There is a great debate in America regarding prescription pain medication. From someone who hears this issue from fellow chronic pain sufferers regularly, we have a dog in the fight, too.
In the last 10 years, because of individuals abusing their pain medications, addicts buying opioids on the black market, and doctors over-prescribing irresponsibly, chronic pain patients, cancer patients, and their doctors have been criminalized.
even people with the worst possible pain don’t want to take pain medication. Why not?
For one, they are afraid of becoming an addict! They are worried their family will think less of them. They are anxious that if their doctors prescribe it once and it helps, how will they ask for a refill without sounding like the “pill seekers” they hear about on television? Too many times people are nervous about taking their prescribed medication for severe chronic pain because of what they have seen on talk shows and read about on the internet.
A study in 2007 sampled 15,000 veterans with chronic pain (Edlund et al.). They were all given opioids, and only 2% abused his or her medications.
Apparently, people in excruciating pain, 24/7, every single day for years are managing his or her pain medication AS PRESCRIBED. This may shock some of those television personalities.
Why is it that those with chronic pain are much less likely to become addicted?
- In those without chronic pain, opioids cause a sense of euphoria.
- For those WITH chronic pain, the medication does not match or overcome the pain
This is what I have also been trying to point out:
Everyone who takes opiates on a regular basis, either for pain or to get high, becomes dependent and tolerant of them – this is simply a biological consequence of taking medication. However, addiction is a distinct disease in itself, and addicts will use any combination of mind-altering substances to withdraw from “real life”, whether it be pills, heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine, barbituates, or the old standby, alcohol.
Opiate pain medications are popular among addicts only because, when they are not being used in the presence of severe pain, they can result in euphoria (the “high”) .
In pain patients, opiates supplement the endorphins used up by the body to resist pain. Without pain to “soak up” the extra, the blast of unused endorphins causes euphoria.
(More about Addiction, Dependence, and Tolerance)
A neuropathic pain study published in 2003 by the New England Journal of Medicine found that opioid pain medication only gave 36% pain reduction at the highest dose possible before side effects of the drug were intolerable
Maybe this is why there is a much lower rate of addiction in chronic and terminal pain.
Many of those I encounter are so conservative with their medications. They take as little as possible, even when pain is high. When pain is low enough to tolerate, most don’t take any pain medications. No one wants to take any type of medications.
Pain medication is seen as a means to an end, but for many it a necessary part of living, coping, and functioning with painful neurological disease
Doctors who treat chronic pain exclusively are held to increasingly high protocols by the government. There are more changes all the time concerning how they can and cannot care for their ailing patients.
Because of the current climate regarding these “controlled substances,” those with painful chronic illnesses like MS, Arthritis, or Chiari who go to a hospital for an emergency may be treated like a criminal until their pain doctors can be contacted. Imagine if you were the one having a medical emergency!
Just a side note, in my research I learned that a doctor’s office can be thought of as a “pill mill” if 50% or more of its patients are treated for pain management, even if they offer physical therapy, biofeedback, counseling, acupuncture, interventional pain therapies, etc. If the doctor is chief at the local hospital, she still runs a “pill mill” up the road because she primarily treats people with chronic pain or cancer pain.
For those judging, if your sister, young daughter, or elderly grandfather were suddenly touched by crippling degenerative neurological pain, wouldn’t you want them to have the best Quality of Life possible while they explore ALL available treatment options?