Over the past century, the pharmaceutical industry has changed and so have the products developed and prescribed to people around the world. Many cultures believe in the value of natural painkillers above all else.
They are justifiably suspicious of Western medications, a suspicion born of the many side effects consumers suffer when they take drugs, even for legitimate reasons. One of these side effects is addiction.
What is Addiction?
There are two types of addiction. One is behavioral; when someone does not want to break habits which provide comfort such as eating, gaming, or gambling. The other is chemical; caused by introducing a drug into the system which either interferes with the natural chemical balance of one’s brain and body or introduces a new set of rewards which the brain begins to crave. Painkillers fall into both categories.
Doctors prescribe painkillers such as opioids to treat the symptoms of severe pain associated with surgery, injury, and chronic illness. They do not prescribe them indefinitely and carefully measure dosage according to one’s size, age, and the severity of the pain. When one follows doctor’s orders precisely and does not try to obtain drugs illegally to augment their effectiveness or extend their dosage, a patient is usually safe from addiction and also from the risk of obtaining tainted supplies.
Even non-prescription painkillers have the potential to become habit-forming. If you think you can’t cope with a day unless you take two extra-strength tablets every morning and never wait to find out if, in fact, you could use deep-breathing or some other method, then you have given in to a habit. It is not necessarily a chemical addiction.
Opiates like morphine and fentanyl are used to supplement the drugs a body creates to fight pain, only multiplied many times. With excessive exposure to these drugs, a body will eventually cease producing its own source of a chemical and rely entirely on the other drug, only the ongoing dose won’t be enough anymore.
The patient wants to experience more intense periods of both relief and pleasure. In order to do this, he might add more of the drug to his daily routine, source it via the internet by forging prescriptions, find an illegal street dealer, or mix codeine, etc. with alcohol or other drugs. The cocktail he creates is potentially lethal. A person who succumbs to temptation to obtain and consume narcotics illegally and uses drugs irresponsibly is suffering from a substance abuse problem.
How to Approach an Abuse Problem
Is a loved one of yours abusing painkillers? If so, there is a good way to go about addressing the issue and a bad way. The bad way is to confront him or her without a plan. Everyone who wants to effect change has to be on the same agenda, following an identical script, and must have bought into the process fully together.
That means being willing to follow through with an ultimatum and a support plan. Using the skills of an intercessor, many people successfully and safely confront an addict. It is possibly unsafe to do so at certain times owing to the potential for aggression, but a trained intermediary can teach you what to look for.
Have a Plan in Place
It’s also critical that the family be ready with a plan. So this loved one is ready to admit to being a substance abuser; now what? Together they have to get him to an emergency room where he will be checked in for emergency detoxification. They need to follow through when he begs to be released from the horrors of non-sedated detox.
This must be followed by entry into an outpatient or inpatient rehab program, and all the details must be ready ahead of time. It won’t take much incentive for someone abusing painkillers to change his mind; don’t give him time to do that.
Numbers don’t paint a pretty picture where addiction recovery is concerned. If one’s experience has been mild and she was able to see her own slow slide into drug abuse and bring it to her doctor’s attention in time, the ending is likely to be a happy one.
Most people addicted to heroin, morphine, and other painkilling drugs tend to fall off of the wagon regardless of a rehab team’s skill in the job or passion for clients. Rehab might stick the third or fourth time or not at all and many people die from an overdose.
Those whose addiction problems are hardest to crack usually suffer from co-existing mental health conditions. They are bipolar, have eating disorders, or suffer from severe anxiety. The ones whose experiences are most positive don’t suffer from mental illness and/or they have very good support at home. Friends and family do not encourage substance use and abuse. They remember skills to cope with physical and emotional pain from lessons taught earlier in their lives and are receptive to help.
Also, many successful programs seem to involve some element of “giving back” in which participants work for the community or their center. They feel like contributing members of society and begin to see their value in the society again after a period of despondency.