Pain management patients walk a fine line when it comes to medications. This is particularly true of those prescribed opioids. Given the well-established crossover between prescription opioid consumption and problematic use, it is no small wonder patients are confused. The point of contention often arises from a misunderstanding of addiction and dependence.
Those with chronic pain may come to rely on medications, but that does not necessarily constitute problematic use. However, some people do not have a problem before exposure to these medications. For this reason, we will also talk about the common warning signs of problematic use and how Laguna Shores Recovery Center can help.
Dependence vs. Addiction in Pain Management
Pain management patients frequently become dependent on their medications. But this alone does not make an addict. Dependence is a phenomenon that occurs in the body. It can happen to any kind of medical patient. A diabetic person may depend on insulin. Those with mental conditions may come to rely on non-narcotics for symptom management. Anyone with a medical condition can develop dependence. In a pain management context, dependence is more the norm than the exception.
With opiates, physical dependence is inevitable. Even if you take opiate medications exactly as prescribed, the body will develop a dependency over a sufficiently long period. Dependence means you will feel withdrawal symptoms, including spikes in pain, if you suddenly stop the medication. The preferred method for ending opioid management is to taper the patient off as tolerated.
Of course, some people develop addictions to their pain management treatments. To comprehend the difference, it’s crucial to understand that addiction generally refers to the psychiatric phenomena sometimes associated with dependence. While nearly all addicted people are also physically dependent, the reverse is not true. The National Institutes for Health define addiction as a “chronic, relapsing disorder” featuring “drug-seeking and use despite adverse consequences.”
Chronic pain alone can drive comorbid psychiatric conditions if you are in pain management. Modalities such as behavioral and physical therapy can complement or eliminate the need for medication, as can holistic treatments. Dual diagnoses, or the presence of pain issues and substance misuse, are exceedingly common.
Warning Signs of Potential Addiction in Pain Management
Pain management patients can guard against problem use and eventual addiction by being aware of specific red-flag behaviors. Note that dependence develops into addiction differently for everyone. Some people may slip into these problematic practices once or twice, while others may progress rapidly. Among the simple observations you can objectively make about your medication are these fundamentals:
- Taking too much medication. Most pain management specialists require patients to sign a contract regarding opiate medication. Typically, such a contract includes taking medication as prescribed and submitting it to drug screenings.
- Running out early. Sometimes a result of over-taking or diversion, consistently running out of medications is a sign you’re not taking them as prescribed.
- Lying or manipulating for additional medication or refills. Reporting genuine symptoms is the most direct way to get appropriate pain management. Stop and check your motives when tempted to bend the truth. If you simply want more medication, this is a warning sign.
- Using nonprescription substances. If you are tempted or beginning to use illicit substances instead of your pain medication, this problematic behavior can be dangerous and leave you without treatment.
- Seeking multiple doctors. This is a potentially criminal behavior known as “doctor shopping.” Obtaining multiple opioid prescriptions isn’t just a violation of your contract with your doctor, but also black letter law. If you truly need or desire a second opinion about your pain condition, do so without requesting medicine.
- Increasing or nonessential emergency room visits. While emergency treatment is sometimes necessary, escalating visits for pain is a massive warning sign. Your specialist should always be your first resort for breakthrough pain and prescription issues. Going to any medical facility solely for medication is a massive behavioral change that clinicians see through. Using up E.R. resources unnecessarily also harms fellow patients. Of course, if you break a bone, go.
Addressing Problems in Pain Management
There are solutions if you find yourself losing control over certain aspects of medication in pain management. As difficult as it may be, honesty with your provider is critical. If you feel your provider may have inappropriately prescribed opiate medications, refer to the Centers for Disease Control’s opioid prescription guidelines. You may learn their behavior was perfectly reasonable. If your prescriber acted beyond the norm, it may be time for a new doctor. But you must also be logical about your role and behaviors.
Exhibiting the symptoms mentioned above does not necessarily mean you are addicted to your pain management medications. It may simply be that you are not on the most appropriate treatment. Issues such as taking too much medication can happen when the medication metabolizes too quickly or simply isn’t suitable for the patient.
Modern tools such as genetic testing can be done in advance to ensure you’re on the best medicine for your unique profile. This eliminates the guessing game element of opiate prescriptions. Consider also that procedures and non-narcotics can be as effective as opioid medications. If you feel your pain is tolerable without them, it may be best to avoid them altogether. This is particularly true if you have a personal or family history of alcoholism or narcotic addiction.
Finally, if you have lost control of your pain management medications, understand you aren’t the first. Many people never drink or consume drugs, but exposure to opioids causes dependency. At Laguna Shores Recovery Center, we will work with you to help you recover or taper to more appropriate treatment.
At Laguna Shores Recovery Center, we understand that many people in recovery struggle with pain management. But you do not have to suffer unnecessarily if you’re among the many who are learning to live after opiate dependence. We are here to support your physical, emotional, and spiritual recovery from substance misuse. We have successfully helped people at all levels of the problem using spectrum. Further, we are familiar with the common problems clients continue to face with adequate pain management. We encourage participation in holistic remedies, conventional therapy, and recovery programs. Addressing all of your issues may sound impossible. But you don’t have to do it alone. To learn more about our support services, call (866) 774-1532 today.