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Rehab for Pain Killer Addiction Explained

Pain killer abuse is a challenging form of addiction that causes many people to suffer. Seeking treatment for this addiction is an important first step in gaining control over it, and building a more healthy life.

This article will help you to understand the challenging nature of pain killer addiction whilst also explaining the various methods of treatment that make rehabilitation a possibility in the life of anyone suffering from this addiction.

What types of Drugs are Pain Killers?

First, it’s important to understand what kind of drugs are pain killers. This can help you know what to avoid during detoxification and rehabilitation.

Painkillers can typically be categorised into three separate types: opioids, non-opioids drugs, and other drugs for pain relief. Each type of painkiller ranges in strength and is used depending on the level of pain.[1][2]

1) Opioids treat any pain from mild to severe. Examples include morphine, codeine, methadone, tramadol, diamorphine, fentanyl, alfentanil, buprenorphine, and hydromorphine. Some types are available over the counter, but as a general rule, you will require a prescription from your doctor for these.

2) Non-opioid drugs treat mild to moderate pain and can be taken alongside stronger painkillers. Paracetamol is the most common example of a non-opioid drug, but there are also non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and diclofenac. These are generally used for muscle and bone pain, but can also be used as a general pain killer.

3) Other drugs for pain relief are typically used alongside painkillers or for specific roles such as reducing swelling or regulating mood. These are often referred to as co-analgesics or adjuvant analgesics. Examples include steroids, antidepressants, bisphosphonates, anticonvulsants, monoclonal antibodies, and local anesthetics. Each drug is particularly unique and comes with its own range of side effects.

Other examples of pain killers are Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Meperidine.

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Understanding Pain Killer Dependence and Abuse

When used correctly, Pain killers can be an incredibly useful tool in your life. They allow you to minimise pain and significantly improve your quality of life. However, when abused, they have harmful and painful side effects.

Because of the relief they offer from pain, taking pain killers can often produce a pleasant sense of euphoria. But not only is this euphoria short-lived, it is also addictive.

When you use pain killers for a long period of time, you develop a dependence on them. What this means is that your body changes in response to the regular presence of the drug and becomes reliant on it for normal functioning. This means that when you stop taking the painkiller, your body struggles to cope and you begin to experience difficult withdrawal symptoms such nausea, inability to sleep, and involuntary spasms.

Alongside this, the body may also develop an increased tolerance to the drug, meaning you have to take higher doses of it to achieve the same sense of euphoria or even the basic relief from pain. This leaves you in a painful position where the drug no longer achieves the effect you’d want it to, whilst also contributing to more pain. A situation which makes man addicts lives quite painful and challenging.

As painkillers only dull the pain for which they are taken, withdrawal symptoms aren’t the only side effect when they ceased to be used. As the cause of the pain itself hasn’t been cured by the pain killer itself, there is often a painful ‘return to reality’ where you are confronted with a pain that hasn’t gone away and you are unsure of how to manage. In these instances, many users find it difficult to endure even a single day without painkillers.[3]

The combination of all of these effects causes the user to become dependent on the drug, both for the pain it masks, and the pain it now causes when it is no longer there. An incredibly difficult and challenging cycle for anyone to break.[4]

But with the right treatment, it is by no means impossible. One of these methods of treatment is rehab.

What to expect from Rehab

Rehab is a form treatment for addiction where you typically live in a residence for the duration of the programme.

The first day of anything new can be daunting, and in the case of rehab this is no different. Understanding what to expect can help to set your mind at ease and minimise stress and uncertainty.

When it comes to living in a residence for rehab, your first day in rehab is all about settling in and becoming familiar with your new environment. You will learn where everything is, what the daily routine is, and you will be asked questions about your addiction in order to help you get the best results possible from your treatment. The more honest and open your answers are, the better they will be able to help you.

It is not uncommon to feel strong emotions like sadness, fear, or anger on your first day. Although this is something you may want to avoid, it is perfectly normal and natural. Taking a big step towards healing your addiction is challenging, and can bring up strong, unpleasant emotions. Just know that this is a normal part of the process, so remember to be patient and take everything one day at a time.

Your general lifestyle in rehab will differ depending on which rehab centre you attend. However, they are all quite similar and follow a similar structure.

You can expect the day to begin with a healthy breakfast, perhaps followed by a morning class to help you enter a comfortable and calm state of mind. This can also help you to develop positive, supportive habits that will help you after rehab.

