When you are struggling with an illness or trying to manage chronic pain, your body screams for relief. Many people find this relief in narcotic painkillers – and rightfully so. After all, this is why doctors prescribe drugs like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Fentanyl – for the relief of pain.
Treating Illness With Narcotic Painkillers Can Lead to Dependence
Nevertheless, opioid addiction is a very real condition that often results from long-term use of pain medication. It is not uncommon for those who take prescription narcotics to manage an illness AND battle drug dependence at the same time. This can lead to a number of significant problems that make life unmanageable. In this article, we will give you some useful information about pain management, discuss three highly addictive painkillers, tell you the dangers of opioid dependence, and offer some helpful suggestions for finding freedom from drug dependence while coping with an illness.
Understanding How Doctors Approach Pain-Management And Prescription Painkillers
Doctors typically place pain into one of three categories – acute, chronic, and end-of-life. Acute pain happens “in the moment” and is usually the result of a physical injury or a curable temporary condition such as a kidney stone. Chronic pain is ongoing pain that generally manifests itself every day or several times a week for an extended period of time. Arthritis and fibromyalgia are good examples of chronic pain. End-of-life pain is self-explanatory – it is the type of pain that is experienced when someone is in the final stages of a fatal disease like cancer. Treatment for these three types of pain is quite different:
- Someone who is experiencing acute pain may be prescribed a pain reliever for a short-term period of time until the pain passes and the condition resolves itself. For example, someone who sprains their ankle might be prescribed Hydrocodone for a week to ten days. Drug dependence usually does not result from the treatment of acute pain.
- Someone with chronic pain might also be prescribed Hydrocodone, but they will take it over an extended period of time. It is likely that the medication will continue to be adjusted to allow for a higher and higher dosage. Someone with chronic pain may even be prescribed a stronger medication like Oxycodone. When narcotics are prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain, it can lead to dependence.
- End-of-life pain is treated aggressively with high doses of very powerful painkillers like Fentanyl. When someone is in the advanced stages of a deadly illness, doctors are concerned with keeping a patient comfortable instead of worrying about the potential for drug dependence.
Of these three types of pain, chronic pain shows the highest potential for drug dependence. Those who take prescription opioids over an extended period of time to manage an illness are the most likely to become drug dependent. When this happens, you not only have to worry about managing the condition that causes the pain, you also have to confront the many consequences that come with drug dependence. If you are being treated for chronic pain with painkillers, you should definitely be concerned that you will develop a problem with addiction. You may already be addicted and not know it.
Three Highly Addictive Pain Relievers
When it comes to highly addictive painkillers prescribed by doctors for pain, three come to mind:
- Hydrocodone – this is considered a low-grade narcotic, although is still a very potent medication. It is the most commonly prescribed drug of its kind, used for mild to moderate pain. While Hydrocodone is addictive and produces a euphoric buzz when taken in higher doses, doctors agree that this drug has the lowest potential for addiction when compared to its opioid counterparts.
- Oxycodone (Oxycontin) – this is a powerful opioid. It is used for pain that cannot be managed with Hydrocodone. Oxycodone has the potential to really knock someone for a loop even with the lowest dose. There is a great potential for addiction and dependence for those who take this drug on a regular basis. Many say that Oxycodone is just as addictive as heroin.
- Fentanyl – you might call this the queen-mother of all opioids. Fentanyl is extremely potent and is only prescribed in extreme cases for excruciating pain. Typically, doctors only prescribe Fentanyl as a last resort after a patient has already tried the other two previously mentioned pain medications and they haven’t worked.
If you are struggling with an illness or chronic pain, chances are you have been prescribed one of these three medications. All of these painkillers can lead to prescription drug misuse or dependence and can be very dangerous.
Misuse Versus Dependence – What’s the Difference?
Prescription drug misuse is defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as “taking a medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed; taking someone else’s prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain; or taking a medication to feel euphoria (i.e., to get high).” If you are misusing your opioid painkillers, you may need to consider the possibility that you have a substance abuse problem that requires treatment. Opioid dependence is something altogether different. When you are taking prescription medication that has been provided by a doctor for the management of illness or pain, it can be difficult to recognize dependence when it happens. The way you see it, you have a legal prescription from a doctor, you have legitimate pain, and you need your painkillers to function and meet the demands of your daily life. You should know that opioid dependence is a very real (and very frightening) condition. If you have been taking painkillers like Hydrocodone or Oxycodone as prescribed every day for an extended period of time, you are probably physically dependent on them even though you are not misusing them. When your body becomes physically dependent on opioids, it relies on them to function. If you are physically dependent on narcotics and you don’t give your body the amount of opioids it requires, you will experience painful withdrawal symptoms and get very sick. If this is the case, you will need to undergo a medically supervised detox if you want to quit taking your medication. You cannot stop using painkillers cold-turkey. This can lead to serious medical complications and even death.
