The 10 Most Addictive Pain Killers

The New Generation of Addictive Medications

One of the most common reasons Americans visit their doctors is to get help with the relief of pain. From back pain to migraines to chronic pain syndromes, there are many different types of pain, many of which can be debilitating. Pain causes sufferers great discomfort and distress and can range from short-term problems, which go away after a brief period of distress, to longer-term problems, which can last for years, or even a lifetime.

Addictive Pain Relievers

In addition, there are a number of different drugs that can ease pain. Many of these fall into the opioid category, also known as narcotic pain relievers. These drugs include morphine and codeine, as well as many synthetic modifications of these drugs.

However, it's important to be cautious when taking pain relief medications. The treatment may be more dangerous than the underlying cause of the pain. While people are less likely to become addicted to pain-relieving drugs when they take them as prescribed for their intended purpose—to relieve pain—many of these medications also produce a "high" that can become addicting to some patients. For this reason, pain medication over-use (sometimes unfortunately called medication abuse or narcotic abuse) has become one of the most prevalent forms of drug abuse in the United States.

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Abuse

There are certain signs that your therapeutic use of opioids has crossed into the territory of addiction. These include:

  • Knowing that you're using the pain medication in amounts or at times that are not consistent with your doctor's prescription, particularly if you're misleading your doctor or pharmacist to do so
  • Using the medication to get high or relieve anxiety rather than to relieve pain
  • Requiring higher doses of the medication in order to feel the same effects you used to notice at lower dosages
  • Exhibiting compulsive behaviors to get the drug and continuing to use it in the face of negative consequences

Unfortunately, it is part of the nature of painkillers that they will get less effective over time. This is partly because your body will adjust to the medication, and develop a tolerance, which means your body will require higher doses of the drug to get the same effect.

Most Addictive Painkillers

This is a list of ten of some of the most addictive painkillers on the market today. They are all synthetic or semi-synthetic opiates. Most are usually prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain. Please note, this is not a complete list, and many more addictive painkillers and other prescription medications are on the market. If you want to know about whether a medication is addictive, talk to your physician or pharmacist.


Man looking at tablets
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More potent than morphine, Fentanyl is used most often to treat patients with severe pain or post-surgical pain, as well as those who have become physically tolerant of opiates. It's available as a lozenge, injectable solution, or skin patch.


Available as a nasal spray or injectable solution, Stadol belongs to a class of medications known as opioid agonist-antagonists. It works by altering the way your body senses pain.


OxyContin is used as an around-the-clock treatment for patients with moderate to severe pain expected to last for an extended period of time. It's available as a tablet.


Used to help put people to sleep before a surgical procedure, as well as to treat moderate to severe pain, such as that experienced after childbirth, Demerol is available as an oral solution, injectable solution, and oral tablet.


Hydrocodone is used to treat moderate to severe pain resulting from a chronic condition, injury, or surgical procedure. It's available as an oral syrup and oral tablet.

MS Contin

Used to help treat severe ongoing pain such as that related to cancer or cancer treatment, MS Contin is available as an injectable solution, capsule, tablet, and suppository.


Percocet contains a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone and is available as a capsule, tablet, and oral solution.


A combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone, Lorcet is used to relieve moderate to severe pain and is available as a tablet, capsule, and oral solution.


Mostly used in a hospital setting and administered through an IV, Dilaudid is also available as an oral solution, tablet, and suppository.


A mixture of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, Zydone is available as an oral solution, capsule, and tablet.