“I was addicted to prescription painkillers”

First in a series – an anonymous student speaks about her drug addiction. Hannah*, 19, is a fresher at Manchester.


When I tell to people that I’ve been to rehab, their facial expression is always the same – shock, then a realisation that they’re being rude, then an attempt to hide their still obvious shock.

Right now, I’m a (fairly) successful student with a good social life, a steady boyfriend and my relationship with my family is tighter than ever.

If you’d seen me three years ago, you’d be surprised that I’m still alive.

Finally clean, I started at Manchester in September

Everyone thinks drug addiction is glamorous. What you don’t see is the waking up at 6am because the numbness you were feeling has worn off and you’d do anything to get it back.

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I was addicted to something entirely legal – prescription painkillers. I’ll wager you read that sentence and thought “how can they be addictive?” Well, I’ll spare you the gory details of my descent into abuse, but it led me to be on almost ten times the recommended dose of painkiller suited for a grown man, so it was destroying the teenage girl that was consuming them.

Physically, my body was shutting down. Mentally, I couldn’t cope without being totally numb to everything. My family had had enough, and sent me to a top rehabilitation facility in New York.

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As a teenager, I became addicted to painkillers

Two relapses – and two trips back to rehab – later, I’m finally clean. It is to some cost. I am so insecure in my sobriety that I will refuse any type of painkiller, even aspirin, and I can’t be around people that take drugs. I still drink alcohol, but find myself very conscious of the feelings I have whilst doing it. My worst fear is feeling numb to something.

That feeling led to some of the worst decisions of my life but I didn’t realise the repercussions until much later.

My family flew me to rehab

I will always look back on that part of my life and think that it was wasted. At the time, being high and wasted with a bunch of your friends was great fun but the repercussions are still going on. My body, for example, is just about recovering from the abuse. Some friendships from during that time will never be recovered. I am grateful that my family was so willing to accept me back after I was so terrible to them.

The urge to relapse is always there, but now I know how to control it. If anything, the thought of being numb makes me want to feel everything, as soon as possible.

*The Tab has changed Hannah’s name to protect her identity.