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 pain medications to treat your chronic back or neck pain can be a slippery slope.

You may quickly find that you can’t get through the day without taking your pain pills and you are becoming addicted.

How does one become addicted to painkillers?

There are warning signs that you might be headed for addiction. These include thinking about the drug constantly throughout the day, taking the painkiller even when your pain is better, 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 to control your pain, you should ensure you safeguard yourself by using them correctly.

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

Misusing your medications can increase your risk of addiction, so here are tips to avoid becoming dependent on your pain medicines.

Take Your Painkillers As Directed By Your Doctor

Pills In Hand

The most commonly prescribed pain medications are called opioids. If your doctor prescribes opioids for your pain you should always take them as directed.

While you might worry that taking too many pain pills when you have an acute injury will lead to an addiction, waiting too long until you start your medicine can actually cause your pain to get out of control and you end up taking more than you should later

It is better 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 too many pain medications – and possibly more than you should be – when you take them straight from their vial.

Before you know it, you will 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 prevent this from happening, and to be more aware of how many pain pills yoaur are 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 a specified slot. 

If you find yourself needing more medicine than 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.

If that happens you should return to your doctor to re-evaluate your condition.

Be Careful With Certain Medications

Holding Box Of Medications

Some prescription drugs can be more addictive than others.

Among the most common medications abused by patients are opioids, which are often prescribed for lower back pain.

Some common opioids include:  

  • Codeine – this is an opioid that’s used for mild to moderate pain.
  • Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and OxyContin– these are all synthetic derivatives of codeine that are prescribed for moderate to severe pain
  • Morphine – this is also used for moderate to severe pain
  • Fentanyl – this is an opioid that is 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 for a short time, their effect can be addictive which is why they should be carefully considered as part of an overall treatment plan.

What Another Medication Is Usually Prescribed For Back Pain?

Other common medications  prescribed for low back pain include Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).

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

These medicines are one of the main causes of hospitalization among patients admitted for adverse side effects in drugs.

So just as with opioids these medications must be used with caution!

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

It’s therefore important to take all of these medications only as prescribed. Do not take them for longer than needed as this can increase your risk of addiction.

Finally, sometimes doctors will prescribe anti-depressants to help patients relieve their back pain.

Anti-depressants treat back pain by boosting levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain which can reduce the perception of pain.

Get Support

Holding Different Pills

Doctors usually write common orders for opioid medications such take one or two pills every four to six hours as needed for pain.

For someone with a history or genetic predisposition to addiction this can be problematic.

You may consistently be tempted to take the maximum dose within the shortest time, such as two pills every four hours.

If you are concerned that you are taking to many pain pills or are at risk of becoming addicted you should discuss this with your doctor, who can than tailor a treatment plan that both addresses your pain and concerns about addiction.

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 any more that can lead to problems.

Consider Alternatives To Medication 

If you’re dealing with chronic pain, strong opioids or other medications don’t have to be your first line of treatment.

There are alternatives that can provide pain relief that are worth trying before you take a strong prescription with many side effects and risks.

Eat Anti-Inflammatory Food

Anti Inflammatory Food

Research has found that anti-inflammatory foods can be as beneficial as taking anti-inflammatory medication according to a  report from the UT Southwestern Medical Center

You can greatly help your symptoms by adding these anti-inflammatory foods to your diet such a 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. 

Eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), which typically consists of highly processed junk food with lots of refined sugars will slow down your recovery and worsen your symptoms of pain in addition to making you just feel bad throughout the day and night.


Biofeedback is a mind-body therapy that makes use of electrodes which send signals to monitor 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. Therefore by watching your response on a monitor you can train yourself to control your responses. 

Biofeedback also teaches you 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 has the potential to back pain on its own without requiring other pain-relieving treatments.

Engage In Healthy Exercise

Women Exercising

Exercise can help relieve pain in a number of ways.

  • Core exercises, such as planks, help to strengthen your abdominal muscles so they better support the spine and lower back. This also improves 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 you may be tempted to stop exercising if you have pain in your back or neck it’s important to keep moving to keep your muscles strong and flexible and to enhance your recovery.

Related Questions

What symptoms will you experience from taking too many painkillers?

You might find yourself feeling anxious, constipated, depressed, disoriented, confused, having difficulty concentrating, or craving your next pill.

If these, or other signs of discomfort, are happening to you, it’s essential to consult with your doctor about adjusting your treatment plan.

Should you consider chiropractic care?

Chiropractic care can help alleviate neck and back pain, and is a natural option that does not require medications that can help some people.

This treatment involves hands-on spinal adjustments and massage, and it’s can be helpful for neck pain or back pain flare-ups.


Severe back or neck pain might make you want to reach for strong opioid medications ASAP to relieve your pain.

While medications can be effective to treat this type of pain, it’s best to know more about the drugs you’re taking because they have many side effects including addiction.  

As long as you take medication under the supervision of your prescribing doctor and always follow the medicine guidelines and treatment plan you can keep your pain under control while remaining safe from addiction.

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