Medications for pain are generally prescribed to treat acute pain that might occur after surgery or dental extractions. Pain medications are also prescribed for chronic pain. The class of pain medications know as opiates (narcotics) carry a high potential for addiction.
Some examples of opiates include:
Opiates work by blocking the nerves ability to transmit a pain signal. Problems develop with long-term use which causes the body to stop producing its own natural pain killers called “endorphins.” Endorphin literally means “internal morphine.” A cycle of addiction may quickly develop for people on narcotic pain medications. The individual may stop taking pain pills and then experience extreme discomfort due to the lack of endorphins in the blood stream. The only temporary relief is to take more pills.
It is not uncommon for an individual to have multiple doctors prescribing the same pain medication. Some people make frequent trips to the emergency room seeking narcotics. Many people steal from the medicine cabinets of family or friends. Prescription pain medications are sold on the street as well.
Withdrawing from opiates is not life-threatening. The greatest threat from opiate abuse is respiratory failure caused by an overdose. However, withdrawal symptoms can be extremely unpleasant and last several days. The risk for relapse without some medical and therapeutic intervention is very high.
Information courtesy of the National Institute on Drug Abuse