How to Avoid Becoming Addicted to Painkillers For Neck or Back Pain?

How To Avoid Becoming Addicted To Painkillers For Neck Or Back Pain?

Relying on painkillers to treat your chronic back or neck pain can be a slippery slope.

Before you know it, you might find that you can’t get through the day without relying on your pain pills.

How does one become addicted to painkillers?

There are warning signs that you might be headed for addiction. These include thinking about the drug more than what’s considered normal, taking a painkiller for a long time, or taking a dosage that’s higher than what your doctor prescribed.

If you’re worried about becoming addicted to painkillers but you do need them in order to keep your pain at bay, you should ensure you safeguard yourself and use them correctly.

In 2017, approximately 18 million people misused medication at least once, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Doing so can increase your risk of painkiller addiction, so, with that in mind, here are tips to avoid becoming dependent on your medication.

Take Your Painkillers As Directed By Your Doctor

Pills In Hand

If your doctor has prescribed painkillers for you, you should always take them as he or she has outlined.

While you might worry that taking too many will lead to an addiction, causing you to wait until your pain is severe, this strategy can backfire.

It can cause you to end up taking more than you should at a later stage when the pain is more intense and you want to eliminate it fast. 

It’s, therefore, a better idea to follow the dosage instructions given to you by your doctor from day one of your course of treatment.

Keep An Eye On How Much You’re Taking

It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking painkillers – and possibly more than you should be – when you take them straight from their box.

Before you know it, you could be running out of pills before your prescription is over.

That’s a warning sign that you’re taking too much and could end up addicted to the painkillers in question.

To prevent this from happening, and to be more aware of how many painkillers you’re taking, it can be useful to use a weekly pill box so that you can put the number of pills you need every day in their specified slots. 

If you find yourself needing more medicine than what you’ve been prescribed, that’s a red flag you’re either becoming addicted or you’re not on the right medicine to treat your type of pain.

Be Careful With Certain Medications

Holding Box Of Medications

Some prescription drugs can be more addictive than others.

The most common once that is often abused by patients include opioids, which are sometimes prescribed for lower back pain.

Some common opioids include:  

  • Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and OxyContin– these are opioid medications that are often prescribed for moderate to severe pain
  • Morphine – this is used for chronic and acute pain
  • Codeine – this is an opioid that’s used for mild to moderate pain
  • Fentanyl – this is an opioid that’s stronger than morphine and used for the treatment of severe pain

Although opioids can be safe when taken under the supervision of a doctor and taken for only a short time, their euphoric effect can be addictive which is why they should only be considered as a last resort, as Harvard Health Publishing reports.

What Another Medication Is Usually Prescribed For Back Pain?

Some of the most common medication that’s prescribed for lower back pain includes Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).

These can decrease inflammation, swelling, and pain. Although NSAIDs aren’t habit-forming, overusing them can pose dangers, such as damage to the kidneys. 

It’s scary but true: these medicines are one of the main causes of hospitalization among patients admitted for adverse side effects in drugs, as Physician’s Weekly reports.

Therefore, proceed with caution!

Other drugs that could be prescribed for neck and back pain are muscle relaxants. Some of these can be habit-forming, such as diazepam and carisoprodol.

It’s therefore important to take them only as prescribed and do not take them for longer than intended as this can increase your risk of becoming addicted to them.

Finally, sometimes doctors will prescribe antidepressants to help patients relieve their back pain. These are not habit-forming, which is a bonus.

Antidepressants work to treat back pain by boosting levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. These reduce how one perceives their pain.

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Holding Different Pills

Doctors usually follow the standard guideline for administering medicine: they say take one or two pills every four to six hours.

For someone who’s got a history of addiction or has a genetic link to addiction, this can be problematic.

You might end up taking the maximum dosage within the shortest time, such as two pills every four hours.

If this sounds like you, then it’s good to discuss your background with your doctor so that you can have a proper medicine plan tailored to your situation.

It’s also a good idea to ask someone you trust to monitor your medicine so that you get what you need for your pain, but no more that can prove problematic for you.

Consider Alternatives To Medication 

If you’re dealing with chronic pain, medication doesn’t have to be your first line of treatment.

There are alternatives that can provide pain relief and it’s worth trying them before you go to the doctor for a pain prescription unless your pain is severe, has been getting worse, and is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a fever, weak limbs, or a loss of bladder or bowel control.

Eat Anti-Inflammatory Food

Anti Inflammatory Food

Research has found that anti-inflammatory foods can be as beneficial as taking anti-inflammatory medication, as UT Southwestern Medical Center reports. 

Therefore, add more of these anti-inflammatory foods to your diet: fatty fish like salmon, green veggies like broccoli and spinach, bright fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and beetroot, seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin, and monounsaturated fats like avocado oil. 


Biofeedback is a mind-body therapy that makes use of electrodes which send signals to a monitor for various bodily functions, such as your heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, and muscle activity.

These functions all respond to stress, such as when your heart rate increases during anxiety, and therefore by seeing them happen on a monitor you can train yourself to learn to control them. 

Biofeedback also teaches you how to relax, which can help you to manage stress-related pain.

This alternative treatment is focused on the idea that when you’re more aware of your bodily functions, you can have more control over your health.

Research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that biofeedback had the potential to decrease how severe back pain was, not just when combined with other pain-relieving treatments but used on its own.

Engage In Healthy Exercise

Women Exercising

Some types of exercise can help to relieve pain and they do this in a number of ways.

  • Core exercises help to strengthen your abdominal muscles so that they can better support the spine and lower back. They also improve your posture so that unnecessary strain isn’t placed on the spine.
  • Exercises that increase your flexibility, such as pelvic tilts, improve your range of motion and your back function.
  • Aerobic exercise, such as walking, boosts blood flow to the muscle tissues, thus strengthening them to heal and preventing stiffness that can result in pain and discomfort. 
  • While pain in your back or neck can result in you avoiding all types of exercise, it’s important to keep moving as this can strengthen your muscles.

Related Questions

What symptoms will you experience from taking too many painkillers?

You might find yourself feeling anxious, constipated, depressed, disoriented, confused, or battling to concentrate.

If these, or other signs of discomfort, are happening to you, it’s essential to consult with your doctor about stopping the medication.

Should you consider chiropractic care?

Chiropractic care can help alleviate neck and back pain, and it’s natural without including medication.

This treatment involves hands-on spinal adjustments and massage, and it’s best for neck pain, chronic back pain flare-ups and back pain that you’ve had for less than three months.


Having severe back or neck pain might make you want to reach for the painkillers ASAP to send the pain packing.

While medications can be effective to treat this type of pain, it’s best to know more about the drugs you’re so eager to take because a painkiller addiction can occur as a result.  

That said, there’s no need to be alarmed or fear that a painkiller addiction will happen to you.

As long as you take medication under the supervision of your doctor and you always follow the medicine guidelines to keep your pain at bay while remaining safe, you’ll be fine and pain-free.

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