Pain is a natural sensation that humans and animals experience when they are injured. Pain from an injury can be dull, sharp, throbbing, or shooting. When pain persists, it can become very difficult to function daily because of the discomfort and distraction it causes. It is a common question that many people ask themselves: How long can I keep taking pain pills before they become addictive? The answer to this question varies depending on the type of pain medication, as some are more habit-forming than others.
Pain medications can be very helpful when used for short periods, but the risk of using these meds becomes greater with prolonged use. Furthermore, there is a distinction between physical dependency and addiction. Addiction occurs when painkillers are abused or taken in higher doses than what is prescribed. Physical dependency on narcotic analgesics will only appear after taking them over an extended period to treat chronic conditions, otherwise known as an opioid-use disorder. When dependency has developed, it may take some time before the person who is addicted realizes they have a problem because withdrawal symptoms don’t usually begin until after several days without any drugs at all. Below are factors that affect how often can a person take pain pills before they become addicted.
Type of medication
If the medication is OxyContin, for example, addiction may happen much faster than with other painkillers. OxyContin contains oxycodone, which has a high potential for abuse and opioid-use disorder development. The risk of addiction is even greater when OxyContin is broken or ground up and then snorted or injected to achieve a faster and more intense high than taking the drug orally as prescribed.
Dosage and length of use
Taking large doses can also lead to addiction, although this mostly occurs when medications are taken above the recommended dose or in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol. Once physical dependency has developed, taking lower dosages becomes less effective at managing symptoms because higher amounts are needed to alleviate pain. In some cases, people continue to take opioids but experience withdrawal symptoms because the brain has become accustomed to a certain level of drug in the system.
Some people have a genetic predisposition towards physical dependency and addiction, which essentially means that they have inherited genes from their parents that increase their risk of developing these conditions. In general, opioid addiction occurs when someone takes another person’s medication or buys prescription drugs illegally. Not only is this illegal, but it can also be dangerous as it may lead to an overdose, especially if too many painkillers are taken at once due to users not knowing how much medication they actually need to produce the desired effect. Whether a person becomes addicted after taking a few pills or several doses over several months really depends on how easily the person can develop a tolerance to certain drugs and how susceptible they are to physical dependency.
As you can see, it is difficult to determine an exact number or frequency of painkillers that will lead to addiction because there are so many individual factors involved. The most important thing anyone taking these medications can do is educate themselves about the medication they are taking and the risk factors for developing a tolerance or becoming addicted, such as who in their household has a history of addiction or what other types of medication they might be taking with the opioids. If you have concerns about your risk for addiction, the safest course of action is to share your concerns with your physician, who can help determine if you might benefit from a different kind of treatment.
Chemical makeup of medication
Generally speaking, certain medications contain chemicals that make them more addictive than others, even when taken exactly as prescribed by a doctor. Drugs like oxycodone, for example, contain a chemical called oxycodone which is known to be highly addictive. Drugs like hydrocodone or morphine include a derivative of opium and have similar effects on the body as heroin. Other drugs like heroin also affect the brain’s neurotransmitters similarly to many opioids and can be equally habit-forming if used recreationally.
The risk of addiction varies widely depending on the medication taken, its chemical makeup, dosage, and length of use. However, taking any medication with knowledge of these factors can help reduce the risk of becoming addicted. Talk to your doctor about what you are taking so they can suggest alternative treatments for pain management if necessary. Call us at 833-820-2922.