Painkiller & Prescription Drug Addiction

In recent years, the UK has seen a considerable rise in painkiller and prescription drug abuse. For the majority, a prescription drug addiction will start by voluntarily taking prescribed drugs from a doctor, which over an extended period of use, they become dependent.

Drugs that give pain relief (aka ‘painkillers’) such as Oxycodone, Fentanyl, Codeine, Morphine and Paracetamol are commonly used by a wide variety of people in different situations and are capable of becoming habit forming and can therefore be considered to be potentially addictive. While many people consider common painkillers to be harmless, the reality is that in certain situations and with regular use they can cause organ damage and even death.

What are the effects of a prescription drug addiction?

A prescription drug or painkiller dependence can be psychological, physical, or a mix of the two. Some prescription drugs can cause a physical dependence due to chemical changes in the user’s brain after long-term use. The body adapts to the presence of the drug, which may lower the effect of the drug and as a result, the brain can become dependent. Those with a prescription drug addiction will either develop an addiction over time, directly from the prescribed use or will abuse them to experience the high or euphoric effect – without any real continued need for the medicinal benefits.

Even when a desire exists to stop the use of prescription drugs, users will still experience a mental compulsion to take them.

There are three different classes of prescription drugs that are the most susceptible to abuse:

  • Stimulants – most commonly prescribed for ADHD
  • Opiates and painkillers – most commonly used to treat chronic or severe pain
  • Tranquilisers or sedatives – often prescribed to treat anxiety or sleep disorders

A prescription drug or painkiller addiction is progressive and, in severe cases, can be fatal. Once users develop a tolerance, they will need larger amounts of the drug to experience the same high, meaning the risks from the drug are higher. If users cannot legally attain a higher dosage, they will often buy the drug from online pharmacies or other (unreputable) sources, leaving them unaware of what may be in the drug they’re taking. After developing a prescription drug addiction, users will often find themselves going to extreme lengths to access more, regardless of the consequences.

What are the effects of a painkiller addiction?

Painkilling drugs are particularly problematic for the body and mind over extended periods. It is well known that they can damage the liver and other vital organs of the body, but additionally the mood and psychology of the user can be greatly altered too. The perception of the safety of common painkilling drugs comes partially from them being so easily available in our lives, yet to rely on their use is to invite a great deal of uncertainty and risk – how many of us are aware that the actual mechanism by which Paracetamol works in our body is not yet fully understood?

Possible harmful effects of extended use of painkillers include:

  • Reduced immune function and increased risk of infection.
  • Impairment of most internal organs, including the heart, kidney, liver, lungs and digestive system.
  • Reduction of mental capacity.
  • Death (either due to toxicity or risk of accidental overdose).
  • Emotional and psychological instability.
  • Specific psychological difficulties – including paranoia, confusion, mood swings and personality shifts.

Treatment for painkiller addiction and prescription drug abuse

Effectively helping those suffering with a prescription drug or painkiller addiction begins with a detoxification process. Individuals that have become dependent on prescription drugs should detoxify their body from all remaining substances in a safe, controlled environment, whilst under medical supervision. They should not attempt self-detoxification, which can potentially be dangerous and result in extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which may even be life-threatening.


For more information on the treatments services offered by Charterhouse Clinic for drug addiction, please visit our drug addiction treatment page.

If you or a loved one needs prescription drug help, we can arrange emergency admissions to accommodate those at risk of overdose.

If your enquiry is urgent, please call 01327 340 990 or 0808 123 0222.

Our team of experts can directly arrange pre-planned admissions for drug detoxification and recovery, so please do not hesitate to contact us.