Using Opioids For Chronic Pain Frequently Leads To Addiction

Tablets, caplets, and capsules

Millions of Americans use doctor-prescribed opioid medications to combat the symptoms of their chronic pain, but these drugs can often lead to an equally significant problem.

A new survey, released this week by the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation, showed that one-third of Americans who took prescription painkillers for at least two months became either physically dependent or addicted to them. These findings are particularly troubling because more than 60% participants noted that their doctor provided no information on when or how to discontinue using these medications, while 20% reported that their doctor didn’t sufficiently disclose the side effects and addictive potential of prescription painkillers.

“We’re not saying that no one should ever be on these pills, but most people would be healthier and more functional if they were off them, said Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The bottom line here is that prescription opiates are as addictive as heroin. You take a few pills, you can be addicted for life. You take a few too many and you can die.”

However, the survey showed that most of these opioid users reported that the drugs significantly improved their quality of life. Two-third of users said the potential risk of addiction was worth continuing to use them because the drugs reduced their chronic pain symptoms so that they could work walk, hold down a job and pursue other leisure activities.

But while prescription opioids can be beneficial for some people with chronic pain symptom, there is an undeniable issue with overprescribing them. CDC data showed that U.S. doctors wrote a staggering 240 million prescriptions for opiates in 2014 enough for every American to have their own bottle. The federal organization issued new guidelines earlier this year related to these narcotics, encouraging doctors to try non-narcotic methods first before prescribing powerful opioids.