Chronic pain is a debilitating issue to deal with. In order to deal with chronic pain and try to get rid of it, you have been prescribed an opiate based medication. Unfortunately, opiate-based medications are highly addictive, even for those who are taking them for legitimate reasons. Unfortunately, many people who suffer from chronic pain end up also suffering from opiate addiction.
Opiates have been used for centuries to alleviate pain. They are best used for people who have acute injuries, people who have recently undergone a surgical procedure or to ease the pain of a terminal illness. Some types of commonly prescribed opiates include:
- Hydrocodone, or Vicodin
- Oxycodone, or Oxycontin
- Percocet, a combination of Tylenol and oxycodone
- Opana, or oxymorphone
- Hydromorphone, or Dilaudid
One of the main side effects of using too much of an opiate, or overdosing, is suppression of the respiratory drive. This means that if you accidentally take too many of your pain pills, you could potentially stop breathing.
How Do Opiates Affect Chronic Pain
Opiate use and chronic pain form a symbiotic relationship over time. What was once a relief for your pain symptoms, has now become a contributing factor. Opiates make your brain hypersensitive to pain, so instead of treating the issue, they end up making it worse.
Opiates suppress your brain’s ability to produce endorphins. Endorphins are a natural pain suppressant. When you attempt to stop taking your opiate-based medication, you will experience greater amounts of pain then you did originally because of this.
There are other methods and therapies available that can reduce the chronic pain you are feeling. Opiates are a band-aid for chronic pain, but they are not a long-term solution.
Tolerance to opiates can occur fairly quickly. In order to achieve the same level of pain relief that you did when you started the pain medication, the dosage will need to be increased. Over time, your body will become physically dependent on opiates in order to function at a normal level.
Opiates can certainly provide relief for pain, but they do come with many unwanted side effects. Some of these side effects include:
- Impaired cognitive function
As dosage is increased, undesirable side effects also increase. Your ability to drive and work can become impaired due to grogginess and cognitive deficits. You may also experience breakthrough pain while on higher doses of opiates.
Eventually, your doctor may refuse to make your dosage higher. This can lead to taking more of your prescribed medication and consequently running out of medication before you are supposed to. Your doctor will then refuse to refill the medication and if you have run out, withdrawal symptoms start to occur. Withdrawal symptoms can include any or all of these symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Flu like symptoms
- Night sweats
The symptoms of withdrawal can be severe. They can be so uncomfortable and painful that many people look for relief from their pain illegally. This can begin with purchasing extra prescription opiates illegally and quickly progresses to the cheaper option of heroin.
Detoxing from Opiates Safely
In order to free yourself from the vicious cycle of pain and addiction, you will need help. The first step to getting free from dependence is going through detox.
Addiction centers like ours can help you detox from opiates in a supervised setting so that you have the support you need. The effects of withdrawal can range from uncomfortable to severe and you will need help to get through it. There are different therapies and medication that can be used during detox to help alleviate your chronic pain symptoms during the process. Some of these include:
- Non opiate pain medications
In addition, there are medications available to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. These medications can also help with the chronic pain that comes back with withdrawal. They can be taken as maintenance medication and tapered down over time so that withdrawal symptoms are kept at bay. These medications include:
Treatment Options for Chronic Pain without Opiates
During detox from opiates, you will experience a range of emotions. We employ one on one counseling and group therapy to help you handle these emotions. One on one counseling will help you to talk about your experience and guide you in learning how to cope with stresses and triggers in order to avoid relapse. It can be a great help to meet and talk with people who are going through a similar experience. You will be able to hear how they are learning to cope with their addiction and what is and is not working for them.
It is important to understand that you are not alone. People who are living with chronic pain are often prescribed opiates to relieve their pain. It is difficult to give up a medication that may have helped you tremendously when you began taking it. There are other medications that are not addictive that may be able to help with your chronic pain. Many people suffering from chronic pain are helped by therapies such as:
- Chiropractic care
- Physical therapy
These therapies combined with alternatives to opiates may take time to work, but they can be very effective at managing pain. The upside to trying these methods is that none of them are addictive.
If you or someone you know is dealing with chronic pain and are currently taking opiates, reach out to one of our counselors to discuss your treatment options. We can work in tandem with the doctor who is treating your pain to get you off opiates and help you live a life without dependence. Call us today at 877-978-3148