Could I become addicted to painkillers?

Dr Mark Porter / 11 September 2018

Dr Mark Porter addresses a reader’s concerns about taking codeine following a hip replacement operation.

Q: I had a hip replacement last month and, while generally recovering well, I still need regular codeine painkillers. There has been a lot in the press about problems with addiction to these types of opioid drugs. Should I try to manage without?

A: The number of opioid painkillers (eg. codeine, tramadol, oxycodone and morphine) prescribed in the UK has risen fourfold since the 1990s and we now take more than any other country in Europe. That said, most people prescribed them for acute (short-lived) pain following injury or surgery take them appropriately and are at very low risk of becoming dependent/addicted. However, most who do run into trouble start this way, taking the drugs for an innocent reason but remaining on them for too long, at too high a dose.

Please don’t be put off taking pain-relief you need – but do try to manage on as little as possible. And stop it as soon as you can.

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