Painkiller addiction
treatment options

Addiction vs. dependence: Addiction is a term used throughout this website to describe certain behaviour towards opioid use. However, the correct medical term, as used by the World Health Organization, is ‘dependence’, which is used to describe the symptoms of a person who has impaired control over their substance use, and continues to use the substance despite negative consequences.1 The word ‘addiction’ is used interchangeably with ‘dependence’, as it is a more common term used by the general public.

Approximately 1 in 20 people taking opioid painkillers may become addicted.2,3

If you think you or someone you know may be dependent on painkillers, then you've taken the right step by looking for information here. We're here to help you learn about dependence, in particular to the group of painkillers called opioids, and to guide you in finding help to overcome it.

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It's important to talk to a doctor

A doctor will be able to assess if you may be dependent. If you are, your doctor will be able to help put you in touch with a counsellor or an addiction specialist in your area who understands how to treat opioid painkiller dependence. In some states, your doctor may be able to provide specialised treatment directly.


Reference: 1. WHO Expert Committee on Addiction-Producing Drugs. Thirteenth report of the WHO expert Committee. Geneva,World Health Organization, 1964 (WHO Technical Report Series, No.273). Available from Accessed August 2017. 2. Carmichael AN et al. Identifying and assessing the risk of opioid abuse in patients with cancer: an integrative review. Subst Abuse Rehabil 2016;7:71–9. 3. Minozzi S et al. Development of dependence following treatment with opioid analgesics for pain relief: a systematic review. Addiction 2013;108(4):688–98.