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Prescription Painkillers: Which are the Most Addictive?

A depressed woman sitting outside runs her hands through her hair.
We all know that painkillers can lead to addiction, but some will lead to it faster than others.

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Painkiller addiction can happen to anyone who decides to take them. That’s why it’s important to know exactly what you’re taking and only take the doctor’s recommended dosage. If your back goes out, don’t take your neighbor up on his offer to give you a few leftover pills or borrow your spouse’s medication. You don’t want to take the wrong dosage or take something you don’t need, which is why you should get rid of your left over pills after you no longer need them.

Anyone who has any of the following should have a careful discussion with their doctor about alternatives to prescription painkillers:

  • A family history of addiction
  • Co-occurring conditions such as depression, anxiety or attention deficit disorder
  • Past exposure to traumatic events such as war, a natural disaster or violent crime

The Truth About Addictive Painkillers

There was a time when prescription painkillers weren’t considered to be dangerous. In fact, in the past, they were marketed to be helpful and safe to use.

Let’s take OxyContin as an example. Its maker, Purdue Pharma, put out shiny brochures and videos clearly stating that only one percent of opioid users become addicted.

However, more than 7 million Americans are estimated to have abused OxyContin since its 1996 debut according to a Los Angeles Times investigative report. And when they couldn’t get enough Oxy, many of those people turned to heroin.

The Most Addictive Pain Pills

While all of the following painkiller are addictive, some are more dangerous than others. In general, the stronger the painkiller, the more addictive it is.

  • Fentanyl. This is only prescribed after other medications fail to control a patient’s pain. It is often prescribed to cancer patients. This drug is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, it is being illegally manufactured and mixed with other drugs, making it one of the most dangerous painkillers out there. In fact, the CDC reported last year that fentanyl is involved in more than half of the opioid-related deaths across 10 states.
  • Opana. Seven times stronger than morphine, this drug was actually pulled from the market by the FDA due to its risk of abuse.
  • Dilaudid. This drug is four times stronger than morphine. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it has “a high potential for abuse and use may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”
  • OxyContin/Percocet. Dubbed “hillbilly heroin,” OxyContin is one of the most commonly prescribed painkillers. The makers of OxyContin were forced to pay more than $600 million in fines for misleading the public about the drug’s addictiveness. The drug was also reformulated to prevent abuse. However, it’s been reported that many users have found ways to still inject the drug.
  • Vicodin. This drug has equal strength to morphine and was reclassified from a schedule III drug to a schedule II drug in 2014. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 24.4 million people ages 12 and older in the United States used hydrocodone (the chemical name for Vicodin) recreationally at some point.
  • Demerol. This drug was the world’s first synthetic opioid. It’s about one-third as strong as morphine and has the possible side effects of high fever, seizures, delirium and tremors.
  • Ultram. While this drug is only one-tenth as strong as morphine, it’s extremely dangerous as it increases the risk of suicide. In fact, in 2010 added a warning label to the drug stating that is especially dangerous for people with previous “emotional disturbances or suicidal ideation or attempts.”

Addictive Painkillers and the Raleigh House

If you’d like to get painkillers out of your life, we can help.

At The Raleigh House, you’ll be assigned your own master’s level therapist who will work with you to come up with a plan for rehab—and to rebuild your life. One-on-one and group therapy sessions will help you heal emotionally, while chef-prepared meals and activities like yoga and boxing help heal your body. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about the painkiller addiction treatment program at The Raleigh House, which is located in Denver, Colorado.

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