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The Hidden Impact Of Chronic Pain Medications

The Hidden Impact Of Chronic Pain Medications

Chronic pain can severely affect a person’s life, hindering their ability to go to school, work, or socialize with friends and family. Oftentimes, people suffering from chronic pain can develop depression, anxiety, and feelings of severe isolation. While doctors can prescribe painkillers for patients with chronic pain, these medications often contain addictive opioids. Chronic pain and addiction can be difficult to treat, but alternative remedies are available.

The Relationship Between Chronic Pain And Addiction

When a person suffers from chronic pain, they go to great lengths to find a solution. Chronic pain can seriously impact a person’s quality of life and can cause significant mental health damage. Doctors can prescribe extremely addictive prescription opioids to relieve this pain, which can lead some to develop an addiction. In addition, chronic pain can increase feelings of isolation and depression, which can lead people to turn to other substances as coping mechanisms.

What Is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is pain that lasts after the cause of the pain heals. Often, chronic pain can last for several months or longer. Internal injuries, surgeries, obesity, external injuries, and neurological and psychological conditions can all lead to the development of chronic pain.

Common forms of chronic pain include:

  • Visceral pain, which stems from an injury to an internal organ or the surrounding tissues
  • Somatic pain, caused by a skin, muscle, joint, bone, or connective tissue injury
  • Psychogenic pain, linked to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety
  • Neuropathic pain, caused by damage to the central nervous system

Chronic Pain Treatment And Addiction

Many addiction recovery experts state that doctors should only prescribe prescription opioids as a last resort for chronic pain. They can be extremely addictive and can have significant, long-lasting consequences for the patient. However, they are the most readily prescribed drug to treat chronic pain.

Doctors can prescribe the following opioids to treat chronic pain:

  • Methadone
  • Vicodin
  • Percocet
  • Dilaudid
  • Lortab
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • OxyContin
  • Codeine

These medications can be incredibly addictive and many people with chronic pain will continue to take them after their condition subsides. Due to the nature of chronic pain, a person may have to take this medication for an extended period. This can make the risk of addiction in chronic pain patients greater than for those who only have to take the drug for a limited time, such as wisdom tooth recovery.

The Prescription Opioid Epidemic In Maryland

While the public may not see prescription opioids as dangerous as street drugs, they still pose significant risks to people who have a dependence on them. According to the Maryland Department of Health*, thousands of people die because of opioid overdoses each year. Thousands more suffer from addiction to opioids and increase their risk of overdose with continued use.

  • In 2016, 418 people died as a result of prescription opioid overdoses in Maryland.
  • Prescription opioid overdoses have steadily increased in Maryland over the past few years. In 2015, 351 people died from prescription opioid overdoses and in 2014, 330 people died.
  • Methadone caused the highest number of prescription opioid overdoses in 2016 with 197 deaths. The drugs with the second and third highest numbers are oxycodone (157 deaths) and tramadol (35 deaths).
  • The Maryland city with the highest number of prescription opioid overdoses was Baltimore with 113 deaths.

Understanding Prescription Opioid Addiction

If you suffer from chronic pain and receive a prescription for opioids, you may wonder if you are developing an addiction. Research** has shown that the risk of developing an addiction to opioids while suffering from chronic pain is quite low compared to other drugs. However, certain factors can exacerbate your risk of developing an addiction. Knowing the symptoms of addiction can help you seek help before it progresses.

Risk Factors For Prescription Opioid Addiction

Certain people are at a higher risk of developing an addiction to prescription opioids during chronic pain treatment than others. These risk factors include:

  • Addiction to other substances, including alcohol and tobacco
  • Pre-existing mental health conditions
  • Insufficient education on the risks of prescription opioids
  • Easy access to prescription opioids
  • Family history of substance abuse

Symptoms Of Prescription Opioid Addiction

Prescription opioid addiction can cause certain physical and behavioral symptoms in patients with chronic pain. If you experience any of the following symptoms while taking prescription opioids, seek professional help as soon as possible:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion and poor coordination
  • The need for an increased dosage for effective pain relief
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • A sense of euphoria
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Stealing or forging prescription opioids
  • Poor judgment
  • Sleep problems
  • Requesting early refills
  • Pretending to lose prescriptions to receive another refill
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Exhibiting symptoms of a high, such as increased energy or sedation

Complications Of Prescription Opioid Addiction

Continued use of prescription opioids can cause severe, life-threatening complications to chronic pain patients. You can experience low blood pressure and slowed breathing, which can lead to a coma or death. You can develop a physical dependence on the drug, which can lead you to make dangerous decisions to seek more of the drug. Opioid addiction can lead to the use of illegal drugs, strained relationships, and troubles at work and school.

Alternative Treatment Options For Chronic Pain

Many addiction recovery centers can provide treatment to help manage chronic pain without the addictive side effects of prescription opioids. Alternative pain management options include:

  • Non-addicting drugs to manage pain relief are available for chronic pain patients. Commonly prescribed drugs include antidepressants, anti-epileptic medication, and anti-arrhythmic drugs.
  • Some facilities offer holistic pain management treatment that does not involve drugs. Chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, and meditation are all effective methods to control physical symptoms using a mind-body connection.
  • Addiction recovery centers also provide withdrawal symptom management to help manage chronic pain while safely reducing dependence on prescription opioids.

Are you suffering from addiction to opioids prescribed for your chronic pain? Contact Maryland Recovery today. We offer comprehensive and holistic treatment for prescription opioid addiction at our facility in Bel Air, MD.

Reviewed by Christopher Schwartfigure MS, LGPC, CAC-AD

  • "Maryland Recovery gave me the tools and counseling to accept my past and forge a new future for myself. Life today has a hope and brightness to it that had not experienced before. I got a job and an apartment with the help of Maryland Recovery. I am able to be part of my family’s life again."
  • "I am certain that this program helped save my life. I was provided with an opportunity to learn how to live a sober life. I learned to be responsible and accountable for my behavior. When practicing the principles of the program and remaining willing to grow on this journey, I experience a freedom I never knew, but always wanted."
  • "The only things that I knew when I arrived at Maryland Recovery (MR) was that I was broken: spiritually, emotionally, and physically broken and that my way of doing things had gotten me there. The people at MR understood who I was better than I did. They assured me that I was not alone, with that came a glimpse of hope and some relief."
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