The more you take, the better they work
More does not equal better. It’s true that in the short term — after a severe injury, for example — two pills may be more effective than one at relieving pain.
But over time, taking too much backfires. Research suggests that chronic use of pain medications sensitizes a portion of the nervous system and modifies the way your brain and spinal cord interpret pain signals, Dr. Rosenquist says.
“You develop a tolerance to the medication over time,” he says. “Sometimes if you take chronic pain medications for a long time, your pain may actually get worse.”
If you take them for a valid reason, you can’t get addicted
It can’t happen to me. I’m a good citizen. I’m a normal person. I couldn’t possibly get addicted.
Thinking this way is dangerous. Even if you start taking a prescription pain medication for a legitimate reason, you run the risk of addiction. It has nothing to do with moral character and everything to do with the highly addictive nature of these drugs.
Everyone who takes them gets addicted
On the flipside, just because you take a prescription painkiller does not mean you will become addicted.
It depends largely on your own personal risk of addiction. That’s why Dr. Rosenquist and others in pain management screen for risk factors: a family history of addiction, a personal history of alcohol and drug abuse, or certain psychiatric disorders.
“If I’m considering prescribing opioids, I’m going to do drug screening and make sure you’re not taking recreational drugs,” Dr. Rosenquist notes “If somebody uses recreational drugs, the likelihood they’re going to use pain medications inappropriately is really high.”
Not everyone gets addicted, but everyone who takes painkillers for an extended time period will experience symptoms of withdrawal if they suddenly stop. It’s a natural reaction.