The rest of the day is followed by daily meetings and therapy sessions (group or individual) which help you to adjust to your new way of living and treat the underlying cause of your addiction. Through this process, rehab helps you to recognise treatment and recovery as a new way of living.

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Dual Diagnosis

Not everyone suffering from addiction is the same, and in some cases, you may be suffering from an underlying mental health condition as well.

When a therapist discovers this to be the case, you are given a dual diagnosis. Diagnosis itself is challenging, as many of the symptoms of certain mental conditions are extremely similar to symptoms of addiction. However, once you have the correct diagnosis, this makes therapy for both your addiction and mental health condition somewhat more straight forward.

One of the most effective and efficient ways to treat someone with a dual diagnosis is to treat them simultaneously. It must be identified whether one condition creates the other, as treating the condition that is the cause often helps to relieve the symptomatic condition. If this cannot be done, then the conditions must be treated separately. [5]

When treating the conditions separately, the therapist must make sure that what may treat one condition (i.e. medication) doesn’t exacerbate the other condition. In this instance, the therapist will strive to find that correct balance that supports you the most. Although, as with a standard diagnosis, treatment of a patient with dual diagnosis begins with detoxification.

Detoxification: The First Step of Pain Killer Treatment

The first step for relieving your suffering from pain killer addiction is detoxification. As long as the addictive substances remain in your body it makes treatment much more difficult so this is something that needs to happen first.

Detoxification is where your body is entirely cleansed of the pain killers that are linked to your addiction. This is typically done before you start taking on therapy. [6]

There are a couple of different ways you can go about detoxification:

Home detox is where you go through your detoxification process on your own. This is usually done at home without constant medical attention. For many, this can seem like an appealing option, however, there are risks to this approach. A large number of people die each year when attempting to detox by themselves. As a result, this method is generally advised against.

Residential detox is where you go through your detoxification process in a rehab facility dedicated to the treatment of addictions such as the one you are suffering with. In these facilities you are given a programme of treatment and constant care that makes you rehabilitation process much smoother, and greatly reduces any suffering or risk to yourself.

Finally, Medically assisted detox is where you go through a detoxification process aided by drugs which can lessen the symptoms of withdrawal. As withdrawal can be extremely difficult for many addictions, this approach can be greatly beneficial for them.

Pain Killer Addictions that are commonly treated in Rehab

Each rehab centre treats a different set of pain killer addictions, however, some are most commonly treated. Each one is a form of medication that is either prescribed or bought over the counter and helps to lessen the effects of pain. These pain killers are:

  • Codeine
  • Demerol
  • Darvocet-Darvon
  • Hydrocodone
  • Dilaudid
  • Norco
  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycodin
  • Morphine

If your specific pain killer addiction isn’t in the above list, do not worry, as these are just the common examples. Other pain killer addictions are treated by many rehab centres, and they have specialists who are experienced in dealing with whatever pain killer you struggle with. With this in mind, it is important to find out whether your pain killer addiction is treated by the rehab centre you are thinking of attending. Speak to someone who works at the centre and ask them for more information.

Medication used for Pain Killer Addiction Treatment

As part of your detoxification or rehabilitation process, you can use certain medications to assist you. It is not compulsory to use medication for any rehabilitation process, but if necessary, it’s important to know the options available to you and how they can help to make this challenging time easier for you.

Contrary to what many would believe, Methadone can be used to successfully treat pain killer addiction. Methadone is a long-acting opioid that acts extremely similar to the pain killers you may be addicted to – but crucially, it doesn’t get you high. Taken in the correct doses, Methadone can help to reduce withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings, while preventing an addiction occurring for the methadone itself. [7]

Buprenorphine is another option, albeit shorter acting than Methadone. As it hits the same receptors in your brain but has less risk of lethal overdose, Buprenorphine has often been favoured as a treatment medication for painkiller addiction. It can be taken as a tablet, shot, skin patch, skin implant, or a film that is placed on the inside of the cheek.

Naltrexone is another option. While also blocking opiate receptors, Naltrexone doesn’t ease withdrawal symptoms or any cravings that you may be feeling. The effect of Naltrexone is that you cannot get high off other drugs while you are taking it. With this in mind, it is most successful as part of a broader treatment. It can be taken orally or injected.

Lofexidine hydrochloride is a non-opioid drug that can be used to assist situations that call for rapid detoxification. Although it is not an opioid, it helps to relieve most symptoms as they occur, so can be a great benefit to those who find themselves suffering. However, it can only be used for a short time of up to 14 days.

Pros and Cons of Using Medication Treatment and Rehab

There are pros and cons to consider when using medication treatment and rehabilitation.