The Dangerous Truth About Opioid Dependence
Unfortunately, Western medicine focuses almost entirely on prescribing and administering painkillers as a way to treat illness and chronic pain. Over-prescribing doctors and crooked pharmaceutical companies are largely to blame for the current opioid crisis sweeping the United States. Chances are, you were never offered an alternative method for managing your illness or treating your illness or chronic pain when you sought help for your condition. You were probably given pills right away. If you are taking painkillers regularly, you have the potential to become a casualty of the opioid epidemic. Approximately 115 people die every day from an overdose on medications like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Fentanyl. Many people who have died from an overdose took their narcotic medication as prescribed for chronic pain by a doctor. This could happen to you. We say this not to scare you, but to educate you about the potential danger you face if you are physically addicted to narcotic painkillers. As addiction experts, we feel we have a responsibility to warn Americans everywhere about the lethal consequences that can come from opioid dependence. We want you to know that you can manage an illness or chronic pain without narcotic painkillers. You have other options.
Ways To Manage Dependence And Illness
There are three ways to approach opioid dependence when you have an illness or chronic pain:
- You can make the decision to stop taking opioids, undergo a medically supervised detox, and seek alternative therapies or medications for your condition.
- You can try Medication-Assisted Treatment to reduce the likelihood of overdose.
- You can continue to stay on narcotic painkillers and manage your dependence as best you can.
Let’s discuss these three options in greater detail.
Stopping Opioid Use As A Way To Cope With Dependence And Illness
A recent study revealed that opioids have not proven to be that effective for treating chronic pain. If you have taken medications like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, or Fentanyl for an extended period of time, we want to ask you – how is your pain level? Do you find that these narcotic painkillers help to fight the pain you are experiencing, or are you just continuing to up your dose? Are you experiencing negative side effects that are interfering with your health? While it can be scary to consider giving up painkillers, there are many other ways to manage your condition without them. Here are a few: Before you dismiss it as some hokey new-age practice, keep in mind that meditation has been used as a way to manage pain for thousands of years. There are numerous types of meditations you can explore as a way to treat illness and chronic pain. Do some research and find out which one is most attractive to you. You may even try guided meditation videos on YouTube designed specifically to treat health conditions. We have already explained that narcotic painkillers are often over-prescribed. But, you should know that they are not the only medications that offer pain relief. Non-opioid drugs like Tramadol, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, over-the-counter pain relievers, and other medicinal therapies can be viable solutions for your condition. Although still somewhat controversial, CBD oil has made headlines in recent times as an effective remedy for pain and illness. While it is extracted from part of the marijuana plant, CBD oil does not give you a buzz. It has a very low probability for dependence with few side effects. Like meditation, many people seriously underestimate the value of acupuncture as an alternative therapy for managing illness and chronic pain. This practice uses extremely fine needles into the skin at specific “acupoints.” This relieves pain by releasing endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals. It has been used for hundreds of years in non-traditional medicine. Most people don’t even consider seeing a therapist to manage illness or pain. However, studies have shown that CBT can be effective for managing health conditions and chronic pain. It also helps lessen symptoms of depression, which often accompany health problems and make pain worse. These are just a few of the many options you have available to you if you want to find an alternative to narcotic painkillers for treating your condition. You can also explore massage, herbal remedies, aromatherapy, hypnosis, low-impact exercise, vitamins and supplements, and yoga. Just remember, opioids are not your only solution.
Medication-Assisted Treatment – A Solution To Dependence And Pain Management
Many people who become dependent on prescription pain relievers end up turning to Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) as a safer alternative to drugs like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Fentanyl. Opioid antagonists like Suboxone and Naltrexone are commonly used in place of narcotic painkillers to provide pain relief while blocking their euphoric effects. Plus, they are much safer. If you have tried alternative therapies to treat your illness or chronic pain and you are convinced you need a narcotic to help you manage your condition, talk to your pain management specialist about Medication-Assisted Therapy.
What Might Happen If You Stay Opioid-Dependent
Opioid dependence has its inevitable consequences. One of them is tolerance. When tolerance sets in, your body requires more and more medication to give you the same relief you used to get from a lower dose. This can cause you to begin misusing pain relievers and ultimately develop a full-blown addiction. Also, as tolerance progresses, opioids may stop working for you altogether. By the time this happens, you will be completely dependent on your medication to function in your daily life. If you try to stop taking your painkillers, you will go into withdrawal and could have a seizure or die. At some point, you will no longer be getting any relief from the drugs you are taking, but you will be forced to continue taking them to avoid getting sick. You don’t want this to happen to you. Plus, keep in mind – as we mentioned earlier – death from an overdose is a very real threat to your life when you are dependent on opioids. Tens of thousands of people are dying from an accidental overdose every year because of the dangers of narcotics like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Fentanyl.
Do You Want To Find Freedom From An Opioid Dependence?
Are you a woman who thinks you might have an addiction to your prescription medication? If so, we can help. At Denver Women’s Recovery, we offer quality, evidence-based addiction treatment services to those who have become dependent on opioids. If you’re ready to get your life on track and learn new ways to manage your illness or chronic pain without the use of painkillers, we can show you how. Contact us today for a free, confidential assessment.