Blog | Drug Addiction

10% of Patients with Painkiller Scripts Develop Addiction

Painkiller addiction in the United States has skyrocketed in the last decade. For example, in 2012, healthcare providers wrote 259 million painkiller prescriptions. This amount is enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.[1]

Despite widespread education available on the subject, the problem is a constant struggle for millions of people. Statistics have found that an estimated 10 percent of patients who are prescribed opiate painkillers (e.g., Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, etc.) will develop a dependence on their medication.[2]

Currently, opioid-based medications are handed out liberally to patients who seek to manage chronic pain. According to the researchers on the study, the sharp increase in painkiller prescriptions has correlated with an increase in related issues, including painkiller overdose, painkiller dependence, and withdrawal symptoms triggered by painkiller detox.

Researchers are not saying all chronic pain patients should stop taking their medication, but say that they are uncertain that the benefits from opioids compensate for this additional burden to patients and healthcare systems. So what are the other options?

Mitigating Painkiller Abuse and Addiction

Pharmacist collecting prescription drugs

Because of these risks for addiction, the medical community has taken great strides to better educate physicians about long-term painkiller use. In some states, doctors are required to check and update a statewide prescription drug database to ensure patients are using their medications safely. This helps prevent some individuals from abusing the system by seeking multiple scripts from different doctors–or filling a single script at various pharmacies.

The pharmaceutical companies have been compelled to do their part as well. Many have created tamper-resistant versions of their most addictive medications. These safeguards make it more difficult for patients to snort the drugs.

Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, deputy director of regulatory programs at the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, says this is one of the many activities being done by the FDA to address opioid-related overdose and death. The FDA is focused on the development of opioids with abuse-deterrent formulations.

Additionally, legislators have reclassified hydrocodone-based drugs. This change makes it harder for patients to get large amounts of these medications at once. The new reclassification also increases the level of medical monitoring patients receive when using the medications over an extended period of time.

Alternative Pain Management

For those who struggle with chronic pain, there may be other ways to help patients to manage pain. Effective holistic and alternative therapies are available. Some possibilities include physical therapy, massage and bodywork, herbal ointments, essential oils, yoga, and gentle exercise. Though patients who struggle with intense chronic pain may not be able to discontinue painkiller use, they may be able to manage their use of the pills more safely.

Treatment Can Help

For those who already live with an active painkiller addiction, preventative measures and new legislation may not be enough to help. However, treatment services can help patients stop drug use safely. Rehab helps individuals make changes that will allow them to remain drug-free for the long-term. If you have any questions, please know that you can reach out to us at Michael’s House. We are ready to help.


[1] https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/opioid-prescribing/ Opioid Painkiller Prescribing.

[2] https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2018/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse.