Painkillers can be a boon for countless Americans. The ability to shut off that gnawing ache for just a few hours is not only a blessing, but necessary. Indeed, while America consumes half of the world’s opioid supply and many continue to use pills recreationally rather than responsibly, there are some who struggle deeply with severe pain from surgeries, freak accidents, and nerve damage they cannot afford to address otherwise. But others can develop a painkiller addiction.
As an unintended side effect of an effort by government authorities to curb the opioid crisis, through drastic cuts and changes to prescription rules, some Americans are currently struggling with immense pain and no real way out.
For some of them, this is the journey down a darker road. One fork leads through painkiller addiction, and another, unfortunately, to suicide. Among the most serious cases, very few manage to find or afford alternatives to strong opioid medication, and their options are limited. Pain management can help, but with healthcare in the state that it is, many do not get the care they need.
Of course, the dark reality of America’s painkiller addiction problem is that many who are addicted to opioids were never given a prescription or had a pain issue. Addiction is an issue among sufferers of chronic pain, but the opioid crisis began with years of excessive prescriptions, leading to a surplus of pills patients didn’t need, but paid for anyway.
For those that cannot find a way out of their pain and find themselves addicted, they are in for one of the hardest addictions to break. Not only are painkillers incredibly addictive, but the incentive to keep using them goes far past just the brain’s relationship to opioids. We do not want to feel pain – pain tells us something is wrong, and if we can make it stop, that is good. If making it stop means using opioids, then that is a fair deal for many.
Dealing with recovery is hard enough but dealing with it alongside pain is a different challenge.
Why Painkiller Addiction is So Dangerous
There are two reasons for painkiller addiction– the first and most obvious is that they get rid of the pain. That in and of itself is a very attractive feature for any drug. But aside from that, opioids are also powerful euphoric drugs, making users feel happier, more capable, and more confident.
In medical cases, regulated opioid use can greatly reduce pain and improve quality of life, until a better alternative is perfected, giving patients the ability to seek out work, spend time with their families, and engage in exercise to help reduce the pain a little.
Even outside of medical cases, when pain does not play a role in the situation, opioids continue to be unbelievably addictive – more so than most other drugs, natural or illicit.
Aside from blocking pain and boosting dopamine levels immensely, opioids also fundamentally change the way your brain handles self-control, thus making stopping that much harder. Altogether, misusing painkillers will take its toll.
This effect cascades. Painkillers take away the pain and replace it with happiness, while affecting your judgment and your ability for self-control. This makes the painkiller addiction stronger, but leads to dangerous decisions, and potential self-harm.
Pain Meds Are Not Evil
It has important to remember that opioids are not to blame. There is no sense in blaming a plant, just as it does not make sense to blame a rock – in a situation as complicated as the opioid crisis, sitting down and pointing a finger at anyone or anything is both counterproductive and most likely the result of an incomplete picture of the situation across the nation.
While drastic steps have been taken to cut into how many opioids are currently being prescribed, those who are affected most by these cuts are the honest, law-abiding pain patients unable to get the medication they need to maintain a livable lifestyle.
Indeed, there are people out there who need pain medication, if not an opioid then something just as strong. Vilifying them for their medication is not the right way to combat this, either.
To those who are not struggling with addiction: instead of vilifying and blaming misused medication, promote ways to deal with pain as much as possible, through natural or safer alternatives, or help people struggling with an addiction find the right healthcare for their budget and problem.
The Road to Recovery
For both those with pain and without pain symptoms, withdrawal from opiates can be an excruciating experience. With symptoms varying from a light flu to a terrible sickness, coming down from an opiate addiction is never pleasant, and should always be done under medical supervision in case anything goes wrong.
But surviving withdrawal is only the first step. Pain patients confronted with sobriety will first have to undergo pain management to find the best alternative way to deal with their pain. Instead of treating the issues separately, the more intelligent solution is to tackle the problem collectively – addressing both the painkiller addiction and new ways with which to live with the pain.
This is different from person to person. There are no one-size-fits-all addiction treatment packages, and when one or more conditions complicate the situation, painkiller addiction treatment begins to look highly individualized. Painkiller Addiction is an altogether different beast when paired with depression, or chronic pain, or anxiety, etc.
Because of the unique way the brain reacts to opioids and their powerful effects, it can take a while before cravings go away. For people struggling with pain after painkiller addiction, the most important thing is to find ways to deal with the pain without resorting to opioids. There aren’t many analgesic drugs besides opioids and over-the-counter medication, but the future may hold promise for interesting new ways to deal with pain.
Millions and millions of Americans deal with a myriad of pain issues, from the more common arthritis to severe fibromyalgia. These conditions can be debilitating, and they can rob you of the energy and the will to live. But more than anything, it is important to remain steadfast for yourself and those around you, and never give up looking for a good solution. Opioids may not be your answer, but that does not mean there isn’t one.