Addiction to opiate-based pain relievers is a danger that anyone with chronic pain is susceptible to. Chronic pain is terrible to live with, which is why doctors prescribe these medications. Unfortunately, even mild painkillers, such as codeine, can cause the patient to develop a dependence on opiates.
The Symptoms of Pain Medication Dependence
There are many symptoms associated with an opiate addiction. The most common are sedation and analgesia (the inability to feel pain). If you’re concerned someone you love is an addict, it’s essential you broach the subject with them in a nice way. Do not confront the addict, or threaten them in any way, as this may cause them to deny their addiction.
WebMD’s article, “Painkillers, Narcotic Abuse, and Addiction,” recommends looking for the following signs:
· Euphoria (feeling high)
· Shallow or slow breathing
· Small pupils
· Vomiting and Nausea
· Flushed skin or itching
· Slurring speech
· Poor judgement and confusion
Withdrawing From Opiate Abuse
The possibility of experiencing the side effect known as withdrawal is really high with opiate addicts. Withdrawal is often the reason people can’t quit opiates, despite how badly they’d like to.
At first, the patient may believe their pain has increased. They may begin to increase their medication to deal with these new and painful symptoms. The patient isn’t imagining the pain. Withdrawal is very painful, and can be confused with the patient’s original symptoms. Soon, the patient becomes unable to stop using opiates, and they’re stuck in a vicious cycle of abuse.
Stopping opiate use, without the help of a doctor, is called going ‘cold turkey.’ If the patient chooses this method, he faces some terrible side-effects, including: hot and cold feelings, excessive sweating, high fevers, stomach cramps, vomiting, extreme pain, shaking, trembling, and even seizures. Unfortunately, a person can develop an opiate addiction in as little as a few weeks, which means this suffering is inevitable to many.
Physical Addiction or a Psychological Addiction?
Pain relievers often result in a physical addiction, which doesn’t explain why patients get clean for long periods of time, and then relapse quite suddenly. The patient wasn’t prescribed the medication, and their body was no longer addicted. It was an underlying psychological addiction that led to the relapse.
Psychological addictions present a unique challenge. Patients are addicted to the feeling of being high, and the patient will continue to crave that euphoric feeling long after the drugs have left his system. It’s crucial that sufferers of psychological addiction seek counseling, or check into an inpatient rehab for extended treatment.
Beating an Addiction to Pain Medications
It’s essential that patients suffering from narcotic pain medication dependence should contact a pain management clinic, or an addiction counselor/doctor. The prescribing doctor should be notified that his patient is experiencing addiction, and prescribe new medications or doses that are in line with the patient’s treatment.
It is likely pain medications will be reduced, or eliminated completely from the patient’s treatment options. If a reduction in pain relief isn’t working, it may be wise to check into a detox facility to eradicate the medication from the patient’s symptoms with the help of the center’s staff. Only doctors can reduce the pain of withdrawal.
If the patient is psychologically addicted to their meds, it’s recommended the patient go to detox and a rehab clinic. These places will treat the symptoms of withdrawal, as well as provide counselling to help the patient overcome their mental addiction.
Taking positive action when it comes to managing pain is essential to a patient’s long term health. This is why it’s essential that a person struggling with addiction subscribe to a program that allows them to receive treatment, and manage their pain effectively.