Medication treatment can be extremely positive when it comes to lessening the pain of withdrawal symptoms, as well as lessening highs, and reducing cravings. These are all enormous positives which make recovery a lot easier. Coupled with therapy, it can see great results.

Medication, however positive it may be, also comes with side-effects of its own which may potentially worsen your quality of life. Any medication can become a crutch if not used properly, and if abused, can simply become another addiction.

Medications, while helpful, only treat part of the problem – that is, the chemical part. Without therapy, the underlying issues that motivate your addiction, as well as the habits and lifestyle choices that surround it go untreated. On its own, this greatly limits the successfulness of your rehabilitation.

Duration of Pain Killer Addiction rehabilitation

You may be wondering how long a rehabilitation process lasts. When you’re struggling with addiction, it can seem like it would take forever to overcome it, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

As a general rule, rehabilitation centres work in 30-day increments, with 30 days being the minimum level of participation, and maximum levels typically being around 90 days. This will vary from centre to centre, but the durations are typically around this length. It’s also important to remember that you are a key factor in this process. The more actively you engage with the rehabilitation programme, the shorter your stay will likely be.

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Of course, it is entirely up to you how long you stay, but these are the general lengths of the programmes. Where necessary, a programme’s duration can be extended to allow a patient to be successful.

Pain Killer Addiction Treatment and Rehab Success Rate

The success rate of rehabilitation and pain killer addiction treatment is a difficult subject to address, as statistically, the results in some instances can be different than anticipated. However, there are many crucial things to consider that are not covered by the statistics.

Studies show that roughly 70% of people complete treatment, and 21% of those never relapse. But behind these statistics, there is something important to understand.

When it comes to your addiction, understanding that it is something you have to manage regardless of the level of treatment you’ve received is an incredibly important thing to understand. The best tool you have for your own treatment is you.

12 Step Programme for Rehab

One of the cornerstone methods of rehabilitation method is the 12 Step Programme. Pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous, it is one of the most well-known and commonly used methods of therapy.

The 12-Step model has been adopted and modified for various programmes but follows a general structure, as was outlined in the original Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book. The 12-Step therapy rests on six fundamentals:

  • Admitting one’s inability to control addictive or compulsive behaviour
  • Recognition of a ‘higher power’ that can provide strength to overcome
  • Examining the past to recognise errors and mistakes
  • Making amends for past errors and mistakes
  • Learning and accepting a new code of behaviour that will govern life
  • Helping others also undergoing recovery from addictive or compulsive behaviour

The 12-Step model has been enormously successful for some, while others do not like it or aren’t interested in it. Regardless of your personal view towards it, it is important to understand that is just another component of a wider therapy.

Therapies for Pain Killer Addiction Treatment

Aside from detoxing and the 12-Step Programme, rehabilitation centres offer several different therapies that help to treat painkiller addiction. As mentioned before, therapy is an important and essential complement to detoxification and helps to make lasting, positive changes in your life.

There are many different types of therapy. For example:

  • Motivational enhancement therapy
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Dialectic behavioural therapy.

Each therapy aims to give you more control over your life and provide you with support and encouragement to stick with your rehabilitation and get the best results possible.

Alongside a therapist, you will explore how you are compelled towards your addiction, what motivates that, as well as gaining a deeper understanding of yourself. This can be done one on one, or with a group of other like-minded individuals. You will also be given tools to help you master your motivation, habits, and patterns of thought. This is done in a variety of ways.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational enhancement therapy is a therapeutic approach that helps you to become more motivated towards engaging in rehabilitation and stopping your drug use. It helps you to build a system of strong, internal motivation that drives you towards the kind of change you want in your life, instead of following a step-by-step recovery process.

The results of motivational enhancement therapy vary depending on the specific pain killer involved, but it has been shown to help many individuals improve their motivation and drive them towards continued successful therapy across a variety of addictions.

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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Pain Killer Addiction Treatment and Rehab

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a therapeutic method that helps you to enhance your self-control by unpacking your habits of behaviour and thought. This helps you to recognise cravings early, and identify patterns of behaviour or situations when you may be putting yourself at risk to use.

Studies show that life skills that you learn when you undergo cognitive behavioural therapy remain with you long after the therapy has finished. As it is all about your habits of behaviour, the therapy is directly tailored to your needs and in many ways is co-created by you, along with the therapist. As a result, cognitive behavioural therapy can be an extremely empowering and rewarding process. [8]

Dialectic Behavioural Therapy – DBT

Dialectical behaviour therapy is a therapeutic technique that helps to provide you with a stronger ability to manage painful emotions, while at the same time reducing conflict in your relationships.

