Painkiller Addiction


Painkiller addiction is a significant issue that has been exacerbated by various factors, as discussed by experts on a few podcasts.

  1. Origins of the Epidemic:

    • In the late 1980s, a movement among some physicians promoted the expanded use of opioids, advocating their use beyond hospice care to treating various kinds of pain. They pushed the idea that such medications were non-addictive for pain relief, which led to the liberal prescription of these drugs. Pharmaceutical companies, notably Purdue Pharma with its product OxyContin, supported this push 1.
  2. Mechanisms of Addiction:

    • Opioids can induce euphoria by acting on the brain's reward systems, which can lead to addiction. Over time, use of these drugs might require larger doses to achieve the same effects, leading to dependency and addiction. These drugs also affect natural brain systems like endogenous opioids, which play roles in both pain relief and reward 2.
  3. Social and Psychological Factors:

    • Loneliness can exacerbate opioid addiction. Opioids affect parts of the brain involved in social interaction and happiness, substituting the fulfillment one gets from relationships. This factor has contributed to the widespread addiction seen today, especially heightened during socially isolating conditions like the COVID-19 pandemic 3.

      The Painkiller Epidemic

      Learn how painkillers like OxyContin became a widespread problem, as pain specialists advocated for their liberal use and pharmaceutical companies joined the cause. Discover the origins of the painkiller epidemic and the consequences of their misuse and abuse.


      Sam Quinones on Heroin, the Opioid Epidemic, and Dreamland
  4. Withdrawal and Recovery Challenges:

    • Withdrawal from opioids is intensely discomforting and difficult. It encompasses both physical symptoms, such as pain and discomfort, and psychological effects, which include emotional distress and cravings. Recovery from opioid addiction often involves several attempts and strategies, including medication-assisted therapies and significant lifestyle changes 4.
  5. Public Health and Medical Responses:

    • The opioid crisis has led to changes in prescription practices, with a more controlled approach and heightened awareness of addiction risks. However, this has raised concerns among chronic pain patients about access to necessary pain management solutions 5.

These insights show the complexity of painkiller addiction, highlighting biological, psychological, and societal dimensions.