Dealing With Chronic Pain
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Over 50 million people in the U.S suffer from chronic pain which is over 20% of the population.
Because pain can be unbearable, medications are often prescribed as a component of many chronic conditions, but that alone has now become its own health concern.
Chronic pain medication usage not only affects individuals but also their families, and society as a whole.
The opioid epidemic has taken the country by storm.
This is why it is important that, although prescribed by a doctor, chronic pain medication and opioids are not safe.
Understanding Chronic Pain
Pain that is sudden or severe pain over a long period of time but eventually subsides, is considered acute.
It can happen due to injury, illness, or surgery. Chronic pain is pain that continues to last for months or even years.
Chronic pain is considered a health condition on its alone.
This is because it can completely affect the way you live your life.
Whether this includes reduced energy levels or a detrimental impact on relationships, chronic pain will make you feel overall just terrible and unhealthy.
Relieving pain should be a priority in our society, as it helps citizens live their lives.
Despite this, the question is whether or not opioids are a safe response to treating chronic pain.
Although they can treat the pain, opioids are extremely addictive and can lead to an even more dangerous health situation.
Chronic Pain and Addiction
Chronic pain may cause the following ailments:
- Restrictions on mobility
- Poor perceived health
- Reduced quality of life
- Dependence on opioids
How Are Opioids Connected?
Drug dependence and mental health issues are linked when it comes to a high risk of addiction potential in opioids. Opioids such as Oxycodone, Percocet, or Vicodin work by changing the parts of the brain that perceive pain. These flood the brain with high levels of a “feel-good” neurotransmitter, called dopamine. Once the medication is taken, you may develop a tolerance to it, which means you will need more of the drug in order to obtain the same feelings as before. This eventually leads to addiction.
Why Do People Develop Addiction to Opioids?
It is possible not to develop an addiction to opioids while prescribed them, but other people cannot help it and fall into the thoroughs of addiction.
Addiction is incredibly complex and multi-faceted. This makes it difficult to understand why one person may develop a chronic pain medication and another may not. Despite this, there are some factors to why one person may be more vulnerable to a painkiller addiction than another, such as genetics, previous substance abuse, and past trauma.
Opioids Leading to Heroin Use
Often used, to treat severe or chronic pain, opioids belong to the same class of drugs like heroin and morphine. What makes prescription opioid abuse so dangerous is its possibility to lead to heroin use. Heroin is less expensive and easier to obtain than prescription opioids, so when a prescription expires, many people with chronic pain proceed to use heroin.
80 percent of people who currently use heroin, started with an addiction to prescription opioids. Despite this being a huge statistic, only 4 percent of people who use prescription opioids end up using heroin.
Treatments For Chronic Pain Other Than Opioids
There are many different options for treating pain that is not opioids. This might include:
- Herbal supplements
- Interventional pain management
- Facet rhizotomy
- Spinal cord stimulation
- Intrathecal pumps
- Physical therapy
Therapy is also a great option to address stress management, depression, and anxiety. Doctors might also prescribe medications alongside these treatments. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, and muscle relaxants are known to have a bit less addictive potential than opioids, making them a bit safer.
The Addiction Potential of Opioids
Even though the potential for becoming dependent on pain medications is well known, it is still prescribed. This is because dependence is a huge side effect of opioid pain medication. Despite this, dependence and addiction are not one in the same.
Pain medications can legally be prescribed, and when you take your medication appropriately, you still run the risk of physical dependence. In the long run, this will require medical intervention to come off the drug when it is no longer needed. If you are on pain medication you may become dependent, which then leads to addiction. Difficulty in stopping the medication does not make the person an addict, and only about 15 percent of those who are prescribed opioids become addicted.
Withdrawal From Opioids
For anyone who is prescribed, or simply uses opioids such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, OxyContin, and Dilaudid there is the potential for withdrawal. These symptoms occur when you taking the medication. Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
- High blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
Tapering and Detox
When you attempt to come off of prescription opioids, your doctor might try to minimize the effects of withdrawal by tapering your dosage. As you slowly lower your dosage to zero, you may avoid severe withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal from opioid medications is not usually life-threatening, but it is recommended to complete withdrawal treatment under the care of a doctor. This is called a medically assisted detox. This allows you to undergo your detox in a medical facility and be monitored for the duration of your detox.
Signs of Addiction
There are specific behaviors that may signify you are at a higher risk for addiction, as well as those that signify an addiction. The first is taking an extra pill or two without telling your doctor. Your doctor may realize that you are short a few pills before the prescription, and then need to be scolded. If you do not have an addiction then you will not take an extra pill again. If you have an addiction, you will not be able to help yourself.
Behaviors of Addiction
- Selling medications
- Buying drugs on the street
- Faking prescriptions
- Injecting oral medications
- Using illegal drugs or controlled substances that are not prescribed to you
- Reporting lost prescriptions
- Requests for early refills
- Doctor shopping to obtain multiple prescriptions
All of these behaviors are not normal. If you do not have an addiction you would never think to buy drugs online illegally or use illegal drugs if you cannot obtain your prescription pills. Another sign of addiction is tolerance. If you no longer feel any effect from taking a drug, then this is most likely a lie. You may want to look at yourself and see if you are telling yourself this only to get more drugs.
Are You Struggling With Pain and Addiction?
Treating addiction to pain medication can be difficult.
You will not want to stop taking your medication because you may be worried it will cause you pain again.
This is normal, but when there are signs of addiction you need to be aware of them.
Contact Us Today
Like any drug, eventually, these medications will change the way your brain and central nervous system function.
It may allow other forms of pain to emerge, and you may inflame other parts of your body.
If you think you are struggling with an addiction to pain medication, contact us at Resurgence Behavioral Health.
We can offer you free insurance verification for treatment and can help you learn about our programs.