In the past several decades, there has been a steady increase in the number of individuals requiring substantial pain relief. Pharmaceuticals answered the call by synthesizing a variety of pain relievers that have clearly paved the way for greater freedom from pain. Unfortunately, many of these substances eventually led to the development of an entirely different kind of addiction – painkiller addiction – and the resultant increase in the need to have this type of addiction treated in a very methodical and evidence-based approach.
Pain management is a very crucial aspect of today’s health care. This is one of the cornerstones of hospice care as well as end-of-life care. However, many of today’s disease conditions result in a variety of pain syndromes; hence, the need for a more effective pain management. It is thus, no secret that one of the most inherent needs of man today is freedom from pain. While the growth of pain management protocols has clearly spurred the development of novel and truly effective pharmaceuticals, the overdependence and over-reliance of man in these medications have resulted in over-prescription.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report saying that the total number of prescription analgesics that was available in the market in 2010 was more than enough to provide pain relief to every single American adult for not less than a month. Pharmaceutical companies continue to create more tamper-proof preparations of these medications and while they have, time and again, assured the public that these medications are safe when used as instructed by a medical professional, the main issue is in the inherent tendency of some individuals to misuse the drug primarily for its other effects.
An Increasing Trend in Painkiller Addictions
Drug misuse is the most often cited reason for abusing narcotic painkillers. This is the use of the medication for purposes other than its indications. For example, painkillers are known to provide short-term relief for moderate to severe pain; hence, its therapeutic indication is for pain. However, because it also has effects other than pain relief, namely relaxation and euphoria, people use these drugs primarily for its euphoric and relaxing effects. These do not match the therapeutic indication of the painkiller. As such, it is considered as gross misuse of the painkiller.
The main issue however, is that since painkillers are readily available with a valid prescription, individuals taking them may give these medications to their friends or even family members even if they clearly don’t have a need for such medications. In worst cases, individuals have been known to sell their prescription painkillers knowing that it’s a lot easier for them to obtain a prescription for it from their doctors.
One particular report showed that 2 out of 5 individuals who are addicted to painkiller obtained their supply from family members or friends, often without spending a dime. One out of 5 painkiller addicts bought their supply from relatives or friends. These statistics show that abusing narcotic analgesics is not really a difficult thing to do as the substance is readily available.
Why are Certain Painkillers Addictive?
Many of today’s painkillers have components that belong to a family of substances known as opiates. In the brain, there are opiate receptors that serve to block pain impulses while also providing a relaxing or calming effect. When these painkillers are consumed, their ingredients bind to these receptors in the brain to alleviate pain and give a more pleasurable sensation. For those who are addicted to it, it’s not so much the pain relief that they’re after but rather the euphoria. Additionally, tampering with the presentation of the painkiller greatly increases the intensity of the effects.
Building Tolerance to Painkillers
Over time, the opiate receptors will already be numbed by the constant surge of painkiller substances. This halts the natural production of neurotransmitters that would have provided the same pleasurable sensations as well as pain relief. Because of the receptor-numbing effect of these substances, the body will need sufficiently increasing doses of the drug because the receptors have grown tolerant of the presence of such molecules. To achieve the desired effect, individuals have to increase their dose or the frequency of intake or even both. Unfortunately, doing so only numbs the receptors even more, further fueling the vicious cycle. Hence, the person can be said to have grown dependent on the drug.
Withdrawal Symptoms and the Need for Treatment
If the person is unable to sustain the levels of the drugs needed to elicit the desired effect, the body goes into withdrawal symptoms. While some may have mild symptoms, others are not so lucky. Many of those who experience severe withdrawal symptoms often end up in critical care units. This underscores the need for a very methodical approach to the management of withdrawal symptoms that can only be provided in the right painkiller addiction treatment center.
The withdrawal symptoms include the following.
- Irregular breathing
- Irregular heart beat
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Cold flashes
- Excessive sweating
- Flu-like symptoms
These may seem benign but the first four symptoms may require medical management. Unfortunately, there’s no telling who’s going to have these symptoms. As such, it is imperative that everyone who has a painkiller addiction will need a professionally-managed addiction treatment program.
Seeking Professional Help
Because of the rampant misuse of prescription painkillers, the challenge is how to encourage someone to seek professional treatment. This is because not everyone looks at it as an inherently bad condition. Nevertheless, to seek treatment is a must if one wants to lead a life that is free from the negative effects of these kinds of medications.
Seeking professional painkiller addiction treatment requires an understanding of the existence of a problem. Only then can the person take the necessary steps towards recovery. This is accomplished first by undergoing a comprehensive detox program and then followed by a long-term inclient rehabilitation program. Upon completion of the rehab, the person can start the process of reintegration by affirming his commitment to steer clear of drugs.