and support people in their recovery journey.

Psychotherapy, counseling, and support groups are also commonly integrated into the treatment plan to address the psychological aspects of addiction and promote long-term recovery.

Rehabilitation is also a treatment option for analgesic addiction and incorporates the methods mentioned previously.

How Can You Prevent Analgesic Addiction?

To help prevent opioid dependence and addiction, it's essential to follow these steps:

  • Only take analgesics as prescribed: Don't take more than the necessary dose or for a longer period than your doctor prescribed.
  • Avoid sharing prescriptions: Never share medications, as this can lead to dependency and other health risks.
  • Keep track of your medication: Keep them safe and secure, and monitor how many you have left to prevent accidental overdose or misuse.
  • Educate yourself and others: Share information about the dangers of analgesic use, its potential for addiction, and ways to seek help with friends and family.
  • Seek alternative forms of recreation: Find alternative activities that are enjoyable and don’t involve drug use.
  • Seek help for mental health conditions: Don’t self-medicate and seek proper treatment and support.

What Are Opioid Analgesics Interactions?

Always consult a medical professional before analgesic use. Tell your doctor about all supplements, OTC drugs, and prescription medications you’re taking to avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions.

Substances that can interact with opioid analgesics include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Diuretics, warfarin, clopidogrel, apixaban, dabigatran, or rivaroxaban
  • Acetaminophen: Alcohol, warfarin, isoniazid, diflunisal, carbamazepine
  • Opioids: Alcohol, anti-seizure medications, benzodiazepines, antibiotics, antidepressants, antifungals, antiretrovirals, sleeping pills, anti-psychotics, muscle relaxants

Get Professional Help

BetterHelp can connect you to an addiction and mental health counselor.

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Rehab Together

Resources for Help and Support

If you or someone you know is struggling with analgesic drug addiction, there are resources available to help. Consider reaching out to:

  • National Helpline: 1-800-237-TALK (8255)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Treatment locator
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
  • Your primary care provider or a mental health professional: Consult them for personalized guidance and treatment options


Analgesics are drugs to manage pain. OTC analgesics are generally non-habit-forming, but prescription opioids can be addictive and dangerous.

Misusing opioids can lead to tolerance, dependence, addiction, overdoses, and death. If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, seek professional help immediately for a healthier life.

Get matched with an affordable mental health counselor

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Updated on February 9, 2024

Related Pages