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Will I Become Addicted to Pain Medications?


Updated September 06, 2013

Question: Will I Become Addicted to Pain Medications?
Many orthopedic procedures and treatments involve the treatment of pain. After surgery or after an injury, your pain treatment may include the use of narcotic medications. While these medications are potentially addictive, they are often necessary for adequate treatment. When used properly, they do not have addictive qualities.
Answer: Pain treatment options often involve the use of narcotic medications. A narcotic medication is a medicine that is chemically related to opium. In the setting of pain control, narcotics include medications such as:
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin
  • OxyCodone
  • OxyContin
  • LorTab
  • Darvocet
  • Codeine
  • and others...
Narcotic medications work against the receptors for pain in the body to prevent you from experiencing painful symptoms. Unlike anti-inflammatory medications, narcotics do not diminish the problem causing the pain, rather narcotics cover up the painful symptoms.

Patients given narcotic medications are often worried about addiction. Narcotic medications usually do not cause an addiction when prescribed by a physician for acute pain, but the use of these medications does need to be monitored by you and your physician. Narcotic medications are best used for acute pain, such as pain in the immediate time following an injury or surgical procedure. Addiction to these medications is not common, and usually occurs when patients take the medications for effects other than pain relief.

Patients prescribed narcotic medications who have concerns about addiction should talk with their doctor. Taking medications for significant pain following injuries or surgery does not create addiction. It is important for pain symptoms to be adequately treated. Unfortunately, some patients are so fearful of pain treatment, they may be unable to perform their proper rehabilitation.

Patients can ensure that pain control will not become a problem by ensuring they are also treating pain with non-narcotic treatments and only taking narcotic medications as necessary. If patients have a history of problems with addiction to any substance, they should discuss this with their doctor. These patients may benefit from working with a physician who specializes in pain control. Patients who have problems with addiction should let their doctor know before they undergo elective surgical procedures that they may need special attention to their pain control. With anticipation, and an understanding of pain medications, pain control should be accomplished for all patients.


"Physical Dependence, Addiction, and Tolerance" 2000-2005 Continuum Health Partners, Inc.

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