Yes, pain killers are addictive — even those prescribed by your doctor.
From Opium to Demerol
Our problems with addictive drugs go back 3000 years. From opium’s long history of addiction, the medical community calls any addictive drug an “opioid.” Modern opioids include opium, Hydrocodone, Lortab, Oxycodone, Oxycontin, hydromorphone, dilaudid, Percocet, Lorcet, MS Contin, Heroin, and Demerol.
Illegal and Legal Opioid Drugs
- Illegal – Street dealers sell illicit opioids largely for recreational purposes.
- Legal – Physicians, however, prescribe licit opioids from pharmaceutical companies which manufacture under strict government regulations.
Even if you have a prescription for it, you can become dependent on or addicted to an opioid drug, so you need to understand how they work and what to do.
Three Responses to Drugs
While I do not enjoy rats — as Lily Tomlin said, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” — modern laboratory rats help make clear our ancient issues with pain killers. William Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage.” In a laboratory full of rats, pull back the curtain, lay an opioid drug on the stage, and watch the players.
Most rats sniff the drug and refuse it. Perhaps they think it’s poison. They don’t mess with it. Scientists call these rats “drug-free.”
Some rats eat a little opioid from time to time. They start feeling crummy when they don’t have their drug, so they take drugs to feel good. Scientists call these rats “drug-dependent.”
A few rats consume all the opioid you put in front of them and start looking for more. Nothing else matters – not food, not sex, not the exercise wheel – they only do drugs. Scientists call these rats “drug-addicted.”
People in Pain
The rats have something in their genetics that we can’t blame on bad family or environment. We human beings, however, are much more precious, valuable, important than rats.
Our family influences can help keep us free from dependency & addiction or they can put us at risk.
We do not fit neatly into slots like lab rats do, if you feel you’re having a problem with pain killers, don’t waste time asking, “Am I dependent or addicted?” Just get help to fix the problem.
Do you have drug-related concerns about friends or family members or yourself? Invite your loved ones to click here for further articles in this series as we explore how humans can relate to opioids with freedom, dependency, or addiction.
This column is for information and education only and is not intended to be a substitute for seeing a medical provider for healthcare attention. This web site does not diagnose or treat any medical disease, disorder, ailment, etc., or otherwise practice medicine. Always consult your healthcare provider prior to embarking on or making any changes in any medical or psychiatric problems. Dr. Buckmaster does not receive funding from any pharmaceutical company, but is a self-reliant, independent, solo-practicing physician.