Patient Information Resources

Centre for Orthopaedics
Suite 10-33/34/35 Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
38 Irrawaddy Road
Singapore, 329563, Singapore
Ph: (65) 6684 5828
Fax: (65) 6684 5829

Child Orthopedics
Pain Management
Spine - Cervical
Spine - General
Spine - Lumbar
Spine - Thoracic

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My mother has pain medications for her bad back. She has had a lot of pain for the past few years. She won't take them because she's afraid of becoming addicted because she needed to increase her dose once. What is the difference between depending on a drug and being addicted to a drug?

Statistics vary, but most show that it's really on a very small percentage (around 1 to 2 percent) of people with chronic pain who do become addicted to pain killers. However, people can - and do - develop a dependence on certain drugs.

According to the FDA website, someone who is addicted is someone craves and uses the drugs compulsively, has to have them, has to use them. Someone who has become physically dependent on a drug is someone whose body has adapted to the drug and it's not as effective any longer. People who are dependent on opioids do go through withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug, but this doesn't mean that they were addicted. It's just that their body needs to get the medication out of their system. In this case, the symptoms are physical, rather than psychological, as with addicted people.


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