Many prescription painkillers can be addictive, especially those that belong to the opioid family, like codeine, morphine, oxycontin, demerol and vicodin. While useful as pain medication, these drugs have also come to be recreationally used and abused. Understandably, many patients who take prescription painkillers worry about their risk of addiction. If one has to be on a pain medication prescription for an extended period of time, like a few months or years, he or she may notice a development of tolerance to the drug. But tolerance is not the same thing as addiction. When one is exposed to substances like prescription painkillers on a regular basis, your body adjusts to them. The liver learns how to process the medication more efficiently. And the brain requires a greater amount of the drug in order to achieve the same pain-relieving results. But just because one needs a higher dose of pain medication does not mean that one is addicted. Having said that, some people are at a greater risk of addiction and medication abuse. That includes: people who have a history of substance abuse; people who have family members with addiction problems; and people with a history of mental illness. You should let your doctor know immediately if you fall into one of these high-risk groups. He or she may try to find a less-addicting alternative medication that works for you. Patients who take opioids for long periods of time will likely develop a tolerance to the drug, and may even develop a physical dependence. What that means is, your body is used to getting a certain amount of drugs, and depends on it for its day-to-day functioning. Abruptly stopping your medication could lead to physical symptoms of withdrawal, like anxiety, insomnia, flu-like symptoms and irritability. While it might sound scary, it's nothing to be alarmed by, so long as you are working with your physician and taking your medication exactly as prescribed. People who take prescribed narcotics are generally under close medical supervision, for good reason. Should you and your doctor decide to discontinue your medication, your physician will help you develop a tapering-off plan, to minimize any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. If you have developed a tolerance or dependency to your prescription, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Let your doctor know immediately, and don't increase your dosage without consulting your physician. It is extremely important to keep your doctor in the loop on any and all physical or emotional signs of dependence or addiction.