Chronic pain is a side effect of a wide range of conditions that can cause victims to experience pain on an episodic or constant basis for at least six months. More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain and that number is sure to rise with the gradual aging of the population. Although there is no known cure, chronic pain can be treated with prescription painkillers, which are also called opiates. Unfortunately, long-term opiate treatment carries its own drawbacks, including the risk of prescription painkiller addiction.
Becoming addicted to painkillers
Health care professionals try to monitor their patients for signs of addiction and screen their patients for heightened risk, but identifying opiate addiction is still very challenging. Painkiller abuse all too often slips beneath the cracks of even the most diligent health care professionals. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, somewhere between 3 and 40 percent of people who suffer chronic pain are currently addicted.
Opiate addiction is a dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition. People who become addicted can suffer painful withdrawal symptoms on top of the chronic pain that their medication was originally administered to treat. Over time, opiate abuse can cause symptoms including constipation, nausea, confusion, shallow breathing and even death. It is vitally important for painkiller addicts to seek treatment as soon as possible before suffering serious and permanent consequences.
Addiction treatment options
The National Institute of Drug Abuse recognizes two main categories of opiate addiction treatment: behavioral and pharmacological. Addiction specialists may choose to select one approach over the other, but research suggests that combining both strategies can often produce the best effects.
Behavioral treatment involves working with the addict to make positive steps in their own recovery by altering their behavior. Treatments can include contingency management, cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling. Depending on the patient, specialists may choose individual, family or group counseling, or a combination of several. Behavioral treatment helps the patient to not only overcome their addiction, but restore their ability to function in daily life.
Pharmacological treatments take a more direct approach with painkiller addiction. Doctors prescribe medication to counter the effects of the opiate. These treatments may eliminate the opiates’ effect on the brain or relieve withdrawal symptoms to make the recovery process easier. Methadone is one of the best-known examples of this kind of treatment. Although it has been primarily used to treat heroin addiction for more than 40 years, it is also effective on other types of opiates, including prescription painkillers.
If you are a victim of chronic pain who is at risk of painkiller addiction or if you know someone who is, it is critical to seek proper assistance. The California Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline is a terrific resource for opiate addicts to get the help they need. Call us today to find a qualified addiction treatment specialist ready to help you.