What if the treatment for a condition ends up being worse than the original condition? Even more frightening, what if that treatment could end up being fatal even if the original condition didn’t bring such danger? It sounds outlandish, but it’s a real problem and one that more people are experiencing every day. In fact, it’s become something of an epidemic in the United States.
It’s time to talk about addiction and chronic narcotic use.
The medical community is currently in a period of reflection when it comes to the prescribing of narcotics, when it’s appropriate to use them, and how to better ensure that addiction doesn’t become as much of a risk. However, that may not be of much help to you currently if you are experiencing addiction already. Chronic narcotic use can be very difficult to break out of, but it is possible.
Here is what you need to know about prescription narcotics, why they can be dangerous, and how to find successful treatment in the event of addiction.
Why are these medications prescribed?
How can a medication that is so easily abused or able to become a problem be prescribed? The answer is simply that pain is a terrible thing to live with. In fact, many people find it impossible to live with and are desperate for relief. When discussing pain, it’s important to put it into context. Pain essentially comes in two classifications: acute and chronic. Both are of course uncomfortable and can make daily life impossible. Acute pain is often the result of an injury or surgery. Pain medication is prescribed to make the aftermath of the event bearable. No one wants to go through needless suffering. However, the idea is that there is an end in sight for this pain once you recover. The medication is just to help you get there.
Then there is chronic pain, like back pain that flares up and goes away over the course of years. This is often the most debilitating kind of condition and many people rely on pain medication so they can find enough relief to perform the most basic of tasks. The fact of the matter is, these narcotics work as intended. They do dull the pain for many people and allow them to do things they may not otherwise be able to do.
Why are these medications so addictive?
Who wouldn’t want continuous pain relief? However, pain relief doesn’t really tell the whole story, otherwise patients would have no problem stopping their medication after the pain from their surgery subsided. The reason why narcotics used to manage pain are so addictive is that when taken they also trigger the production of dopamine. Dopamine is essentially the body’s “feel good” chemical and at high enough levels can create a sense of euphoria. It’s this euphoria that becomes addictive as the body gets used to it and begins to crave it. The standard dose of medication won’t provide this euphoria for long and higher doses will be needed to get the same feeling, which is where the danger of overdose comes in.
Can’t you just will yourself off narcotics if you can ignore that euphoria? The answer is no because not only does the body crave that dopamine rush, it becomes physically dependent on it to the point of becoming sick if forced to go without for extended periods of time. This is when narcotics rule your life. Withdrawal symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, leg spasms, cold sweats, restlessness, and pain. You need medical assistance to safely withdraw from chronic narcotic use.
Treatment and recovery
Recovering from narcotic addiction is a multi-step process. Your doctor will recommend pain relieving alternatives that will treat your symptoms without the continuation of a physical dependency. Additionally, Suboxone may be used as well. Suboxone binds with the same receptors that narcotics do. This helps block the feeling that narcotics provide, while still providing the pain relief portion of the treatment. You’ll still “feel good” to a lesser degree, but just enough to get through the physical withdrawal symptoms so you can come out on the other end without a dependency.
It’s the job of your doctor to be able to properly manage your health-related needs. This doesn’t just mean checking your blood pressure or administering vaccines. Sometimes you need your doctor’s help dealing with issues that can feel extremely personal. Addiction is one of those issues. While it may be difficult confronting an addiction, your doctor can help you successfully combat your unhealthy use of narcotics. If you’re struggling with prescription narcotics because of a previous medical issue, book an appointment online with us today. Dr. Morris and the team at The Private Practice are dedicated to providing you with the expert care you need so you can manage every facet of your health.