Having surgery carries many risks, but one that not all patients consider is the possibility of becoming addicted to post-surgery medications. After surgery, you are likely to be prescribed medication to help you manage the pain that results from the procedure. Prescription painkillers are highly addictive and abuse of these medications has been on the rise in recent years. The troubling statistics about addiction and overdose do not mean that you will become addicted if you need to use these pain-controlling medications. Be aware of the possibility and learn how to use these drugs responsibly before you go in for surgery. What Are the Risks With Painkillers? Prescription painkillers are opioid drugs. This means they are derived from natural compounds found in the opium poppy. They are potent painkillers, can control coughing, and can also treat diarrhea. They work in the brain to activate pleasure-signaling, giving the user a euphoric sensation. It is this effect that makes the risk of addiction so great with opioids. Some people are tempted to misuse these drugs to achieve the relaxed, pleasant feeling of an opioid high. Using an opioid repeatedly can also make changes to the pleasure-signaling part of the brain that make living without the drug very difficult. This can lead to addiction. Experts agree that the risk of becoming addicted to an opioid painkiller that is prescribed to you is low. Most people who use the drugs according to a doctor\u2019s directions and who have no history of addiction are unlikely to develop a problem with prescription painkillers. How Can I Minimize the Risk of Addiction? Although the risk of addiction to painkillers prescribed after surgery is low for most people, everyone should be aware of the possibility. Never take your medication in a way that is different from what your doctor has directed. If your pain is worsening, or if the dose you have been given is not bringing you relief, talk to your doctor about it rather than taking more pills. Stop taking the pills when your pain has improved. Keep in contact with your doctor about when you are ready to stop using an opioid and when you might be ready to switch to something else to control your pain. If you feel withdrawal symptoms when you stop using your medication, such as irritability, insomnia, or other unpleasant feelings, speak to your doctor right away. If you have a history of addiction, speak with your doctor before you have surgery. You are at greater risk of becoming addicted to your medication because of your past. If your doctor can give you an alternative to opioids for pain management, it would be in your best interest to take that option. It is also important, as a person in possession of prescription narcotics, that you protect your medication and keep it out of the hands of other people. Many people who abuse prescription painkillers get them from a friend or family members, sometimes by stealing. Keep your pills in a safe place and if anyone else has access to your house when you are not home, consider locking them in a cabinet. If you have pills left over that you don\u2019t need, dispose of them by taking them to a pharmacy. They may be stolen out of your garbage cans. Remember to be responsible about your prescriptions, whether they are opioids or any other type of drug. Take them only as directed, speak to your doctor about your concerns or if you have any symptom changes, and always keep your drugs safely away from other people. If you are aware of the risks of addiction, you can avoid them.