It does this in four key ways:

First, it helps you to build mindfulness which strengthens your ability to accept and be aware of the present moment. Second, it develops your distress tolerance which helps you to increase your tolerance of negative and painful emotions, rather than seeking to avoid it. Third, emotion regulation provides you with strategies to gain control of powerful emotions that are disrupting your life. Fourth, interpersonal effectiveness teaches you how to communicate effectively with others in a way which is assertive and supports and strengths your self-respect and relationships.

The Role of Counselling in Pain Killer Addiction Treatment and Rehab

Alongside the various techniques listed above, Counselling itself plays an important role in treating pain killer addiction and can greatly reduce your suffering.

The counsellor will work with you to help you gain a deeper understanding of your addiction, as well as help you to change your unhelpful or painful beliefs, thoughts, and actions. This gives you more control over your addiction and behaviour and supports you on your journey to rehabilitation.

When you first meet the counsellor they will speak with you in detail about the history of your addiction to gain an understanding of you and your condition so that they are best positioned to help. Everything they learn from you helps them to develop personalised therapy for you based on any or more of the techniques as referenced above. This can occur on an individual, one on one setting, or it can be within a group therapy setting.

The chief goal of counsellor is to help you in your rehabilitation and provide you with the support, techniques, and understanding you need to stay free of the painkillers that you are addicted to. Through building a compassionate relationship with you, they give you a safe environment to begin improving your life.

Choosing a Treatment centre for Pain Killer Addiction Treatment and Rehab

Choosing the right treatment centre for addiction is an important step on the road to rehabilitation. You will likely be presented with many options, the variety of which can seem overwhelming, however, there are a few ways you can make this easier for yourself.

First, can you afford the treatment centre? If you are not covered by an insurance provider who will cover the cost of your treatment, then financial constraints are important to consider.

Second, does the treatment centre have a proven track record with people who suffer from your addiction? Not every painkiller addiction is the same, so it is important to find out whether the treatment centre has the experience you need.

Third, is the treatment centre staffed by professionals who have the correct specialities? Each centre should be able to explain to you (whether via the phone or through their website) who their staff are and what their experience is.

Fourth, does the treatment centre look like something you’d feel comfortable and confident engaging with on a long term basis? Any treatment programme is a lengthy affair and requires a level of investment from you to be successful. With this in mind, it’s important that choose a treatment centre that you feel you could be a part over a long period of time.

Getting the most information you can before attending rehabilitation will help your journey immensely.

Inpatient Pain Killer Addiction Treatment Programme

One of the biggest decision when it comes to rehabilitation is whether to live in a residential facility or not.

Living in a residential facility throughout your treatment is typically called an inpatient programme. This can last anywhere from 30 to 90 days, sometimes more. This means leaving your home and daily life behind, but it comes with many benefits when it comes to addiction.

An inpatient treatment programme is much more focused than other programmes as because you are living in the centre, and completely removed from the pain killer you are addicted to, your rehabilitation process becomes the central focus of your life. Alongside this, your detoxification process is monitored and supported, and you get regular therapy from a therapist. This focused approach gives you much more control over your addiction.

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Advantages of Inpatient Addiction Treatment

There are several advantages to inpatient addiction treatment that make it unique amongst the many options of rehabilitation. Here are some examples:

1) No access to your addictive substance.

This is key to any recovery and inpatient treatment offers this better than any other. With no access to your addiction you are freed from the cycle of feeding it, and able to start your journey towards rehabilitation.

2) Constant support.

Managing your addiction is extremely challenging, but with support, it is very possible. Inpatient treatment helps to provide a constant level of support that you have easy access to.

3) Structure.

Maintaining consistent progress helps to propel you towards a stronger relationship with your addiction. Having a clear and routine structure is one of the best ways to do that and inpatient treatment offers exactly that.

Those are the three biggest examples, but inpatient support also offers supervision, multiple therapy options, positive influences and relationships, and clear focus. All of which can be extremely beneficial in treating your addiction.

Outpatient Pain Killer Treatment Programme

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Another option to consider is an outpatient treatment programme. Unlike its inpatient counterpart, an outpatient programme has you living outside of the rehabilitation centre. You will attend the centre regularly for treatment during your programme, but outside of it, you will return home where you will be under your own supervision.

