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Drawing the Line Between Treating Pain and Overusing Pain Medications

doctor prescribing drugs

Treating pain with stronger pain relievers can become a serious problem if the individual becomes dependent on or addicted to the narcotic. There’s a fine line between treating pain in a controlled manner, such as after a surgical procedure, and over-using the prescribed pain medications. Once addiction or dependence on a substance begins, the cycle can be very difficult to stop.

Knowing how to effectively cope with and treat pain in addition to warning signs of substance abuse leads to better knowledge of when the line is being crossed, and how to hopefully prevent that from happening.

The transition from using a narcotic for routine pain management to becoming tolerant of it or building up dependence can happen quite subtly at first. It’s not uncommon for a healthcare provider to prescribe a narcotic pain reliever following surgery or a painful illness or injury.

Unfortunately, some people become dependent on these pain relievers, which can eventually lead to addiction. When used over a certain amount of time and on a consistent basis, the body grows accustomed to having that particular drug or chemical. Over time, an individual relies on that drug to function normally and can react poorly after stopping it or switching to a lower dose. This can lead to a psychological, or mental, craving rather than a physical dependence.

According to webmd.com, it’s important to distinguish the difference between prescription pain medication dependence and addiction. The source notes that while many individuals, including healthcare professionals, often use the terms interchangeably, they are actually quite different. For example, it’s possible for someone to become tolerant of and dependent on a medication, but this doesn’t mean they are addicted. Such occurrences appear in drugs that are and are not habit-forming or addictive.

While it’s easy to distinguish a drug-seeking addicted patient without a relevant medical history, it’s more difficult to tell when a person suffering from chronic pain is addicted or dependent. Individuals in this situation often rely on higher and higher doses, and medical professionals may struggle to determine whether the person’s becoming addicted or the disease is worsening. Painkillers such as opiates and opioids are quite addictive, and it’s not uncommon for someone to get hooked on them after taking them as prescribed or dabbling in recreational use.

Some of the most common options include hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxycontin, morphine, codeine, and propoxyphene. Oxycontin is a popular prescription drug that is often initially prescribed for medical reasons. As with other opiates, warning signs and symptoms of addiction are similar and can be found here: http://blackbearrehab.com/oxycontin-abuse/signs/. A person using Oxycontin or other opiates may appear drowsy or anxious along with exhibiting slow movement and reactions and mood swings.The individual will possibly neglect school or work, leaving behind friends and family in search of similar drug-using people.

According to drugabuse.gov, there were 8.76 million prescription drug abusers in 2010. Painkillers ranked at the top as the most abused prescription drugs, with a total of 5.1 million, followed by tranquilizers with 2.2 million and stimulants with 1.1 million. The same source indicates that 52 million people in the U.S. ages 12 and older have used prescription drugs at some point without a medical need for it.

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