Pain and Addiction

Chronic pain is a significant healthcare problem for millions of Americans. While acute pain has the positive effect of alerting the body to potential harm, chronic pain can be debilitating and can affect everything from sleep to self esteem.

People suffering from chronic pain have the potential to lead full and productive lives through effective pain management. Treatment often includes use of powerful pain killers such as OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, OxyCodone, Morphine, Codeine and Vicodin. These pain killers belong to a class of drug called opiates.

Most people who are prescribed opiates do not become addicted, according to the National Pain Foundation,. Patients are able to expand their lives. As they begin to feel better, they increase their activities and many are able to return to work.

However, some people who are treated for pain will succumb to narcotic addiction. It is a psychological and behavioral disorder characterized by loss of control, continuation despite adverse consequence, and an obsession or preoccupation with obtaining and using the drugs. About 3 to 14 percent of those who are subscribed opiates will display evidence of narcotic addiction. The biggest risk is to patients who have previously abused drugs or alcohol, or those who have an underlying, undiagnosed vulnerability to abuse substances.  
One of the first steps in addiction treatment is evaluating the patient to determine if an addiction exists. Warning signs include:

  • More frequent use of the medication per day
  • Taking opiates for reasons besides pain, such as when depressed
  • Increasing dosage without discussing it with the doctor,
  • Repeatedly using up the medications early,
  • Going to several physicians for opiates and lying about seeing other doctors,
  • Taking medication that was prescribed for another person.

Denial is a major challenge in providing addiction treatment to people with chronic pain. Patients and their family members often believe the pills are safe because they are prescribed by doctors and approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Professionally trained counselors can help an individual evaluate their use. The good news is that there is hope -- addiction treatment can effectively address physical dependencies and the addictive behaviors. For more information, contact MRODS at 1-888-527-0336