Most outpatient programmes do not begin until you are sober, so it is essential that you complete a detox first. Whether or not an outpatient programme is right for you depends on a few factors, but most importantly it depends on whether you feel your rehabilitation will be most successful under your own supervision or being under the constant care of an inpatient programme.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Treatment

The length of your treatment will vary across centres and programmes. Some treatments will be short and some will long and there are benefits to both.

When you are not heavily addicted to painkillers and need a temporary break to regain control of your addiction then a short-term programme would be well suited. However, for most addicts, this may not be the case and longer-term, more intensive treatment may be much more beneficial.

Your level of drug cravings is important to consider, as when you begin any rehabilitation you will have a strong level of initial cravings. If this is something you find particularly difficult then a short-term programme may not provide you with the length of support you need.

In general, a 12-week programme of treatment seems to suit most people suffering from addiction. However, this will vary greatly depending on your level of addiction.

Pain Killer Addiction Rehabs and Confidentiality

Pain killer addiction treatment centres take confidentiality extremely seriously. It is also something that is regulated under UK law.

When you enter any treatment centre, it should be explained to you what information will be collected, when and what information will be shared with any other organisation involved with care, who the information will go to, and in what circumstances confidentiality is deemed to be breached. [9]

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Questions to Ask Treatment Centres

Before you attend any treatment centre, its important that you have the right information first. With that in mind, here are some questions that you should consider asking:

  • Is the programme short-term or long-term?
  • What kind of result do you expect from rehabilitation?
  • Is Medical treatment used?
  • Are the drugs used in medical treatment addictive?
  • Does the programme help to teach supportive life-skills?
  • Does the addiction treatment centre view addiction as a chronic disease that typically sees multiple relapses before recovery?
  • Does the rehab promise a ‘too good to be true’ / instant cure?
  • Do you feel comfortable with the rehabilitation process that they offer?
  • Will your family feel comfortable with it?

Those are some question prompts to consider. If there is any other information you wish to know, make sure you ask in advance of attending.

Pain Killer Addiction Treatment & Health Insurance

The cost of addiction treatment is important to consider before you make any decisions. It may be possible to pay for your pain killer addiction treatment using your health insurance plan.

If you have one, find out beforehand if you are covered for pain killer addiction treatment. This is something that will vary across insurers, but if it is an option for you, it could help to make treatment much cheaper.


[1] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/which-painkiller-to-use/

[2] https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/painkillers/what-are-painkillers.html

[3] https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/painkillers/understanding-why-painkillers-become-so-addictive.html

[4] https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/painkillers-and-addiction-narcotic-abuse#2

[5] https://www.ukat.co.uk/dual-diagnosis/

[6] https://www.ukat.co.uk/drugs/detox-withdrawal/

[7] https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/breaking-an-addiction-to-painkillers-treatment-overvew#2

[8] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral

[9] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/738769/NDTMS_consent_and_confidentiality_guidance_2018_V1.1.pdf


Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

When does treatment becomes necessary for a Pain Killer Problem?
When your pain killer addiction has begun to affect your mood, happiness, health, and/or your ability to function on a day to day basis – this would be necessary time to get treatment and regain control over your life and well-being.

However, you can get treatment earlier if you feel it is necessary and you see problems such as these occurring down the line.

How long does Pain Killer withdrawal last?

In most cases, Pain killer withdrawal lasts for one week. The most acute symptoms will be felt in the first 3 days, after which they will begin to decrease.

How long do Pain Killers stay in your system?

Pain killers generally stay in your urine for 3-4 days, up 90 days in your hair, and 2-3 days in your blood.

However it is important to understand that pain killers stay in your system for differing amounts of time depending on various factors. The drug taken, your age, your body weight, your metabolism, your liver, and kidney function and your genetics all play a role in how long drugs stay in your system. The frequency of use also plays a role – someone who has used a drug once will clear it faster than someone who uses it regularly.

What is a medically assisted Pain Killer detox?

Medically assisted pain killer detox is where medication is used to assist in the detoxification period. The medication helps with cravings and/or withdrawal symptoms, while also preventing further addiction by negating or lessening highs. Medically assisted pain killer detox is always advised to be done under supervision.

Is detox the answer to Pain Killer addiction?

Detox is not the answer to pain killer addiction, but it is a crucial and fundamental first step. Without detoxification, therapy becomes extremely unlikely to be successful. Although essential, always remember that detoxification is part of a wider treatment programme including therapy and the development of positive new habits.

Can a Pain Killer addict be forced to receive treatment?

No. A pain killer addict cannot be forced to receive treatment. Whether or not you receive treatment is your own decision.

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