More Needs To Be Done To Prevent Dependence On Pain Medication

Dependence on pain medication is on the rise due to lack of vigilance by medical professionals, according to a new study from the University of Surrey. Patients dependent on pain medication describe feelings of ‘living in a haze’ and being ignored and misunderstood by the medical profession.

Pharmacological treatment for chronic pain usually involves potentially addictive substances such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, gabapentinoids, and opioids. Increased prescription levels of such pain relief medications have been associated with heightened levels of overdose and misuse.

To learn more, interviews were carried out with nine participants who had become dependent on pain medication. Participants spoke about how their dependence on pain medication resulted in them feeling not fully present and removed from their lives due to the side effects of the treatment. Many also expressed frustration about the lack of alternative treatment options available on the NHS to manage their pain, with medications being too readily prescribed.

The majority of participants also spoke about their negative interactions with medical professionals, with some attributing the cause of their dependence on them. Many believed a lack of continuity between doctors led to missed opportunities in spotting their dependence, enabling it to continue.

“Relationships with medical professionals substantially affect the experiences of those with painkiller dependence. Doctors can often be seen as authority figures due to their expertise and so patients may be apprehensive to question their treatment options. However, through providing patients with thorough information, doctors can enable more shared-decision making in which patients feel better supported and equipped to manage their chronic pain.”- said Louise Norton from the University of Surrey.


Louise S. Norton, Bridget Dibb. “I’m Not the Same Person Anymore”: Thematic Analysis Exploring Experiences of Dependence to Prescribed Analgesics in Patients with Chronic Pain in the UK. Pain and Therapy, 2023; 12 (6): 1427 DOI: 10.1007/s40122-023-00553-7

University of Surrey. (2023, November 20). More needs to be done to prevent dependence on pain medication. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2023 from

Image from: