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Addiction to painkillers can occur after a patient begins treatment for a legitimate, painful condition. Addiction can occur in people who already abuse illegal drugs, but is often likely among law-abiding, ordinary people whose arrest for forging a prescription may be their first encounter with the law.
The line between addiction and treatment is sometimes hard to distinguish, leading to problems when doctors either underprescribe medication for pain because they fear addiction, or overprescribe out of a lack of understanding of addiction and tolerance.
Prescription drug addictions are also common among medical professionals and hospital workers, who have access to the drugs in the course of their work.